The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

The Shift to Biodiesel is Gaining Momentum

June 2006, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

San Francisco city departments and agencies using B-20 include the San Francisco Airport, Department of Public Works, MUNI buses, and the San Francisco Zoo. Also, the San Francisco Fire Department expects to expand the use of biodiesel throughout the city upon completion of its pilot program. San Francisco already has more than 800 alt-fuel vehicles in its departmental and agency fleets. The number municipal fleets using biodiesel is growing. Recently, two additional cities announced that they will be transitioning to biodiesel. One is Boston. Mayor Thomas Menino recently ordered the changeover of Boston’s 450 diesel vehicles to biodiesel. Another is Fayetteville, N.C, which is transitioning its 200-unit diesel fleet to B-20. Among county fleets, Snohomish County in Washington is one of a number of county fleets using B-20 in its diesel vehicles, off-road units, and construction equipment. At the state level, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds directed the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to use biodiesel-blended fuel whenever possible for its more than 1,200 diesel-powered vehicles. Similarly, a Washington state law mandates the state vehicle fleets use at least 20-percent biodiesel by June 2009. Last fall, Minnesota became the first state to require biodiesel to be blended into all diesel fuel, using soybean-based oil. Why is Biodiesel Attractive?
One reason why biodiesel is attractive is because it can be used in any diesel engine with few or no modifications to the engine or fuel system. It can be blended with petroleum diesel at any level, such as B-20, which is a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel made from soybean oil or other domestic fats and vegetable oils. Also, biodiesel is available throughout the U.S. The National Biodiesel Board maintains a list of registered fuel suppliers as well as petroleum distributors and retail fueling sites. A current list is available at However, biodiesel has a solvent effect that may release deposits accumulated on fuel tank walls and pipes from previous diesel fuel usage. The release of these deposits may initially accumulate in fuel filters, so fuel filters must be checked more frequently during early use of biodiesel. It is recommended that only biodiesel fuel meeting the specification (D 6751) be used. Satisfies EPACT Mandates
Effective November 1998, the U.S. Congress approved the use of biodiesel to comply with Energy Policy Act (EPACT) man-dates and Executive Order 13149 requirements. Federal agencies can meet up to 50 percent of their AFV acquisition credits by using biodiesel fuel. Under this biodiesel fuel use credits provision, fleets may choose to operate existing diesel vehicles that weigh more than 8,500 lbs. on blends of biodiesel in lieu of purchasing a new alternative-fuel vehicle. For each 450 gallons of pure biodiesel purchased and consumed, an alternative-fuel vehicle credit is awarded. To constitute a “qualifying volume” a 20-percent biodiesel blend (B-20) or higher blend must be used. For example, if a fleet wished to qualify for the credit using 100-percent biodiesel it would need to purchase and use 450 gallons of B-100 to receive one credit. Alternatively, if a fleet wanted to qualify for the credit using B-20, it would need to purchase and use 2,250 total gallons of the B-20 fuel. B-20 is also approved as a compliance tool for Executive Order 13149. Meeting Mandates without Changing Vehicles
Since the use of biodiesel does not require major engine modifications, it means that public sector fleets can keep their existing fleets, spare parts inventories, refueling stations, and diagnostic equipment. It also means that fleet maintenance technicians do not need to be retrained to service new powertrains and fuel systems. When reviewing the high costs associated with other alternative-fuel systems, many fleet managers have determined that biodiesel is their most cost-effective strategy to comply with state and federal clean air regulations. Although biodiesel is more expensive than petroleum diesel, a federal tax incentive helps lower the cost of biodiesel blends in both tax-exempt and taxable markets. The Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have both confirmed that the biodiesel is the lowest-cost alternative-fuel option for meeting the Federal government’s EPACT compliance requirements. Because it works with existing diesel engines, biodiesel offers an immediate and seamless way to transition existing diesel vehicles into a cleaner burning fleet. Let me know what you think.

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