U.S. auto manufacturers have introduced a record number of new biodiesel-capable diesel vehicles for consumers as the push for increased fuel efficiency, performance and sustainability in America’s transportation sector grows.
Despite a challenging marketplace, automakers and fleets remain bullish on new diesel engines that lower carbon emissions by increasing fuel economy over their gasoline counterparts and that can provide even further benefits when powered by clean, low-carbon biodiesel blends.
That was welcome news to an enthusiastic crowd at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo last week in San Diego. The conference featured and discussed the latest wave of new diesel options that can use the B20 biodiesel blend.
“Biodiesel is a renewable, domestically produced fueling option that amplifies the already substantial benefits of new technology diesel vehicles,” said Steve Howell, senior technical adviser for the National Biodiesel Board. “NBB and the U.S. biodiesel industry remain committed to working closely with our partners in the auto and engine manufacturing community to ensure that the high-quality biodiesel fuel of today and tomorrow will continue to provide auto manufacturers, fleets and consumers with a reliable, fit-for-purpose fuel that keeps pace with the nation’s increasing demands for cleaner, more efficient and sustainable modes of transportation.”
New diesel model vehicles featured
Several automakers’ new 2017 diesel models were featured at the conference. The Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase event is presented by NBB and General Motors. General Motors is bringing an industry-leading lineup of 20 different diesel vehicle options to market in the 2017-18 model year, setting records by approving all 20 models for use with B20, a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% ultra-low sulfur diesel.
One of GM’s models, the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup with a 6.6L Duramax turbo diesel engine, will be joined on the roadways this year by additional GM diesel model offerings in the car, truck, van and compact SUV categories.
John Schwegman, director of commercial- and medium-duty products for GM, told the conference: “Diesel propulsion deserves wider consideration by fleet managers across the country. With biodiesel production and retail distribution expanding, and so many proven benefits, we believe more fleets will embrace the technology as part of their sustainability plans. If our diesel customers fueled exclusively with biodiesel, we estimate that consumption of petroleum-based fuels would be reduced by hundreds of millions of gallons annually.”
Ford Motor Co. showcased one of its new 2017 B20 capable pickups with the Ford F-250 Super Duty powered by its 6.7L Power Stroke turbo diesel V8 engine. And Ford announced it is adding a new 3.0L Power Stroke turbo diesel engine option to its popular Ford F-150 for 2018, joining the Ford F-Series Super Duty and Ford Transit in the company’s diesel lineup.
Rounding out the pickup options featured in the Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase event was Nissan’s answer to the “Every Duty Truck,” the 2017 Nissan Titan XD powered by a Cummins 5.0L V8 turbo diesel engine.
More tractors with B20 blend
The important off-road equipment market was also represented in the Biodiesel Vehicle Showcase by long-time biodiesel supporter John Deere, featuring its best-selling utility tractor the John Deere 5045E with a PowerTech turbocharged diesel engine approved for use with B20 biodiesel blends. Deere was one of the first original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to get involved with biodiesel, approving B5 biodiesel blends for use in its engines in 2001. It was also one of the first off-highway equipment manufacturers to factory fill biodiesel blends in North America. Since then, Deere has continued to conduct biodiesel research, and lab and field tests using biodiesel fuel, and now supports up to B20 or higher biodiesel blends in its equipment.
Customers from coast to coast have used B20 successfully in nearly every make and model diesel engine, says Howell, and the vast majority of new diesel engines now have full OEM support for B20 with no vehicle modifications required. Yet in the ever-increasing drive to cut carbon and lower carbon dioxide emissions, fleets and users are investigating higher biodiesel blends to maximize the reduction in their carbon footprint, he notes.
Biodiesel conversion systems
To address the interest, another vehicle showcase participant, Optimus Technologies, has begun to manufacture biodiesel conversion systems that enable vehicles to run up to B100 even in the coldest climates. With its simple heated fuel system approach, Howell says Optimus could potentially provide fleets an easy and cost effective way to use pure B100 biodiesel in their existing vehicles and reduce carbon by 80% at a fraction of the cost of conversion to other fuel alternatives being considered, like compressed natural gas.
Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources, such as soybean oil, recycled cooking oil and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines, he notes. It is the first and only commercial-scale fuel produced across the U.S. to meet the EPA’s definition as an Advanced Biofuel, meaning the EPA has determined that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% when compared with petroleum diesel. Americans used more than 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel in 2015. The National Biodiesel Board is the U.S. trade association representing the biodiesel and renewable hydrocarbon diesel industries, including producers, feedstock suppliers and fuel distributors.
For more information, visit nbb.org.