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This week, the Alternative Fuel & Vehicle conference was held in Orlando. On Sunday, a parade of alternative fuel vehicles was held as a public part of the event. Between 50 and 100 viewers watched, and emcee Mike Holfeld of Channel 6 described, approximately 20 participants as they drove past the Disney Dolphin resort. Orange County Commissioner Linda Stewart was on hand to start the procession which included an electric bike, the 2010 Toyota Prius, a CNG powered lawn mower, an electric truck, a hydrogen powered bus, propane powered truck, and, most interesting from our point of, four "Clean Diesel" vehicles.
These vehicles use new exhaust technology to meet all 50 U.S. state emission regulations. They include the 2009 "Green Car of the Year" VW Jetta TDI, Mercedes-Benz ML 320 BlueTEC, and the BMW X5 xDrive35d. The National Biodiesel Board drove a VW TDI Cup Edition. All of these vehicles are on the market today.
Striking was the fuel 3 of the 4 diesels ran on: "Renewable Diesel". This is distinctly different from traditional biodiesel. While made from the same feedstocks (soy, algae, WVO, palm) as biodiesel - the chemical process and resulting fuel is much different from biodiesel and more similar to diesel. The hydrogenation process is very much like that used to "crack" crude oil, and is performed in similar refineries. With better cold weather properties than biodiesel, this second generation product is soon to be EPA approved in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. market, and grassroots biodiesel advocates, differentiate this product from biodiesel. One hurdle for biodiesel to overcome with respect to new clean diesel exhaust systems, is lubrication oil dilution. That problem may limit users to strictly observing a B5 blend in 2009 and newer models, with no such limit necessary for the chemically-similar-to-petrodiesel Renewable Diesel fuel.
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