Last spring a company set up in a trading estate near to me who make and sell Biodiesel (Link Below). My car is a Diesel which does a lot of miles (approaching 20,000 Year) so it seemed an obvious choice.
When I compared the price it seemed even more obvious as, depending upon the grade, you can save about 6-20p a litre over High St Prices.
I Googled it and looked up the known issues with using Biodiesel:
1: Biodiesel can be more corrosive the ordinary fuel and can poses a risk to the rubber pipes in your engine – I looked in this a bit more and it turns out nearly all manufacturers switched to more resistant compounds in the 90’s – certainly it’s not been an issue in my 53 plate Toyota and shouldn’t be in any modern car.
2: It turns out Biodiesel is slightly more dense than fuel from fossil fuels. The risk this poses is that over time some of gunge that has sunk to the bottom of your fuel tank will be pulled through to the engine. It will be caught by the fuel filter, but this will normally need changing after a few weeks or months usage because of the additional gunk. In my case after about 4 months a warning light on my dashboard told me there was water in my fuel filter. I replaced the filter which cost me £16 – annoyingly this is probably a lot of the financial gain I had made if you add it up! There was a lot of brownish gunk in the filter – presumably an emulsion of the petrol and the water – but I’m told that someone reasonably handy (Not me then) could wash out the filter with petrol and replace it. It should be only a one time thing.
3: There can be loss of performance – I can’t say my car and I are high performance on the road anyway, but I didn’t notice a real difference.
4: Issues in cold weather – Diesel gets ‘waxy’ at very low temperatures and this make it difficult to start the engine. In very cold climates Lorry drivers have special heaters to keep their engines/fuel warm (Ice road Truckers!). This is slightly more of a worry with biodiesel than ordinary diesel because of the denseness – but it has not been an issue for me. In cold weather I just use the heater plugs and it still starts first time. This garage stop selling 100% biodiesel in the coldest part of the year.
5: Biodiesel is designed to run in ordinary cars without adaptation – it is not the same as adapting you car to run on waste oil. If the Biofuel garage is closed I can just go to Tesco’s.
In the UK we don’t normally buy 100% biodiesel – probably because of these issues. My supplier offers B30 (30% biodiesel) B50 (55% biodiesel) and B100, with the price going down by a few pence for each step.
I have used B100 a couple of times, but I mostly stick to B50. I honestly can’t tell the difference in the cars performance – the only way to tell is to sniff the exhaust which has a kerosene note to it that Is not there with ordinary fuel.
The only other issue is that the company don’t have a chip and pin machine – its cash only so you tend turn up and ask for ’40 Quid’s worth’ rather than ‘fill her up’.
The company tell me they use Rape seed oil and/or Soya oil to make the fuel
Overall then, my experience has been pretty positive one.
Looked at from purely financial point of view there has not been a great saving because of the new fuel filter. It has also taken a bit or organisation to turn up with the cash in my hand – I don’t carry that sort of cash around – usually I have to go to Tesco’s and ask for a cashback or use their Hole in the wall (driving past their garage!).
But there is a real personal satisfaction in feeling greener whilst driving and the Kudos is fantastic … Just before Xmas I drove my Partner and her parents (both in their 80’s) around for a couple of days and even they were impressed by the idea of being driven round in a car powered by a green fuel. That feeling of doing my best for the environment (and saving a few pennies along the way) is why I will continue to use Biodiesel.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel (a bit American for my tastes)
http://autorepair.about.com/cs/generalinfo/a/aa102001a.htm (About diesel engines and heater plugs)