A European test of second-generation biodiesel fuels made from hydrotreated vegetable oils showed reduced emissions compared to traditional petroleum-based diesel.
Fueling of a Mercedes-Benz Atego with Diesel from renewable resources.
Fueling of a Mercedes-Benz Atego with Diesel from renewable resources.

Daimler AG, Deutsche Post DHL, the energy group OMV, the Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG public transportation company, and the Finnish oil company Neste Oil presented initial results of a joint pilot test of vehicles running on renewable diesel at an event in Berlin this week.

For 1 million kilometers so far, the companies have been running 14 Mercedes-Benz trucks and buses using sustainably produced NExBTL renewable diesel under everyday conditions in Germany. The test results have shown reduced emissions, including a 15 percent savings of nitrogen oxides and more than 60 percent decrease in CO2 emissions, when compared to fossil fuels.

The field tests will continue for a three-year period ending in 2011, running the commercial vehicles for a total of 3.3 million kilometers and saving more than 2,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Deutsche Post DHL is driving 10 Mercedes-Benz trucks over this period, while Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG is operating four Mercedes-Benz Citaro city buses. Neste Oil manufactures the biofuel, while OMV provides the fuel to the project partners.

"The results from the first year of testing show that the fuel works perfectly in Mercedes-Benz trucks and buses and is tolerated very well by the engines," said Manfred Schuckert, company strategist of emissions and safety for commercial vehicles at Daimler AG. "This is very important for our customers, because the previously used biodiesel from the so-called first generation of biofuels often leads to more frequent maintenance checks, which in turn leads to higher costs for the vehicle operators."

The field tests can also be used to highlight the issue of CO2 emissions from motor vehicle traffic. "As a global logistics company that operates a large fleet of vehicles, we want to actively support research into biofuels from renewable sources," said Steffen Frankenberg, company strategist at Deutsche Post DHL. "That's because we think that second- and third-generation biofuels can significantly reduce our carbon footprint."

"In the future we will face the challenging task of having to transport more goods while generating far fewer emissions," said Frankenberg. "We will therefore desperately need alternative fuels, especially fuels that are sustainably produced."

Neste Oil is engaged in research and development with 23 research institutions and universities around the world to develope completely new type of feedstocks for renewabe fuels production. Research work is ongoing, for instance, on fuels made from algae, other microbes and wood residues.

The participants were speaking at the event, "Diesel from renewable resources - A step toward zero-emission transportation?"

All of the participants in the field test have environmental initiatives, including OMV's Future Energy Fund and Daimler's "Shaping Future Transportation" project.