Diesel Engine Cowards

Biodiesel has been around since the 1930’s (Yeah, really.  Check out the patent filings for it online). It is accepted by the EPA as a registered fuel for on-road use, mandated by law for use in all federal and state government vehicles, has been well tested and documented by dozens of universities and public transportation systems, has been used in Europe for over 12 years, and is now readily available in all 50 states.  Yet, every single diesel engine manufacturer that exists today will not endorse using B100 in their engines.  Why?

I bet we get 20 calls a week from people asking us if they can burn biodiesel instead of petroleum diesel in their car or truck.  The answer is typically a groaning “well, you can, but your vehicle engine warranty may be in jeopardy, so we can’t officially recommend it”.   Even though most of us at the plant run it in our vehicles, and all our trucks run pure B100. 

Since April of 2008, Biodiesel has been cheaper than petroleum diesel by at least 10 cents per gallon.  In some cases, it’s been as much as 50 cents cheaper. 

 Yet, diesel engine manufacturers, all of them, can’t seem to figure out how to make their engines run on B100.  Or can they?  Today (June 9th, 2008) just about every engine manufacturer I’ve researched will at least endorse B5.  In fact, some companies are SHIPPING their engines with a tankful of B5.  Yet, very few of them will support their engine running biodiesel blends over B20. 

I can accept part of the reason being that the fuel still isn’t in the petroleum mainstream and there are some specific handling requirements about it that differ from dinodiesel (gel points higher, oxidation, mild solvent characteristics, etc.).  But these are fuel handling problems that the petroleum industry and the retailer need to deal with, not the engine manufacturer. 

I find it interesting that we just made a shift to ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD), which also wasn’t in the petroleum mainstream and has different handling and performance requirements (less lubricity, sulfur contamination issues, oxidation), yet there was no reluctance from the diesel engine manufacturers regarding ULSD.  Why?  Because it wasn’t an option.  The EPA mandated it, and everyone had to follow. 

Did the engine manufacturers change anything in their engines to accommodate ULSD?  No.  

Is there any fallout to using ULSD?  Yes.  Many mechanics we talk to are telling us of premature injector failure because of the lack of lubricity in ULSD.  Ironically, this is one of the major benefits to biodiesel (biodiesel has outstanding lubricity), and a beautiful case for why we should be using it in ULSD.  Instead, it’s barely mentioned by the diesel engine companies or the petroleum industry.

Why is that?  I can only assume it’s because the petroleum industry doesn’t make biodiesel. Yet.

So, how about it Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Volvo, Volkswagen, Mercedes, International, Mack?  When are you going to get off your collective asses and start supporting B100 for use in your engines? I can’t think of a better time to get an edge on your competition by producing an engine that was “Certified for B100” and putting it in a high MPG 1/2 ton pickup or minivan.  Imagine a truck or minivan that could run on B100 and get 35MPG.  You could charge $40,000 per unit and not be able to keep up with demand. 

Posted in Biodiesel.