Biofuel and environmentally friendly cars

Biofuel is a renewable fuel typically made from food crops, wood waste, or, as in New Zealand, from dairy industry by-products. Biofuel can either be petrol blended with a maximum of 10% bioethanol, or diesel blended with a maximum 5% biodiesel.

Biofuel benefits the environment because it burns more cleanly and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas emissions) produced by your car.

How biofuel stacks up

If you use 30 litres of biofuel a week you will save over 250 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Biofuel is better suited to newer vehicles however many older vehicles can use it too. Check our list of biofuel compatible cars (below) or contact your vehicle manufacturer before using biofuel.

While ethanol contains less energy than normal petrol, any increase in the fuel economy of your vehicle using ethanol-blended petrol should be minimal.
However bio-ethanol does contain more oxygen so your fuel will burn better and performance may be improved.

Bioethanol has 30% less energy content than mineral fuel, which means you consume about 3% more fuel with a 10% bioethanol blend. However bioethanol does contain more oxygen so your fuel will burn better and performance may be improved.

Power sources

The new generation of environmentally friendly (or "green") cars and vehicles are being designed to run on a number of different power sources; anything from bioethanol to biodiesel and hydrogen. Here's a rundown.

Hydrogen-powered

Plain old water is the only emission from hydrogen-powered cars. However, like other experimental hydrogen-powered vehicles, it's prohibitively expensive and hydrogen production is still CO2 intensive.

Hybrids

Hybrid vehicles use two types of power sources; a petrol engine and an electric motor - which maximises the benefits of both and opens up possibilities for the future. Hybrid vehicles typically use one of two types of hybrid systems; the series hybrid and the parallel hybrid.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel can be made from chemically treated vegetable oil or animal fat and is often blended with mineral diesel to a maximum of 5 percent. It's possible to use the waste product from restaurant and takeaway deep fat fryers to run some diesel vehicles. However this type of vegetable oil is not considered fuel grade and requires serious investigation and vehicle modification before attempting.

Bioethanol

Bioethanol is a renewable fuel made by fermenting and distilling products containing sugars and starches. In New Zealand bioethanol is currently made from dairy industry byproducts, and is blended to a maximum 10% with petrol. Bioethanol fuel blends have been used in Europe, Australia and North and South America, for many years. Again, however, its production can be CO2 intensive.

LPG

Any petrol engine can be converted to run on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), but although it may cost you less at the pump, the conversion can be pricey and you may lose precious boot space to the second fuel tank needed.

Biofuel compatible cars

This list has been created from information provided by members of the Motor Industry Association (MIA) and details car models and their manufacturer recommendations relating to the use of E3 or E10 biofuel.

Make Model E3 suitable E10 suitable
Alfa Romeo All models post 1998    
Aston Martin All models post 2004    
Audi All models except the ones below:



A3 1.8 (engine code APG {92kW})    
  A4 & A6 2.0 (engine code ALT {96kW})    
Bentley All models post 1990    
BMW All models pre 1996    
  All models post 1996
   
Chrysler All models post 1986
   
Citroen All models post 1998    
Daihatsu All models except the ones below:    
  Charade post Sept 2005    
  Copen post Jan 2006    
  Materia post Nov 2006    
  Terios post Feb 2006    
Dodge All models post 1986    
Fiat All models post 1998    
Ford All models post 1986 except the ones below:    
  Capri    
  Courier 2.0L & 2.6L    
  Econovan pre 2002    
  Escort    
  F-series models 1986-1992    
  Festiva    
  Focus models 2002-2004    
  Ka    
  Laser 1.3L, 1.5L & 1.6L    
  Mondeo 2.0L & 2.5L pre 2001    
  Sierra    
  Telstar    
  Transit models 1996-2004    
Daewoo All models    
Holden All models post 1986 except the ones below:    
  Barina models 1985-1994    
  Astra SRi 2.2L models post November 2006), 2.2L Twin Top Convertible models post November 2006    
Honda All fuel injected models post 1996    
Hyundai All models post October 2003    
Jaguar All fuel injected models post 1986 - 95 Octane or higher    
Jeep All models post 1986    
Kia All models post 1995    
Lamborghini All models    
Land Rover All fuel injected models post 1996 - 95 Octane or higher    
Lexus All models    
Maserati All models    
Mazda All models except the ones below:    
  MPV post 1999    
  Mazda2 post May 2005    
  Mazda3    
  Mazda6    
  RX8    
  NC MX-5    
  CX-7    
Mercedes Benz All models post 1986    
MG All models    
Mini (BMW) All models post 2001    
Mitsubishi All models except the ones below:    
  Models with Evo X and GDi engines    
Nissan All models post 1 January 2004    
Peugeot 205, 404, 405, 504, 505, 605 (post 07/1997 TU engines)    
  206, 207, 307, 406, 407, 607, 306 (post 07/1997 TU engines)    
Porsche All models pre 2007    
  All models post 2007    
Rolls Royce All models post 1990    
Rover All models    
Renault All models post 2001    
Saab All models post 1986    
Skoda All models post 2006    
Subaru All models post 1990 except the ones below:    
  Legacy RS, GT, GTB, RSK, Blitzen-1990 on Impreza STI-1997 on, Forester STI    
Suzuki All models except the ones below (providing RON requirements are met):    
  Alto models pre 2000    
  Baleno    
  Baleno GTX    
  Jimny (SOHC)    
  Super Carry    
  Swift models pre 1995    
  Vitara    
  Wagon R+ model pre 2001    
  Wagon R    
  X-90    
Toyota All models post 1991    
Volkswagen All fuel-injected models post 1997    
  All models post 2006    
Volvo All fuel injected models post 1996 - 95 Octane or higher    

Motorcycles, all terrain and other vehicles

Make Model E3 suitable E10 suitable
BMW All models pre 2000    
  All models post 2000    
Ducati All models    
Harley-Davidson All models    
Honda All models post 1989 (refer owner manual for related cautions)    
Hyosung All models    
Polaris All models    
Kawasaki Some Canadian specification models (details in owner handbook)    
  All other models    
Suzuki Road bikes 50cc to 1800cc    
  ATV wheel bikes    
  Road trail bikes and kids bikes    
  Motorcross 2 stroke and 4 stroke    
Yamaha All motorcycles and all terrain vehicles    

Important things to note

The list only applies to cars sold brand new in New Zealand. It doesn't relate to any vehicles that have been imported as used cars.

For the vast majority of Japanese used imports, vehicle manufacturers state that they can safely use ethanol-blend fuel up to a 3% maximum (E3). Some later models (2006 onwards) may be suitable for ethanol-blend fuel of up to 10%. If your car is fitted with a carburettor then it's highly unlikely to be able to use E3 or E10.

B5 biodiesel should be suitable for use in most diesel vehicles. However, some vehicle manufacturers may not endorse the use of tallow-based biodiesel due to concerns about its performance in cold temperatures, which could lead to fuel system blockages. The AA also advises motorists not to use biodiesel in recreational boats due to the associated higher risk of diesel bug.

You may also find further information about your car's compatibility with biofuel in the owner's handbook or on the car manufacturer's website.

Ethanol blended fuel shouldn't be used for marine and aviation purposes, and you should contact manufacturers prior to using ethanol-blended fuel for small machinery such as motor mowers, chainsaws and generators. Please contact your manufacturer if you're uncertain whether to use biofuel.

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