Full-fat alternative fuels

Full-fat alternative fuels

Old cooking oil, animal fats, fish oil and solar panels. No, this isn’t Bear Grylls’ latest list of things needed to survive in the wild, but the future of alternative fuels. JACO DE KLERK reports.

Alternative fuels have gained massive ground over the past decade, but I would never have thought that we would be where we are today … Ford has approved the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) in its stock standard Transit vans.

This renewable diesel fuel is based on waste oils, including used cooking oil that can be sourced from restaurants and takeaway outlets – and even domestic kitchens.

The company thoroughly tested HVO in its 2,0-litre EcoBlue engine to ensure that no modifications would be required and servicing would not be affected.

“Enabling our vans to run on fuel made from waste, including used cooking oil, may sound far-fetched, but using HVO is, in fact, a very real way in which Transit drivers and fleet operators will soon be able to help everybody enjoy improved air quality,” says Hans Schep, general manager of commercial vehicles at Ford in Europe.

This form of renewable diesel also reduces greenhouse gases by up to 90 percent, when compared to regular diesel, and vehicles that run on HVO emit less nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide, as there is no sulphur in this fuel.

Additionally, HVO, which incorporates waste animal fats and fish oil, helps diesel engines start more easily in low temperatures. The creation process, which uses hydrogen as a catalyst, means HVO is both cleaner burning than conventional biodiesels and has a longer shelf life.

The diesel alternative is on sale at selected fuel stations in Europe, mainly in Scandinavia and the Baltic states, where it can be offered in a pure form, or as a blend with regular diesel.

The fuel has also been adopted by individual fleet operators in other markets to improve their green credentials, with fuel delivered in bulk by specialist suppliers to a company’s on-site fuelling facility.

If a vehicle runs low on HVO in an area where it is not offered for sale, the driver can simply fill up with conventional diesel and the fuels can mix in the tank without causing problems.

Grease isn’t the only word

Ford isn’t the only original equipment manufacturer embracing alternative fuels, however, as Volvo Trucks points out in an article titled: Alternative Fuels – The way forward.

“Our aim is to make continuous progress in the areas of energy efficiency and alternative fuels – and we have already demonstrated our ability to develop vehicles for a wide range of fuel options,” the manufacturer of heavy commercial vehicles states.

Three crucial reasons for a switch to renewable fuels are identified:
• Climate change: “Our use of fossil fuels contributes to global warming which, in the long term, will certainly have dramatic consequences for life on Earth,” Volvo Trucks points out in its article.
• Increased energy demand: “Fossil fuels will continue to play a major part in satisfying growing energy needs, as the world’s population and urbanisation continue to grow. The global economy will more than double in size by 2040,” it adds.
• A decline in finite resources: “The world’s reserves of oil and other fossil fuels will eventually be exhausted –
the only question is when. The price of oil is also continuously unstable due to geopolitical factors,” Volvo Trucks notes.

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