Diesel vehicles and alternative fuel - What has changed?


Diesel vehicles and alternative fuel - What has changed?

Source: FleetAnswers  Electric and other alternative fuel vehicles are here to stay, and for many commercial fleets these alternative fuel vehicles have changed the face of their fleets. Yet for the fleet that runs on primarily diesel engines, these changes are not quite as far-reaching. Still, the rise in alternative fuel vehicles and a growing desire to "go green" among fleets of all types has changed the diesel fleet landscape slightly, with a focus on making diesel fuel more eco-friendly.

Creating a Cleaner Brand of Diesel

Because diesel is, by its very nature, a more efficient fuel option. It creates approximately 15 percent more energy measured in BTUs than gasoline. Because of this, it has not been the target of major change among  alternative fuel advocates.

However, diesel fuel does have drawbacks, and one of those is the difficulty of controlling emotions due to the high sulfur content of the fuel. The high sulfur content of older diesel fuel formulation led to a significant amount of emissions. In 2006, the EPA pushed for legislation to change diesel fuel to a new, ultra-low-sulfur-diesel, or ULSD. This fuel was distilled with lower sulfur content, allowing it to burn cleaner and allowing for the use of more emissions control on modern diesel vehicles.

Today, all states require the use of ULSD fuels for diesel vehicles used on the road. This fuel uses 97 percent less sulfur than the past blend of diesel.

Biodiesel Emerges

Drivers who have a lot of experience on the road with diesel vehicles know that a number of organic alcohols and oils can be used in an emergency to fuel a diesel vehicle. This ability sparked the rise in biodiesel fuels, a change that environmental advocates approved.

Biodiesel is diesel fuel made from agriculturally-produced products, including corn and soybean oil, mixed with conventional diesel fuel. This blend makes the fuel more environmentally friendly, because a portion of the fuel is renewable. The most common blends used today are B20 and B5, which are 20 and 5 percent biodiesel respectively.

What These Changes Mean for Fleets

So what do these changes in diesel fuel mean for the modern fleet? In reality, they do not change much about the way a fleet operates. ULSD fuels, for instance, are now the industry standard, and purchasing other fuels is not possible. Biodiesel fuels can help improve the image of a fleet, especially if the fleet advertises its use of these more eco-friendly fuel, but they do not change the day-to-day operations.

One change, however, is with maintenance. Biodiesel can cause problems with clogged fuel filters or degrading seals on older vehicles created for use with petroleum diesel. ULSD fuels create a problem for some vehicles, because the sulfur served as a lubricant before it was removed. Still, especially with these changes, diesel fuels remain an efficient, environmentally-friendly fuel option for the modern fleet.

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