Biodiesel fuel cars use a non petroleum based diesel fuel to run the engine. The biodiesel consists of a long chain of alkyl esters and are generally made by vegetable oil, animal fat and alcohol. Some diesel engine cars use the biodiesel blended with petro-diesel for combustion. Various proportions of the blend are available as car fuels.
The biodiesel has better lubricating properties compared to other lower sulfur diesel fuels. The calorific value of the biodiesel is around 37 MJ/L which is less than that of petro-diesel. The energy density of the biodiesel depends mainly on the feedstock. The biodiesel fuel can be produced from rapeseed, soybean oils and from crops like flax, mustard, sunflower and palm oil. The waste vegetable oil and animal fats are other sources for biodiesel fuels.
The life of the fuel injection equipment is increased by the addition of biodiesel as they reduce the system wear. The engine energy output is increased with the use of biodiesel because of its complete combustion nature.
Pros and cons of the fuel
The biodiesel offers high energy security. The dependence on fossil fuels in reduced with biodiesel. Biodiesel fuels are renewable forms of energy. The biodiesel is found to degrade at a much quicker rate compared to petroleum diesel. As biodiesel is a better lubricant than petrodiesel, it helps in extending the working life of engines. They create less health hazards due to pollution as they emit very less particles on burning when compared to other available fuels. Biodiesel fuels offer complete and efficient combustion resulting in a better performance of the engines using them.
The cost of production of biodiesel fuel is very high. The volatility of biodiesel changes in low temperatures and they become gel in nature. So the fuel tanks require heating arrangements in cooler climates. Though they are an energy efficient, pollution free replacement for fossil fuels, the lower production rates of vegetable oil and animal fat creates a hindrance in achieving so.
Biodiesel use in different countries
Countries like UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Japan and China had started research in various possibilities for biodiesel many years back. The global biodiesel fuel production has increased in the recent years as more countries are coming into the biodiesel arena. The production rate is seen increasing at a rate of 40%. Europe leads the biodiesel market with the maximum production. Many countries are carrying out research to find more suitable and high yielding crops that can boost the production of biodiesel to meet the fuel requirements of the world. In Australia, most of the metropolitan trains and buses operate on biodiesel. Brazil has commercial biodiesel refineries. They depend mainly on castor beans to produce biodiesel. Canada has exempted biodiesel from taxation to increase the awareness and usage of biodiesel fuel cars. India produces biodiesel locally to replace diesel and kerosene in many locally run vehicles. They are experimented and used in some railway engines and transport buses. In the UK, biodiesel fuel is sold by many filling stations. Agricultural uses are met with the locally produced biodiesel fuel. Seeing the advantages of biodiesel and the colorful future offered by it, many small scale production units have come up in the UK and have started production, selling the biodiesel fuel at a lower price than petrodiesel. The use of biodiesel as a transportation fuel is gaining importance in many countries.
Other countries which are already in the biodiesel arena are China, European Union, Finland, Indonesia, Malaysia, Spain, Singapore and Germany. Countries like Italy, Austria, Spain and France have exempted biodiesel from tax and duty.
Environmental benefits and drawbacks
Biodiesel fuels are more environmental friendly due to lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to those of fossil fuels. The carbon dioxide generated on burning biodiesel is compensated by the plant feedstock used for production of biodiesel. The impact on the environment is dependant on the method used for production of biodiesel. Biodiesel may become a serious threat to the environment if deforestation and monoculture farming methods were used for their production. This may lead to damage of the biodiversity and ecosystems resulting in dangerous climatic changes. The use of pesticides for biodiesel crops disrupts the water supplies in that area.
Biodiesel fuel considerably reduces the emission of particles on combustion by around 20% compared to petrodiesel fuel. They have higher cetane rating than petrodiesel resulting in improved performance and cleaner emissions.
Burning biodiesel releases less amount of carbon dioxide compared to that of burning fossil fuels. The biodiesel fuel used in cars does not contain sulfur and so the exhaust from these cars is less hazardous.
Biodiesel Engine Reliability
The diesel engine vehicles can be run using biodiesel fuels without any modification. Biodiesel is a good solvent resulting in the engine pipes getting dissolved in the fuel. The biodiesel may potentially block the fuel filter at a faster rate. So if a normal diesel fuel in a vehicle is replaced by the biodiesel fuel, the fuel filter needs to be changed shortly after starting to use it. After the initial maintenance, further service of the biodiesel vehicle is required only after a long interval. Most modern cars do not have any rubber pipes, and so replacing just the fuel filter is enough in these cases.
Cost of the fuel
In many countries, biodiesel fuel is priced lesser than petrodiesel. Gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE), the amount of biodiesel required to equal the energy content of one gallon of gasoline is found to be .96 US gallons. The actual cost of biodiesel depends on factors affecting production cost like cost of getting seeds, government policies regarding taxation, utilization of by products generated and the scale of manufacturing. The cost of biodiesel production is subsidized by the valuable additional byproducts like glycerin and seed cake.
Fuel Tax benefits in the UK
The UK government provides tax concessions for biodiesel fuels to expand the production and thus enabling the biodiesel fuel to compete in the market. The UK laws allow users to produce biodiesel around 2500 litres per year for personal use without paying duty.
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