Bio Diesel Fleets Lower Greenhouse Gas Quicker that BEVs, Study Claims

A diesel lobby group is claiming latest research suggests switching ICE powertrains to renewable biofuels will reduce greenhouse gases quicker than switching to BEVs.

The study focused on emissions from medium and heavy-duty vehicles from 2022-2032 claims considerable advantages with advanced diesel technology when using renewable biofuels over an electrification strategy. It says US trucks operating in 10 northeastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) that have adopted California’s low emission (LEV) and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) regulations were studied by Stillwater Associates for the Diesel Technology Forum. An analysis was undertaken to analyze the environmental benefits attainable from three strategies in the 2022-2032 period; electrification, accelerated fleet turnover and use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel.

It suggests that low-carbon renewable bio-based diesel fuels can be used in all diesel vehicles today. Its analysis claims that fueling the diesel vehicles in the study with 100% renewable diesel resulted in three times larger cumulative GHG reductions by 2032 than the EV scenarios. Using B20 (a 20% blend of biodiesel with 80% petroleum diesel) provided about the same cumulative GHG reduction.

Beyond GHG emissions, the research also highlighted impacts of an advanced diesel versus an electrification strategy on regional air quality. It says that the business-as-usual case replacing pre-2007 model year diesel vehicles which lacked diesel particulate filters with advanced technology diesel vehicles provided the largest particulate matter (PM) reduction. This is because of the new technology diesel engines’ 98% PM reductions compared to EVs’ 95% PM reduction assuming electric power from the US average energy grid mix.

As for nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, the study says EVs have 98.5% lower NOx than pre-2007 diesel vehicles on a per mile basis, while 2010 and later vehicles have 79% less NOx emissions than a 2007 diesel model. However, when replacing a diesel medium- and heavy-duty vehicle with an EV and evaluated on an annual miles driven basis, the study claims the NOx benefit is diminished. EVs are generally deployed on shorter routes and have a shorter range of operation than that of a comparable diesel vehicle, with about 87% of the mileage on a daily basis. Given this mileage difference, NOx emission reductions for a fleet transitioning to EV will be less than the business-as-usual turnover from older generation diesel to advanced technology with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems that reduce NOx by 98%.

On a cumulative fleet conversion cost basis, it says turning over a medium- and heavy-duty fleet of 10,000 vehicles in the region over to EV carries a price tag more than three times higher than the equivalent cost for new technology diesel vehicles. The incremental EV cost for Class 7/8 vehicles is $250,000 for the vehicle and $45,000 for charging infrastructure.

Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, said: “As we look for the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions, this study demonstrates that accelerating fleet turnover and use of renewable and biodiesel fuels can deliver significantly more benefits that outweigh those possible from EVs in the region in the study period. Advanced diesel technology is more effective, more affordable, and most importantly more available than others.

“The urgency to implement solutions to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation and address climate change is heard on a daily basis. Transitions to new energy sources still have considerable uncertainties and longer timeframes – a decade or more – to meaningful implementation. Some solutions will be available sooner than others and at larger scale than others. Advanced diesel technology, as well as renewable and biodiesel fuels, are key available solutions that can deliver big impacts today.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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