Biodiesel-powered vehicles are in it for the long haul

By The National Biodiesel Board | January 22, 2019

Attendees at the National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego got a glimpse into the future Jan. 22 as equipment manufacturers, industry experts and fleets detailed why diesel engines, powered by low-carbon biodiesel blends, will continue to be a mainstay in the transportation industry for many years to come. The future of the fuels market is heavily influenced by the future of the vehicle market and vice-versa—the two are inseparable. However, transportation industry experts agree that diesel engines are in it for the long haul. And when those highly fuel-efficient and powerful diesel engines are paired with renewable, clean-burning biodiesel, the combination is hard to beat on the road to a more sustainable future.

According to recent research by The Fuels Institute and Navigant Research, diesel and hybrid diesel powertrains together are projected to make up nearly 62 percent of U.S. commercial vehicle registrations by 2025, compared to 35 percent gasoline and a total of 3 percent for all other technologies including hybrid gasoline, electric, fuel cell and natural gas vehicles. Industry experts from the Diesel Technology Forum, National Association of Fleet Administrators, and National Truck Equipment Association who spoke at the National Biodiesel Conference Jan. 22 agree that the forecast for diesel powertrains looks strong and steady. 

“Diesel powertrains are the technology of choice for commercial trucking because of their unique combination of power, efficiency, durability, range, reliability and performance,” said Ezra Finkin, director of policy and outreach for DTF. “The greatest benefits for the environment and for truckers lie in the widespread adoption of the newest generation of clean diesel technology and powering those engines with advanced biofuels such as biodiesel.”

That has certainly been the experience for Florida Power & Light’s 3,600-plus vehicle fleet, which has been using B20 successfully for 20 years. After ramping up its biodiesel volumes following a successful initial trial, the FP&L fleet has consumed around 2.5 million gallons of B20 biodiesel blends annually since 2003.

“We have great confidence in our biodiesel-powered fleet of diesel vehicles, and we’re looking to add more to our lineup,” said Patti Earley, fleet fuel operations specialist for FP&L and incoming president of the NAFA Fleet Management Association. “The FP&L fleet has driven well over 150 million miles on B20 biodiesel blends with continually positive maintenance, performance and mileage results, and no biodiesel-related issues. It’s a winning combination that has helped our fleet to maintain one of the lowest emissions profiles of any utility in North America.”

George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA, the association for the work truck industry, agreed, stating, “If you are looking for an effective transition solution to move your fleet in a healthier, cleaner direction—one that is available immediately, cost-effective, and widely accepted among both vehicle manufacturers and fleets—then using clean, renewable biodiesel blends in your diesel vehicles is the ideal solution.”

Several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) revealed their latest diesel models during the Biodiesel Vehicle Technology Showcase at the event. 2019 is looking to be a banner year for diesel vehicle enthusiasts, with an impressive lineup of B20 biodiesel-capable diesel models offered by John Deere and other major brands in the agricultural and construction equipment market, a plethora of impressive work truck offerings from Isuzu Commercial Truck of America and other major medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturers, as well as nearly 50 light-duty diesel car, truck, van and SUV options from Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and more. 

In addition, this year Cummins Inc. celebrates 100 years of diesel engine production for vehicles and equipment spanning nearly every transportation market segment. On display at the National Biodiesel Conference this year is Cummins’ new crated aftermarket diesel engine offering—the R2.8 Turbo Diesel—repowering a 1979 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ 40 that was brought back to new life by The Clean Cruiser Project. This is the first time a major diesel engine manufacturer has offered a crated common rail diesel engine direct to consumers as a retrofit option. Cummins supports the use of B20 biodiesel blends in all its diesel engines, including the new R2.8, giving consumers the option of using biodiesel in practically any vehicle they choose.

Conference goers will also have the opportunity to test drive some of the newest diesel models from Isuzu, Ford and General Motors in the Biodiesel Ride-and-Drive Event taking place Jan. 23.  Isuzu Commercial Truck of America is showcasing the highly functional Isuzu NQR medium-duty standard cab diesel truck. El Cajon Ford is featuring Ford’s much-anticipated 2019 diesel model of the popular Ford F-150 pickup and the Ford Transit diesel van. And Courtesy Chevrolet in San Diego is featuring General Motors’ new 2019 Chevy Equinox compact crossover diesel SUV and the 2019 Chevy Colorado diesel pickup. All of the featured vehicles, along with the vast majority of other available diesel models, are approved for use with B20 biodiesel blends. 

Nationally, U.S. biodiesel entrepreneurs produce nearly 3 billion gallons of biodiesel annually. Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification. It is the nation’s first domestically produced, commercially available advanced biofuel. The National Biodiesel Board is the U.S. trade association representing the entire biodiesel value chain, including producers, feedstock suppliers and fuel distributors, as well as the U.S. renewable diesel industry.

 
 
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