Methanol (CH3OH), the simplest liquid alchohol, has many desirable properties. It is a highly efficient energy carrier, for example one liter of methanol contains more hydrogen than one liter of compressed hydrogen. It is a single carbon molecule which means that it burns cleanly and does not form soot or particles. Unlike gasoline and diesel, methanol is also suitable for both internal combustion engines and fuel cell technology, which transform methanol directly into electricity.
As a combustion fuel, methanol has high octane rating (109 RON compared to 95 RON for standard gasoline), which allows for higher efficiency of conversion into mechanical energy compared to gasoline or diesel. Methanol can be splash blended with gasoline and each liter of gasoline may contain up to 3% methanol, according to the European fuel standard. Blends of 15% methanol in gasoline are used in Australia, Italy, India, Israel and China, where use of 100% methanol in light vehicles, buses and trucks is also common. Methanol is used in the production of biodiesel and increasingly for production of a variety of fuel ethers which are either suitable for diesel or gasoline engines (DME, MTBE, OME etc.). It is also a growing fuel for marine engines, industrial boilers and cookstoves, due to its ease of handling and clean combustion.
The properties of methanol, which is a clean burning fuel, with high octane will also enable the production of highly efficient and light combustion engines for both private cars, trucks and buses. Unlimited range, rapid charging at traditional fuel station, coupled with lower cost of building cars with combustion engines will support a growing market for vehicles which can operate on methanol in different blends with gasoline. Methanol can also be used to make synthetic gasoline or fuels such as dimethyl ether which can be used by diesel engines, with high efficiency of conversion.