Biodiesel: How Manufacturers are Joining the Movement

From large shipping cargo vehicles to US military machines, fleet vehicles consume the most biodiesel today. Over the years, however, commercial automobile makers have been introducing smaller, consumer-sized vehicles that also use biofuels as demand for environmentally-friendly automobiles increases. As a result, large automobile manufacturers are introducing biodiesel-powered cars and trucks to the marketplace, albeit slowly, in a sort of test to see how well sales perform.

Chevrolet Cruze

When the National Biodiesel Board attended the 2013 National Automobile Dealers Association and American Truck Dealers Association last February, it celebrated the announcement of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze, the newest edition of a General Motors line approved for biodiesel use. According to Biodiesel Magazine, “The all-new 2014 Chevrolet Cruzee Clean Turbo Diesel features an advanced 2.0-liter clean diesel engine that will offer an estimated 42 mpg highway with an automatic transmission and expected best-in-segment range based on GM testing.”

The Chevy Cruze was approved for use with up to 20 percent biofuel (B20), making one of the few—but growing—light duty diesel-powered passenger car on the commercial market. Created through the collaboration of German and Italian engineers, the turbo-diesel employed by the Chevy Cruze is already being utilized throughout Europe where around 40% of all Chevy Cruze models are biodiesel. This marks not only growing trends in the automobile industry, but also highlights new innovations in the global biofuel and biodiesel world.

But what exactly is biodiesel? According to NextGenCar [1], “Biodiesel is commercially produced by the ‘esterification’ of energy crops such as oil seed rape or from waste vegetable and animal oils (from the food industry). The oils are first filtered to remove water and contaminants and are then mixed with an alcohol (usually methanol) and a catalyst. This breaks up the oil molecules before they separated and purified.”

Biodiesel promises to be “carbon-neutral”, although fossil fuels are still required to grow the crops needed to produce this type of fuel. Nevertheless, studies have shown that “lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by around 60% and 90% respectively [meaning] a 5% biofuel blend would result in a carbon reduction of around 2.5% (biodiesel) and 4% (bioethanol). Much greater emission reductions are possible for biodiesels if waste oils are used, as the sources material would otherwise be thrown away.”

As such, biodiesel:

  • Maintains an environmentally-friendly consciousness (fewer emissions)
  • Reduces purchases of foreign oil
  • Lubricates the car engine by itself
  • Can be used in 90% of diesel engines
  • Is environmentally and structurally safer than regular diesel
  • Cost efficient, sometimes cost neutral

The new 2014 Chevy Cruze is set to retail for $25,695 and will be initially released by GM into markets where biofuel automotive sales have done well. These markets will include dealers located on either coast, Washington D.C./Baltimore, and a few larger cities located within the heartland of the country. According to the magazine, “a bumper crop of new 2013 clean diesel vehicles are beginning to arrive in dealership showrooms nationwide, including more new B20-approved vehicles from domestic automakers Ford and Chrysler.” Additionally, more bio-friendly stock will arrive, including the Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks, the Ford Transit full-size van, the Ford Super Duty, Chrysler’s new 2013 Ram Heavy Duty pickup, and the 2013 Ram Heavy Duty diesel pickup.

For a more extensive list of what is available in the US biodiesel vehicle market, check out the list compiled by the National Biodiesel Board (PDF).

Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with a Karmaloop coupon.


[1] Source: http://www.nextgreencar.com/biofuels.php

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