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Transit fleets report positive experiences with biodiesel. City bus fleets that have used biodiesel include those in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Cincinnati, Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri. Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis conducted one of the first demonstration projects using biodiesel blends in Call-a-Ride vans to evaluate its suitability as a motor fuel. The evaluation revealed that:

  • Biodiesel is a viable motor fuel
  • Performance and fuel economy were unchanged
  • Exhaust emissions improved dramatically
  • The fuel was fully compatible with vehicle and fuel dispensing equipment

Biodiesel operates in conventional engines. Just like petroleum diesel, biodiesel operates in combustion-ignition engines. Essentially no engine modifications are required, and biodiesel maintains the payload capacity and range of diesel. Pure biodiesel is not compatible with natural rubber, sometimes found in pre-1994 vehicles. Because it is a solvent, it can degrade natural rubber hoses and gaskets, so those would need to be changed to more modern material if B100 is desired. This is not a problem with B20 blends (20 percent biodiesel/80 percent diesel) and below. 

Biodiesel exhaust is less offensive. The use of biodiesel and biodiesel blends results in a noticeable, less offensive change in exhaust odor. In fact, equipment operators have compared it to the smell of french fries. Users also report having no eye irritation. Since biodiesel is oxygenated, diesel engines have more complete combustion with biodiesel than with petroleum.

Biodiesel is safer to use than petroleum diesel.  The flash point (the point at which fuel ignites) for biodiesel in its pure form is more than 200 degrees versus about 125 degrees Fahrenheit for regular No. 2 diesel. This makes biodiesel the safest fuel to use, handle and store. 
Click here for a sample material safety data sheet
Click here for environmental and safety information

Biodiesel has a full ASTM fuel specification.  The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) issued Specification D 6751 for all biodiesel fuel bought and sold in the U.S. in March of 2002, marking a major milestone for the biodiesel industry.

Having a full standard in place helps protect consumers from poor products and reduce the cost of buying and selling biodiesel. While many adopted the provisional specification in 1999 (PS 121), those that didn't had to negotiate a specification. The final passage of D 6751 streamlines the procurement process.

Those interested in getting a copy of the standard can buy it at www.astm.org. To contact ASTM customer service directly, call (610) 832-9585 or e-mail service@astm.org.

Biodiesel reduces emissions significantly. Biodiesel is the first alternative fuel to have fully completed the Health Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. Emissions of nitrogen oxides are either slightly reduced or slightly increased depending on the duty cycle and testing methods. The use of biodiesel decreases the solid carbon fraction of particulate matter (since the oxygen in biodiesel enables more complete combustion to CO2), eliminates the sulfate fraction (as there is no sulfur in the fuel), while the soluble, or hydrocarbon, fraction stays the same or is increased. Biodiesel works well with new technologies such as catalysts, particulate traps, and exhaust gas recirculation. Soy biodiesel reduces carbon dioxide by 78% on a life cycle basis. 
Click here for emissions data
Click here for Tier I and Tier II Health Effects data

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Orlando LYNX Transit System

Sunny Side Up: Orlando's LYNX Buses Shine with Biodiesel

If you catch a bus in Central Florida, chances are good that it is running on B20. LYNX, the public transportation service for Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, has been using biodiesel blends since 2010 as part of its sustainability plan.

“We’ve definitely caught the biodiesel bug here,” says Ricky Sonny, Project Manager with LYNX. “A lot of people, from drivers to managers to passengers, are much more aware about biodiesel, and have been won over. We’ve seen no noticeable difference in performance compared to regular diesel.”

The entire fleet of 268 buses, including 12 hybrid electric/diesel buses and all diesel support vehicles, runs on biodiesel. Five of the buses are wrapped with special biodiesel artwork.

LYNX is unique in that it designed and constructed the first automated, computer controlled biodiesel blending station for a transit agency. With a grant from the Florida Governor’s Energy Office, the team reconstructed its diesel fueling station into a variable biodiesel blending fueling station for its buses and maintenance vehicles. Three times a week a 7,000 gallon tanker truck delivers fuel to 30,000 gallon storage tanks for on-the-spot blending. At the volume of fuel used, Lynx is saving money doing its own blending on site.

LYNX provides more than 85,000 passenger trips each weekday. The resident population is more than 1.8 million.

Winter 2012