Fleet Operations: The future of fuel

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#Alternative Fuels, #EV, #Transport Technology
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For as long as there have been vehicles, there have been constant innovations to improve fuel efficiency, cost, and practicality. We’ve come a long way from the steam-powered equivalents that could be found huffing and puffing their way along Cornish roads a couple of hundred years ago.

Manufacturers have worked hard to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, however, the price of crude oil-based fuels can fluctuate leading pump prices to increase significantly within a short space of time and causing fleet managers a headache.

Pricing aside, with the UK banning the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2035, the need for reliable and renewable fuels has reached an all-time high.

What is E10 Petrol?

While new cars will have to rely on renewable energy, the existing vehicles on the road will be mainly using E10 petrol. E10 became the default unleaded fuel in the UK on 1st September 2021 Better for the environment, using E10 petrol is predicted to be the equivalent of removing 350,000 cars from British roads.

What makes E10 petrol so different is its chemical composition. Comprised of 10% bioethanol, which can be sourced from renewable sources such as sugar beets or other starchy sugar bearing plants. Not only are these plants renewable, but they can also be grown in the UK, reducing costs of production.

Practically, almost all cars made since 2010 can use E10 petrol and most made since 2000 are also capable. Unfortunately, many older cars may find they’re unable to run E10 without damaging their engine and will still have to rely on older E5 petrol, which will still be available by purchasing the “super” grade (97+ octane) petrol from most filling stations.

What is red diesel?

Similar to the introduction of E10 petrol, legal changes are being made to red diesel. Red diesel was initially designated for more practical uses such as off the road vehicles like tractors or forklifts or as fuel for heating and generators and has traditionally been cheaper than standard diesel.

Red diesel is often considered illegal, but that only applies if used in personal vehicles on the road, as it can be classed as tax evasion and can lead to fines or even prison time. Further restrictions are coming into place in April 2022, with the list of allowed uses for red diesel is being reduced. More information on what red diesel can be used for after April 2022 can be found here.

The future of fuel

Whilst E10 provides fossil fuels a small step towards being more environmentally friendly. The future ban of vehicles using fossil fuels means that manufacturers are focusing on the development of vehicles which use alternative fuel sources.

While electric vehicles, or “EVs”, are on the rise, they aren’t the only options when considering the future of your fleet operations. These include biofuel, hydrogen and other, more speculative, fuel-saving measures.

What are electric vehicles?

The use of electric vehicles, particularly for personal use, is rising. However, high costs and ‘range anxiety’, the fear of running out of power whilst on the road, remain key barriers to increased adoption.

The number of charging points increased by over 20% in 2020, with further significant increases planned over the next few years as fuel providers look to satisfy the increased demand as drivers make the switch. Our fuel partners, Shell and BP, are investing in thousands of new fast and ultra-fast charging points across the country to help alleviate range anxiety and make electric an attractive proposition for commercial and personal use.

What is biofuel?

Biofuels, as the name suggests, are derived from biological matter. Like those used in E10 petrol, bioethanol can be made from the likes of corn and sugarcane; biodiesel, on the other hand, is made from vegetable oils and animal fats.

E10 petrol is used across the world including most of Europe and the USA. In some countries, they use even higher mixtures with Brazil using E100 fuel (which comprises of 100% bioethanol), demonstrating that it’s possible to run vehicles off purely bioethanol.

The advantage of biofuel is that both biodiesel and bioethanol are far more sustainable than crude oil-based fuels.

Are hydrogen cars the future of renewable vehicles?

Hydrogen is currently an underdog in the world of fossil fuel alternatives. Unlike engines which use fossil fuels, hydrogen-powered cars don’t release harmful emissions, only water. As perfect a solution as this sounds for the planet, there are also some complications that come with hydrogen-powered cars.

One key issue is that whilst vehicle emissions are eliminated, the current process used to create and capture hydrogen releases its fair share of emissions instead. In addition, the practicality of running a hydrogen-powered car in the UK today would be difficult, given the lack of infrastructure in place for refuelling.

However, it is still possible to purchase vehicles that run on hydrogen. Some advances are required for hydrogen to stand a long-term chance in the race for renewable vehicles, but the potential means we’re not taking our eye off hydrogen just yet.

Forecourt fuel is here to stay

Regardless of what the future holds for vehicles fuelled by renewable energy, one thing remains constant – the need for forecourts. Whether you’re managing fleet operations or driving for leisure, refuelling is part and parcel of transportation, and forecourts are the easiest and most accessible way for people on the road to continue their journeys.

The fuel type may change, but the need for refuelling doesn’t. Click here to find out more about how we can help you keep on top of fuelling your fleet through the use of our fuel cards. If you're looking to make the switch to electric then apply for one of our EV charge cards; BP Fuel and Charge or Shell Fuel and EV.

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Matt Dodds
Head of Strategic Sales and Partnerships

With over 14 years of experience across two of the leading fuel card companies in the UK, Matt Dodds joined RFC Edenred to help lead development of products to support our customer's move to EV and other alternative fuels, a transition he feels passionately about.