Running cars on bio-diesel
Bio diesel is a fuel produced from vegetables oil, animal fat, waste cooking oil and tallow. It was invented by Rudolf Diesel, approximately 100 years ago. It is produced through a process called transsterification, which involves replacing the vegetable oil’s glycerol with another alcohol, usually methanol. In their book “Run your diesel vehicle on bio fuels”, Jon and Garvin write that vehicles produce large amounts of pollution. Good examples of the effect of the pollution by the smog from the cars can be seen in Los Angeles and Mexico cities. Compared to petroleum diesel, bio diesel offers a cleaner solution at the point of combustion and can readily be used in present generation vehicles. (Starbuck Jon, Harper Gavin D. J, 2008)
While vegetable oil is a bio fuel, it is not a bio diesel. Many people confuse running their car on vegetable oil and with running their car on bio diesel fuel. Some say that the car has to be converted into a bio diesel run car, when in actual sense, no conversion is required. Bio diesel can be used to run any unmodified run engine. Bio diesel is carbon neutral, in that it does not produce an out put of carbon in form of carbon dioxide. This is because the amount of carbon that it produces is the same as that which it uses up when growing. (Starbuck Jon, Harper Gavin D. J, 2008)
Benefits of using bio diesel
In the year 2000, bio diesel was the only fuel in the U.S that had successfully met the EPA required tier 1 and tier 2 health effects testing under the clean air Act. These tests concluded that bio diesel was free of all the gases that pose a threat to the environment or to the human health. It does not contain any sulfur or aromatics, and when used in a conventional diesel engine it results to a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Another study done by a U.S department of Energy study showed that compared to petroleum diesel, the use of bio diesel results to a 78.5% reduction in the carbon dioxide emissions. It was also reported that bio diesel has a positive energy balance as compared to the other fuels. The study supported this finding with the fact that for every unit of energy needed in the production of a gallon of bio diesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained. (Benefit of bio diesel)
There are significant micro economic benefits that arise from the increased utilization of renewable bio fuel, both to the rural sector and the urban sector and in the balance of trade. In 2001, a study done by the U.S Department of Agriculture showed that an average annual increase of the equivalent of 200 million gallons of soy-based bio diesel demand would boost total crop cash receipts by $5.2 billion by the year 2010. This would then result to an average net farm increase of $300 million each year. It was also found that during the ten year period, the price of a tin of soy beans would increase annually by 17 cents. Besides the fact that it is a domestically produced and renewable alternative fuel for diesel engines, it also has high fuel lubricity, high oxygen content and increased cetane, which makes it a better blend for the ultra-clean diesel. (Benefit of bio diesel)
Benefits to the car
Since bio diesel fuel has enhanced lubricity, besides being solvent in nature, researchers have found it beneficial to the engine of the vehicles. It is an effective lubricating agent to the diesel engine due to its chemical composition. A blend of as little as 1% bio diesel with the low sulphur petrol diesel introduces enough lubrication in the engine and also reduces the wear and tear. Bio diesel is also insolvent, with an ability to clean out fuel tanks, injectors, fuel lines and the fuel system, hence cleaner and more efficient operation of the engine.
Challenges facing he wide spread acceptance of bio diesel
There is no support for the major engine and vehicle manufacturers
Despite the number of the specialized heavy duty application engine manufacturers that are there, only a few support the use of bio diesel fuels. For example, in Australia the manufacturers of the trucks do not support anything except the B5 blend, which can offer only a minimal reduction of the gas emissions compared to the petroleum fuel. For there to be a considerable reduction of the emissions, a B20 or a higher blend would be preferred. Sadly, the manufacturers of the trucks in the council’s fleet, Isuzu or Hino have not yet supported the idea. In such cases, the manufacturers of the vehicles may fail to honor the warrant claim of a vehicle, where the cause of the damage is unknown or is related to the type of fuel being used, even if it is the recommended fuel. There are very few people who will risk to purchase a car without a warrant, a disadvantage, hence the reason the use of bio fuel faces acceptance challenges. (Sim Cameron, 2008)
The cost of the fuel
The average cost of the bio diesel fuel, when compared to the petroleum fuels is more than a dollar. Obviously, most fuel consumers will prefer to purchase the fuel with the lower cost. In the presence of the two types of fuel, they will choose the petroleum fuel over the bio diesel fuels, especially if they are large scale buyers. There have also been claims that the bio diesel fuel is more expensive to produce, compared to the other fuels.
Lower energy content
The energy content of bio diesel is lower than that of the pure gasoline. Neat bio diesel contains an energy content that is 11% lower than that of the petroleum based diesel fuel. The difference in the energy content results to a loss of power in the operation of the engine. Another problem of the bio diesel fuel is that it can cause problems to the engines of today’s cars, whose engine is meant to use the petroleum fuels. Any blending can cause problems to the engine such as fuel filter plugging, injector coking, severe engine and lubricant degradation among others. It is also not widely available all over the country and the world. For this reason, bio diesel is blend with petroleum based fuels, for example at 2:8 ratios. (Disadvantages of bio diesel, 2008)
The benefits got from running your car on bio diesel fuel are more than the disadvantages. The government needs to support the producers of the fuel so that people will prefer to use the bio diesel run cars, compared to the petroleum run cars. This will help to reduce global warming and other effects of the pollution caused by the smoke from combustion of the petroleum fuels.
1) Benefit of bio diesel: National Bio diesel board, retrieved on 3/6/2009 from
2) Disadvantages of bio diesel: Bio Diesel from corn, 10/23/2008 retrieved on 6/3/2009 from
3) Sim Cameron, 8/5/2008, Using Bio diesel in the council’s fleet: Environmental services committee, Sydney, retrieved on 3/6/2009 from http://www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au/resources/documents/ES04_Biodiesel_Report.pdf
4) Starbuck Jon, Harper Gavin D. J, 2008, Run Your Diesel Vehicle on Bio Fuels: A Do-Yourself Manual, McGraw Hill Professional