Car Care: Biodiesel a viable, green choice
Biodiesel offers motorists a choice
Like the cars we drive, fuels have evolved — to the point that it feels like we have more choice than before.
As car manufacturers strive to reduce the impact of their vehicles on the environment, more electricity-powered, or part-powered, vehicles are hitting our streets, but innovation and technological advances have seen the introduction of biodiesel fuel.
Not only is this a viable fuel option for many vehicles, it’s an affordable choice for the everyday diesel driver, who wants to do their bit for the planet.
What is it, and where can I get it?
Biodiesel is manufactured using renewable resources, such as vegetable oils or animal fats, which go through a chemical process called transesterification.
During this process the oil or fat reacts with methanol in the presence of a catalyst to make a fatty acid methylester (FAME) biodiesel.
Z uses this process to manufacture Z Bio D, which is produced from inedible tallow — a waste product from the processing of meat.
Sheena Thomas, senior communications advisor, Z Energy, at the Z Energy Biodiesel plant in Wiri, South Auckland. Picture? Brett Phibbs
By the end of the year, Z is hoping to produce and sell Z Bio D at specific sites in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, but there’s another fuel company that is way ahead of the game.
Since 2007, Gull has been selling biodiesel, but it’s available only at a limited number of locations. Unlike Z, Gull uses oils from fish and chip shops to produce its biodiesel.
Gull also produces and sells bioethanol, produced by sourcing waste products from the production of beer and milk. Unlike biodiesel, bioethanol is available on a much wider scale and is sold at almost all Gull outlets.
Who can use it?
Generally, anyone with a diesel vehicle can fill their tank with biodiesel.
Vehicle manufacturers will approve the use of a mineral diesel that has been blended with a maximum of 5 per cent biodiesel — this is the New Zealand fuel specification for diesel blending.
If you choose to use biodiesel, there’s no need for any modifications or extra tuning on your vehicle.
In Europe, biodiesel is commonplace, but if you’re unsure about whether your vehicle is compatible, you can always contact your vehicle’s manufacturer for confirmation.
What’s the benefit?
Biodiesel is produced using waste products and, as a result, there are clear environmental benefits.
To help put things into perspective, using biodiesel reduces carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by almost 4 per cent per tank.
Replacing 20 million litres of mineral diesel with biodiesel will reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint by about 37,000 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) each year. Those are stats not to be sniffed at.
Is there a catch?
Well, if you think going green means you will lose some of the horses under your hood, think again.
There isn’t a significant difference between biodiesel and regular diesel, so the performance of your vehicle is unaffected, and there are no extra servicing requirements.
If you choose to switch to this fuel, remember you can always change back, and there’s no need to wait until your tank is empty.
You can top up your car with mineral diesel or biodiesel — it doesn’t matter what’s already in the tank, as biodiesel is a blended fuel.