Gasoline higher but lack of follow-through may dampen prices

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Speaking of storage the Energy Information Administration  reports that transportation fuels surpass the energy densities of gasoline and diesel based on the National Defense University. Energy density and the cost, weight, and size of onboard energy storage are important characteristics of fuels for transportation. Fuels that require large, heavy, or expensive storage can reduce the space available to convey people and freight, weigh down a vehicle (making it operate less efficiently), or make it too costly to operate, even after taking account of cheaper fuels. Compared to gasoline and diesel, other options may have more energy per unit weight, but none have more energy per unit volume.

On an equivalent energy basis, motor gasoline (which contains up to 10% ethanol) was estimated to account for 99% of light-duty vehicle fuel consumption in 2012. Over half of the remaining 1% was from diesel; all other fuels combined for less than half of 1%. The widespread use of these fuels is largely explained by their energy density and ease of onboard storage, as no other fuels provide more energy within a given unit of volume. The chart compares energy densities (both per unit volume and per unit weight) for several transportation fuels that are available throughout the United States. The data points represent the energy content per unit volume or weight of the fuels themselves, not including the storage tanks or other equipment that the fuels require. For instance, compressed fuels require heavy storage tanks, while cooled fuels require equipment to maintain low temperatures.

Beyond gasoline and diesel, other fuels like compressed propane, ethanol, and methanol offer energy densities per unit volume that are less than gasoline and diesel, and energy densities per unit weight that are less than or equal to that of gasoline. Natural gas, either in liquefied form (LNG) or compressed (CNG), are lighter than gasoline but again have lower densities per unit volume. The same is true for hydrogen fuels, which must be either cooled (down to -253 oC) or compressed(to 3,000 to 10,000 psi).However, considering only energy density leaves out the relative fuel economies associated with vehicles capable of using them. Few transportation fuels surpass the energy densities of gasoline and diesel.

The typical fuel economy of an internal combustion engine in a light-duty vehicle is around 25 miles per gallon. On an equivalent basis, electric vehicles with fuel cells powered by hydrogen can double the fuel economy of a similarly sized gasoline vehicle, while battery-powered electric vehicles can achieve a quadrupling of fuel economy, but the costs of fuel cells, hydrogen storage, and batteries are prohibitively expensive to most consumers and the availability of refueling and charging facilities is extremely limited. In addition, the improvement in fuel economy of these vehicles does not compensate for the lower fuel densities of hydrogen and various battery types like lithium.

About the Author
Phil Flynn

Senior energy analyst at The PRICE Futures Group and a Fox Business Network contributor. He is one of the world's leading market analysts, providing individual investors, professional traders, and institutions with up-to-the-minute investment and risk management insight into global petroleum, gasoline, and energy markets. His precise and timely forecasts have come to be in great demand by industry and media worldwide and his impressive career goes back almost three decades, gaining attention with his market calls and energetic personality as writer of The Energy Report. You can contact Phil by phone at (888) 264-5665 or by email at pflynn@pricegroup.com. Learn even more on our website at www.pricegroup.com.

 

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