This past winter, the Des Moines area got pummeled with over two feet of snow, and while most residents stayed bundled inside, 10 Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) snowplows were on the roads, clearing snow and cleaning the air. The Iowa DOT is committing to a lower carbon footprint in their state fleet by operating these ten snow removal and road maintenance trucks with Optimus Technologies’ advanced fuel system technology, powered by 100% biodiesel (B100).

Over the course of the winter season, these vehicles used over 9000 gallons of biodiesel and successfully treated almost 55,000 miles of roadway, significantly lowering their carbon emissions at the same time. They are the first DOT in the nation to deploy sustainable solutions in their plows, leading the country in B100 adoption as electric alternatives don’t exist and would not be as effective in these applications.

Biodiesel is a cleaner alternative to petroleum diesel and is a readily available, sustainable solution for fleets. Suitable for use in any diesel engine, biodiesel can be adopted by fleets in varying blends from 5% biodiesel, or B5, all the way up to 100 percent (B100). Blends above 20% biodiesel require upgrades to engines to ensure compatibility and successful operational performance. Biodiesel is classified as an advanced biofuel by the EPA because it reduces carbon emissions by more than 50%; in fact, 100% biodiesel reduces scope 1 carbon emissions by over 95 percent compared to traditional petroleum-based diesel fuel.

“The Iowa Department of Transportation is becoming a global leader in carbon reductions while taking the next steps forward toward the state’s sustainability goals,” said Todd Cogdill, Fleet Manager for the Iowa DOT. “This is coming to fruition as a result of Optimus’ advanced technology coupled with fuels produced right here in Iowa.”

The Iowa DOT is one of the original early adopters of biodiesel in its fleet. For more than 20 years, the Iowa DOT has utilized B20. The Vector System enables Iowa DOT to increase biodiesel usage to 100% by eliminating traditional issues associated with higher biodiesel blends, such as gelling, even in sub-zero temperatures. This project is another example of the Iowa DOT demonstrating their forward-looking leadership. In 2020 Iowa DOT launched an initial B100 test project with five upgraded trucks; due to the success of the original project, Iowa DOT has since placed two additional orders, ordering a total of five new trucks equipped with the B100 technology, bringing the total to ten.

“The Iowa DOT senses the same urgency that we’re seeing globally—municipalities, states, and countries are faced with directives to immediately reduce carbon emissions,” said Colin Huwyler, Optimus’ CEO. “We’re seeing a significant increase in interest for our technology as fleets recognize that options like electric vehicles can’t perform the demanding tasks required in severe-duty applications like snow removal. EVs can’t handle these operations today and I’d guess they likely won’t be suitable for at least the next decade, maybe two. Rather than passing the buck, IDOT is setting the example. With Optimus’ technology and Renewable Energy Group’s biodiesel, IDOT is seamlessly integrating low-carbon solutions today.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation is committed to reducing their carbon emissions but cannot afford to sacrifice performance of their fleet vehicles. Performance and reliability are especially critical for public-safety operations like snow removal and road maintenance that the residents of Iowa depend on. As Iowa DOT continues to upgrade their fleet for use with 100% biodiesel, they are able to leverage existing vehicles and infrastructure to achieve significant environmental and financial benefits.