In the first of a series of three articles RORY CLARKE, managing director of Rix Biodiesel, looks at the advantages and problems of using this natural fuel
Are you running a van fleet and conscious of the damage to the environment that your business causes but are not sure what you can really do about it?
Maybe you have heard about biodiesel but do not know exactly what it is or whether your vans can use it. What’s more you’ve not seen it on many forecourts anyway.
What’s the best step for you? Let’s try to answer some basic questions...
So what is biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a fuel which is manufactured from vegetable oil, including recycled waste cooking oil. It is the easiest, cleanest and most efficient transformation of solar energy to produce kinetic energy to power engines. It is a sustainable and renewable product with positive energy balances.
100% biodiesel has a massively superior performance to conventional fossil diesel in many environmentally valuable areas, for example significant reductions in:
Can my vans run on biodiesel?
Diesel engines are well known for running on any oils and even the most hi-tech modern diesel engines only need a small amount of modification to be able to run on 100% biodiesel.
However, if you don’t want any modification at all a 5% biodiesel to 95% fossil diesel blend can be used interchangeably with fossil diesel.
Our own BioBlend5 uses this mix and meets the UK diesel standard EN590. You won’t know that you are using anything different and the pricing is the same as fossil diesel.
Obviously there is a much smaller benefit to the environment than using 100% biodiesel but if everybody did a little then the benefits would be great.
Are there any benefits other than feeling good about the environment?
In the 5% blend the natural properties of biodiesel give a better lubrication than fossil diesel, leading to less combustion knock and its natural fats give lower fuel pump and injector wear.
Fuel efficiency is also improved.
Another benefit is that you will be giving yourself an environmental track record.
Increasingly, larger companies who are regular purchasers of transport are looking to improve their environmental credentials.
This will often involve leaning on suppliers to deliver improvements on their behalf. We are increasingly seeing invitations to tender include environmental performance indicators as businesses come under pressure from their stakeholders to monitor their own environmental impact.
Where can I fill my vans up?
This is where things become a bit more difficult.
Availability of biodiesel and biodiesel blends are not as widespread as I would like to see.
Convincing filling stations to stock it is hard when there is not a big demand and there will not be a big demand until potential users are convinced that the are easily available supplies.
There are some useful resources to track down supplies, such as www.biodieselfillingstations.co.uk but unless you can operate from fuel tanks in your own depot then planning routes to ensure a biodiesel fill-up can be very difficult.
So after all that, I can’t actually make an environmental difference?
While direct biodiesel use is still difficult because of availability, Rix has launched the GoGreen Card (www.gogreencard.co.uk).
It allows drivers to buy conventional diesel through the UK’s largest fuel card network (one in eight filling stations across the country) knowing that, when Rix is asked to replace the conventional diesel in the network by the fuel card operators, it will be BioBlend5 which is introduced.
Using the GoGreen card ensures fleets still have a positive environmental impact which is certified by Rix, which issues certificates of carbon savings allowing companies to measure the benefits of making the switch.
I take the view that if commercial vehicle operators start by making small changes, they ultimately make big differences in their environmental impact.
These days people seem to be increasingly aware of environmental issues and concerned about them – but practical solutions can be hard to find.
Changing to the GoGreen Card is a practical step fleets can make now.
Coming soon - Rory Clarke examines the bigger policy issues that surround biodiesel