By Steve Klein, senior manager, marketing, Renewable Energy Group
Today’s fleet owners and managers understand the importance of looking beyond purchase price and also consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their equipment. Residual value, insurance, maintenance and repairs, parts—these and other hard and soft costs also factor into the true expense of owning a vehicle.
Fuel has always been a big part of that equation, but typically it’s been centered around fuel costs. That’s missing the bigger picture, kind of like focusing on purchase price instead of TCO. Fuel can affect vehicle maintenance and performance. And with fleets increasingly having to hit sustainability targets, emissions should also be a fleet management consideration.
Biodiesel can help lower a fleet’s total cost of ownership in several ways, including by easing maintenance issues, boosting performance and reducing emissions.
Meeting Sustainability Goals
Let’s start with biodiesel’s environmental benefits because sustainability hasn’t traditionally been part of total cost of ownership. It should be, however, because clean air regulations are on the rise. Also, many private and public sector organizations are adopting sustainability plans, so whether a fleet has its own organizational goals or needs to help a customer meet theirs, the emissions coming from a piece of equipment should be factored into TCO.
Biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86% compared with petroleum diesel. Even compared to other alternative fuels, biodiesel stands out. An interesting way to look at it is how much higher greenhouse gas emissions are for other fuel choices versus B100*:
- 580% higher with petroleum diesel
- 435% higher with compressed natural gas
- 195% higher with an electric vehicle with natural gas-derived electricity
Biodiesel can also positively affect maintenance, parts and downtime, all key components of total cost of ownership.
Fewer diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues — DPFs capture particulate matter (soot) in diesel vehicles to prevent their release into the atmosphere. Regenerations used to clear DPF clogging can hurt fuel economy and cause downtime. Biodiesel’s cleaner burn produces less particulate matter, which can help reduce DPF clogging, regeneration and wear.
Added lubricity — Fuel pumps and injectors need adequate lubrication or else the metal parts can rub together, creating excess heat, wear and damage. Ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) lacks the necessary lubricity, and additives are frequently used to bring it to spec, adding cost and complexity for fleets. Biodiesel has outstanding lubricity — a blend as low as B2 has been shown to give diesel vehicles more lubricity than required by ASTM D975.
Higher Cetane — A diesel fuel’s Cetane number is a common indicator of fuel quality. The higher the Cetane number, the shorter the ignition time. Shorter ignition allows more time for complete combustion, which helps engines operate more effectively. The biodiesel ASTM specification for Cetane is a minimum of 47 while conventional diesel’s is 40. biodiesel is typically above 50.
Integrated Energy Management
An integrated energy management (IEM) approach is another way fleets can potentially lower TCO. This is a comprehensive strategy in which they consider all available fuel sources and adopt the options that best meet their needs.
IEM lets fleets transition away from fossil fuels while taking into account the market readiness and affordability of various alternatives. This gives them options to meet both short- and long-term business objectives.
Renewable Energy Group is North America’s largest producer of biodiesel and an industry leading producer of renewable diesel. REG solutions are alternatives for petroleum diesel and produce significantly lower carbon emissions. In 2019, REG produced 495 million gallons of cleaner fuel delivering over 4.2 million metric tons of carbon reduction.
*REG calculations based on REG biodiesel produced from used cooking oil and based on the CA-GREET model.