Will HVO fuel the future?

HVO fuel, or Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, is one of the many alternative fuels gaining popularity in the UK’s journey to becoming carbon-neutral. The government’s upcoming ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030 has left many weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of using HVO fuel to power their fleet.

A huge advantage is that, for most diesel users, HVO fuel doesn’t require purchasing new vehicles or significantly changing a company’s infrastructure in order for fleets to use it as a fuel source. This makes it an easy-to-implement choice for reducing your fleet’s carbon footprint. But what is HVO fuel?

What is HVO fuel?

HVO fuel is a low-carbon alternative to diesel. Also known as green diesel or renewable diesel, the use of HVO fuels can cut a vehicle’s carbon emissions down by 90%.

HVO itself is a second-generation biofuel. The first generation of biofuels was a step towards sustainable fuels and offered options such as bioethanol or biodiesel. The second generation contains even more advanced options, such as HVO fuel.

What is HVO fuel made of?

HVO fuel is made of vegetable oils and animal fats and is mostly manufactured from food waste.

The first generation of biofuels boasted a huge reduction in the use of fossil fuels and reduced carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the fact that they were manufactured from food products created friction between the food production and fuel industries over limited supplies. The development of HVO fuels worked to solve this problem.

In HVO manufacture, the oils are hydrotreated for a process with lower carbon emissions and can be used for diesel engines with little to no modification. As well as helping solve the food supply issue, this will also reduce global food waste, making HVO fuel an overall attractive option for those considering the environmental impact of their business.

Can fleets use HVO fuel?

With the diesel vehicles currently on the market not requiring major modifications to use HVO fuel, it looks like a viable and attractive fuel option for fleets. Speedy announced in 2021 that they would be moving to use HVO fuel to power their commercial fleet going forwards.

“Our fuel usage comprises the largest part of the business's carbon footprint, making it a priority area for us to take action. Reducing emissions in our delivery fleet helps customers to make big gains in decarbonising their supply chain, reducing the overall carbon footprint of their projects.”

Mike DeRome, head of fuel at Speedy

Speedy isn't alone. Many large fleets, with national operations, have begun trialling or implementing HVO fuels into their fleets over the past year. These companies include Evri, Travis Perkins, and Wren Kitchens.

HVO fuel vs Electric

When looking to the future, electric vehicles (or EVs) are seen as the primary option for fleets. In fact, FleetNews’ 2022 poll asking readers what their next company car would be showed that 51.9% favoured pure electric vehicles, with only 16.5% opting for diesel.

However, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse has warned against relying entirely on EVs moving forwards. In 2022, we saw the economic consequences, throughout Europe, of sanctions imposed on Russia’s crude oil exports after their invasion of Ukraine. We also saw the knock-on effects of microchip shortages in China causing delays in vehicle manufacture and purchasing. Both of these events highlighted the dangers of becoming dependent on a limited number of countries for necessary resources.

This is why it’s important that those considering the future vehicles for their fleet examine the variety of alternative fuels available. HVO fuel also offers a number of benefits that electric vehicles don’t.

Benefits of HVO fuel

HVO fuel has many advantages that make it a viable replacement for diesel, some of which are:

● Refuelling with HVO is like refuelling with diesel: you simply need to refill the tank. When compared to electric vehicles’ much slower charging method, HVO fuel could potentially save fleets a great deal of time.

HVO fuels can be used in most diesel engines without prior modification and without negatively affecting engine health. The fact that HVO use can be implemented across a fleet without major infrastructural changes would make the potential rollout much smoother than the rollout of electric vehicles, which would require the vehicles themselves, instead of just the fuel type, to be changed.

● HVO also features a much higher cetane rating than conventional diesel, which means that the starting power of the fuel is much greater.

● The long shelf life and easy storage of HVO fuel is also a benefit. It withstands wintry weather very well, making long-term storage easier to maintain.

What are the problems with HVO fuel?

This is not to say that HVO fuel is not without disadvantages. Fleet managers have been made wary due to:

● The current limited availability of HVO fuels on the market.

● The potentially negative environmental effects that may come into play when switching to a new fuel source, even one with a lower carbon footprint. When the first generation of biofuels rolled out, the industry realised that moving our fuel dependency from fossil fuels to fuels grown on land has a high likelihood of increasing deforestation.

The higher price. Although this varies depending on the supplier and the current market, HVO fuel usually comes with a higher price point than traditional diesel or charging an electric car, although the cost of purchasing EVs also needs to be considered by fleet managers.

Is HVO fuel right for me?

Overall, HVO fuel is a valid and attractive choice for those looking for ways to reduce the carbon emissions of their fleet. It’s important to make sure that you are aware of the range of options available, so you can make informed decisions about your supply moving forwards. For more advice on insight into the fuel industry, make sure to keep up to date with our blog. For advice on your fleet’s fuel usage and fuel card solution, give us a call today.


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