Ready to make your own gas alternative? These products can give you a start—but energy independence won’t come cheaply.
BY ERIN SCOTTBERG
The EFuel100 MicroFueler home-brews ethanol by fermenting a mix of table sugar and nutrient-treated yeast in the system’s 250-gal. tank. The resulting fuel, which is 99.9 percent ethanol, can either be stored in the unit or pumped into a gas tank through the 50-ft. hose. It takes 10 to 14 pounds of sugar to produce 1 gal. of ethanol, so the cost of fuel is only as cheap as the feedstock. Available in late 2008.
Production: Up to 35 gal. per week
Compatibility: Flex-fuel vehicles; conventional cars if mixed with 90 percent gasoline
Powered by a 120-volt outlet, the FuelMeister IImixes used vegetable oil with lye and methanol to produce biodiesel. The process takes about 7 hours from start to finish–but only 1 hour involves hands-on work, such as connecting hoses, pumping methanol and testing the final product. The fuel meets ASTM biodiesel standards and, unlike straight vegetable oil, can be burned in regular diesel engines.
Production: 40 gal. in 5 hours
Compatibility: Any diesel-powered vehicle
The modular Envision Solar Lifeport can support up to 32 polycrystalline 200-watt photovoltaic panels, which can produce up to 6.4 kilowatts of electricity. The panels are wired to an inverter, and then through your home’s electric meter. With this configuration the panels will power your home, but DIYers can mod the Lifeport into a solar-powered carport by running electricity back to an outlet in the 23 x 23-ft. structure.
Production: Up to 6.4 kw
Price: $45,199 for a 4.8-kw-rated kit
Compatibility: Plug-in hybrids and pure EVs
A mix of natural gas, air and water is catalyzed in the Honda Home Hydrogen Fueling Stationreformer, creating a gas that is 40 to 50 percent hydrogen. A membrane filters out pure hydrogen gas, which is then compressed for fuel. There’s no storage tank, so your car slow-fills from the pump at night; it takes about 6 hours to reach max capacity–171 liters at 5000 psi. The catch: Hydrogen from gas isn’t emissions-free, and Honda says consumers still have a several-year wait.
Production: 50 standard liters per minute
Price: Not yet available
Compatibility: Hydrogen cars