Volvo becomes first OEM to endorse renewable diesel

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Volvo is the first OEM to endorse renewable diesel, a second generation alternative fuel whose popularity continues to grow quickly among fleets.Volvo is the first OEM to endorse renewable diesel, a second generation alternative fuel whose popularity continues to grow quickly among fleets.

Volvo Trucks North America is the first OEM to endorse renewable diesel.

The announcement comes today following the company’s engine lab tests with the emissions-friendly fuel.

“Environmental care is a core value of Volvo Trucks, and we are pleased to offer our customers another alternative fuel choice,” said Frank Bio, director of sales development, specialty vehicles and alternative fuels for Volvo Trucks North America. “Availability of renewable diesel fuel is growing in California and throughout the country. Renewable diesel meets the same ASTM D975 standard for petroleum diesel, making it a true ‘drop in’ fuel.”

Volvo’s announcement precedes only by a few hours a State of California press release which reports that the state’s fleet, one of the largest in the nation, will be using renewable diesel in lieu of biodiesel and petroleum-based diesel.

(HWT related story: State of California going with renewable diesel)

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), renewable diesel, also known as synthetic diesel, shows reductions in greenhouse gases by 15-80 percent depending on feedstock source.

Renewable diesel fuel is a second generation alternative fuel derived from biomass feedstocks, including vegetable oils and animal fats. Unlike conventional biodiesel, which is produced through a transesterification process, renewable diesel is made through a more sophisticated process called hydrotreating.

The resulting fuel, according to renewable diesel fuel manufacturer Neste, shares the chemical structure of conventional diesel, but has significantly lower emissions. Neste is the largest provider of renewable diesel in the U.S. Unlike ethanol, Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel is made from non-edible feedstock sources.

“Neste is working closely with OEMs in North America as well as in Europe. We are delighted that Volvo Trucks has approved NEXBTL renewable diesel in Volvo engines,” said Neville Fernandes, Neste’s head of marketing and sales.

“NEXBTL renewable diesel meets both the U.S. national fuel standard for ultra low sulpur diesel (ASTM D975) as well as the California diesel standard (CARB diesel).”

Volvo reports that renewable diesel has a much lower cloud point, which improves the low temperature performance issues commonly associated with conventional biodiesel. Also, biodiesel, given its chemical and performance characteristics, cannot be directly substituted for petroleum-based diesel.

While impressed with its compatibility and low-emissions ratings, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association and Cummins Inc. recently told that more data is needed on renewable diesel. Since feedstocks vary among fuel manufacturers, testing the fuel can be challenging. The fuel’s energy content is lower than conventional diesel leaving some cause for concern that greater amounts of renewable diesel will have to be used to yield the same results as conventional diesel.

(HWT related: Cummins and EMA: More data needed on renewable diesel)

However, the City of Oakland, Ca. and UPS have both told that they’re pleased with the fuel and have not noticed differences in performance. The City of Oakland, which changed its fleet of 250 vehicles and maintenance-related engines to Neste’s Nexbtl diesel in October, said it’s too early to comment on differences in fuel economy.

(HWT related: Fleet manager feedback: Oakland remains happy with renewable diesel)

Renewable diesel has the potential to improve the environmental impact of vehicle operation, while reducing particulate matter for pre-EPA 2010 engines, according to Volvo. Renewable diesel also requires less maintenance costs when compared with other alternative fuels, reports the Swedish automaker, and there is no warranty risk for using renewable diesel fuel to power any Volvo model equipped with a Volvo engine.

In keeping with its mission to go green, Volvo currently offers natural gas-powered versions of its VNL and VNM daycabs, which are built at Volvo’s New River Valley assembly plant in Dublin, Virginia, where all Volvo Trucks sold in North America are built.

(HWT related: Volvo trucks announces layoff for Virginia plant)

The Volvo VNL model features a 12-liter Cummins-Westport ISX12 G engine and the VNM daycab is powered by a factory-installed 8.9 liter Cummins ISL G engine.

Volvo Trucks, which assembly plants in 16 countries, offers a full range of medium to heavy duty trucks. Customer support is secured via a global network of 2,200 dealers and workshops in more than 120 countries.