Lesson 1
How Are Alternative Fuels Used in Transportation?

Subject: Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, Bioenergy, Vehicles
Grade Level
: 4th through 8th Grade
Class Dates
: Varies by activities

Overview: While gasoline is the most commonly used fuel for transportation, there are multiple alternative fuels that are making their way to the market. These fuels include propane, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, electric hybrids, and biodiesel. Students may have heard of some of these alternative fuels, but may not understand how and why they are better then ordinary gasoline.

Objectives: These projects created by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy are designed to give students an opportunity to test alternative fuels to discover how they influence transportation. The activities are:

• Determining the heat content of two alternative fuels
• Selecting the economically best choice between purchasing a hybrid or typical gasoline engine automobile
• Developing a plan for fleets of automobiles to alternative-fuel engines
• Quantifying the relative amount of CO2 given off by the methanol vs. ethanol during the combustion process
• Identifying what goes into building a hydrogen fuel cell car

Materials: Vary by activity.

Activities: Download PDF of lessons here.

Lab Safety Guidelines:

1. Use caution: No horseplay, practical jokes, or pranks are allowed in the science classroom.
2. Follow all instructions carefully, and ask your teacher if you do not understand something.
3. Do not touch any equipment until instructed to do so.
4. Do not eat, drink, chew gum, or taste anything in the science classroom.
5. Wash your hands with soap and water before entering and leaving class.
6. Wear safety goggles when instructed.
7. Keep work area neat and clean. Remove all unnecessary materials.
8. Clean work area and equipment when you're finished with the experiment. Dispose of all waste properly.
9. Tell your teacher about any accident immediately.
10. Most chemicals used in the science room are dangerous. Do not touch or smell any chemicals unless told to do so.
11. Students are not allowed to enter any storage closet at any time.
12. Do not remove any supplies from the science classroom without your teacher’s permission.
13. Use care when handling glassware. Never pick up broken or hot glassware with your bare hands.
14. Use extreme caution when using matches, burners, or hot plates. Only light burners when told to do so by your teacher, and do not put anything into a flame unless specifically instructed to do so. Do not leave lit burners unattended.
15. Dress properly: Long hair must be tied back, and no dangling sleeves or jewelry is allowed. Wear closed-toe and heeled shoes. Wear lab aprons as instructed.
16. Memorize the location of all safety equipment and emergency exits.

Adapted from middleschoolscience.com.

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