What is biodiesel?


Like the cars we drive in, fuels too have evolved over time — to the point that now it feels like we have more choice than ever before. As car manufacturers strive to reduce the impacts of their vehicles on the environment, more and more electricity-powered, or part-powered vehicles are hitting our streets, but innovation and technological advances have also seen the introduction of biodiesel fuel. Not only is this a viable fuel option for many vehicles, it’s an affordable choice for the everyday diesel driver, who wants to do their bit for the planet.

What is it, and where can I get it?

Biodiesel is manufactured using renewable resources, such as vegetable oils or animal fats, which go through a chemical process called transesterification. That’s just a big word that means the oil or fat reacts with methanol in the presence of a catalyst to make a fatty acid methylester (FAME) biodiesel. Z uses this process to manufacture Z Bio D, which is produced from inedible tallow − a waste product from the production of meat in New Zealand.

By the end of 2016, Z is hoping to produce and sell Z Bio D at specific sites located in Auckland, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, but there’s another fuel company that is way ahead of the game. Since 2007, Gull has been selling biodiesel, but it’s only available at a very limited number of locations. Unlike Z, they use oils from fish and chip shops to produce their biodiesel.

As well as biodiesel, Gull also produces and sells bioethanol, which is produced by sourcing waste products from the production of beer and milk. Unlike biodiesel, bioethanol is available on a much wider scale as it’s sold at almost all Gull outlets.

Who can use it?

Generally, anyone with a diesel vehicle can fill up their tank with biodiesel. Vehicle manufacturers will approve the use of a mineral diesel that has been blended with a maximum of 5% biodiesel – this is the New Zealand fuel specification for diesel blending. If you choose to use biodiesel, there’s no need for any modifications or extra tuning on your vehicle. In Europe, biodiesel is very common, but if you’re unsure about whether your vehicle is compatible, you can always contact your vehicle’s manufacturer for confirmation.

What’s the benefit?

Biodiesel is produced using waste products and, as a result, there are clear environmental benefits. To help put things into perspective, using biodiesel reduces carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by almost 4% per tank. Replacing 20 million litres of mineral diesel with biodiesel will reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint by around 37,000 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) each year. Those are stats not to be sniffed at.

Is there a catch?

Well, if you think going green means you will lose some of the horses under your hood, then think again. There really isn’t a significant difference between biodiesel and regular diesel, therefore the performance of your vehicle is unaffected and there are no extra servicing requirements. If you choose to switch to this fuel, remember you can always revert back if you change your mind. Either way, if do want to try it out or switch back to regular diesel, there’s no need to wait until your tank is empty. You can just top up your car with mineral diesel or biodiesel — it doesn’t matter what’s already in the tank as biodiesel is a blended fuel.

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