Alternative fuels: Can we say goodbye to diesel?

The switch from diesel to hydrotreated vegetable oil is part of a bigger plan to drive toward more sustainable logistics.
The switch from diesel to hydrotreated vegetable oil is part of a bigger plan to drive toward more sustainable logistics.
21 June 2024 •

Driving the future means challenging the way we do things

Historically, the logistics sector has relied heavily on diesel, a significant contributor to carbon emissions. Introducing new, sustainably sourced fuels requires making infrastructure changes, which can be challenging. Especially when you are talking about an entire fleet of trucks.

DHL Supply Chain (DSC) in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Ireland faced this challenge. DSC operates 17 fuel bunkers across its U.K. network, from Scotland to the South West of England. The question was: How can they ditch diesel without switching to entirely new engine technology and overhauling the fueling infrastructure?

The answer was hydrotreated vegetable oil or HVO.

No new trucks required

To switch to HVO, each tank had to be cleaned thoroughly and the equipment recalibrated. Supply chain companies do not do that every day or on this scale. But the effort was worth it, and DSC’s operations in the U.K. and Ireland are now reaping the rewards.

One of the big benefits of HVO is that it does not require new vehicles. HVO is a “drop-in” biofuel alternative to regular diesel, so almost any engine that burns diesel can run on HVO.

"That is the beauty of HVO.", said Ben Burns, Decarbonization Program Lead, DHL Supply Chain in the U.K. and Ireland.

What is more, biofuels are available and scalable right now. Many experts see biofuels as a bridge to the future when electric and hydrogen technologies are more mature and widely available.

Carbon cutback: Making the switch for immediate savings

Because HVO can be used within existing infrastructure, such as storage facilities, filling stations, and vehicles, the carbon savings are also immediate. You can reduce carbon emissions by approximately 80 percent after making the switch.

DSC U.K. and Ireland introduced HVO in September 2023 and had already used 6 million liters by the end of the year. The goal for 2024 is 25 million liters, which would save 60,000 tons of CO2e.

Just the beginning

HVO is just one step in our sustainability journey – and it does not end there. We make it our job to understand the available fuel options and work with our customers to reduce carbon emissions in their supply chains. That is why we are constantly testing the latest developments, like this hydrogen truck, to understand their potential.

"Ultimately, being able to help our customers transition to net zero transport is the long-term goal. Every stage on that journey is truly something to celebrate as we continue moving forward.", said Burns. "This is just the beginning."

HVO at a glance

What is HVO?

Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) is a synthetic renewable “drop-in” diesel substitute made from renewable biomass, in particular, used cooking oils and waste from food production (e.g., animal fats). It is produced via a high-pressure process that purifies the oils, creating a cleaner-burning fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

How much carbon can HVO save?

HVO can reduce carbon emissions by approximately 80 percent compared with regular diesel.

What is a “drop-in” fuel?

An alternative fuel that can be blended and used in conventional engines and infrastructure without modification.

What is another example of HVO in action?

We use a fleet of biofuel trucks running on HVO100 to support all European Formula 1 races. In 2023, the fleet reduced carbon emissions by 83 percent compared to standard fuels.

This story was first published on DHL Delivered and was republished with permission.