Suitability for use in road transport Methanol burns cleanly in a car engine. Its combustion is more complete than that of petrol so levels of carbon monoxide are reduced. Also it does not release carcinogenic benzene vapor or other aromatic hydrocarbons into the air. It has a high octane number and would require only small changes to the engine and petrol pump design of any vehicle.
Availability and cost of supply Methanol is produced from the distillation of wood. It is manufactured from synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. In turn synthesis gas can be made from natural gas, so there is plenty of it around as it can be produced in industry and does not take as long to make as other sources of energy like oil and coal. Another thing is that it is very cheap.
Energy Density One of the big problems with methanol is that it produces about 40% less than 1 litre of petrol. This means more refueling trips and larger and heavier fuel tanks. The theoretical energy density of methanol is 4780 watt-hour/litre. This is higher than the raw materials and the effective density of methanol is 1673 watt- hour/litre which is less than petrol.
Safety Another good thing about methanol is that it is less volatile than petrol and is less likely to explode in an accident, which is why it is used in cars in the CART championship world series.
Safety One other problem with methanol is that it is toxic. Long-term exposure can cause blindness and brain damage, which is the reason why ‘meths’ drinkers generally go blind. This can raise a concern on the effects on mechanics and petrol- pump attendants at filling stations.
Storage and distribution A good thing about methanol is that very little would have to be done to vehicles petrol tank or filling station tanks. Petrol tanks would not really need changing at all except that the tanks would have to be larger and heavier as methanol produces less energy than fuel, so more would need to be pumped into the vehicle. Storage tanks would not really have to change at all, which would save money.
What about the engine A few differences would have to be made to the engine. One thing is that the engine would have to be bigger and more powerful, so really it is best used on bigger vehicles and cars. Overall really not a lot would have to be done to the engine as methanol is quite similar to petrol and diesel. Several car companies in the USA are already making methanol ran cars.
Impact on environment Methanol is more environmentally friendly. It does not release carbon monoxide, nor does it emit carcinogenic benzene vapor or other aromatic hydrocarbons as its combustion is more complete. It is also less volatile than fuel and is less explosive.
Conclusion So overall using methanol would generally be more beneficial. It is cheap and is easily produced and would last a long time. It is quite safe and is environmental friendly. Also most of the current technology used in vehicles today would suit using methanol apart from a few small changes. As you see methanol could be the fuel of the future and some companies today are already starting to use it.