BELMONT, California — Ending a two-year test of biodiesel fuels made from algae and from plant sugars, Volkswagen of America says it found no decline in vehicle performance, and no engine or fuel system problems.
Additionally, the company said the Volkswagen vehicles in the biodiesel test turned in the same (or better) fuel economy than similar VW models running on diesel refined from crude oil.
The test, in which a number of then-new 2012 Passat and Jetta diesel models were driven a total of 134,000 miles using biodiesel fuel, helps show that biofuels made from easily renewable sources "can offer similar performance and lower emissions" compared to petroleum-based fuels, says Ewald Goessman, head of VW of America's electronics research laboratory, which spearheaded the program.
Some of the cars ran solely on biodiesel, while others ran on diesel blends in which biodiesel and petroleum-based diesel were used in varying proportions.
Volkswagen used fuels from two San Francisco Bay Area based companies, Solazyme Inc., a maker of algae-based biodiesel, and Amyris Inc., which refines biodiesel from plant sugars. VW chose the two producers because their processes are "very environmentally friendly," says VW spokesman Darryll Harrison.
The two companies claim that their fuels, Solazyme's Soladiesel RD and Amyris' No Compromise renewable diesel, produce less than half the CO2 emissions on a "well"-to-wheels basis — from manufacture through use in the vehicle — than does conventional petroleum-based diesel.
Edmunds says: Biodiesel's been around for awhile, and results like this should help drivers of diesel-engine vehicles feel more comfortable using it to replace petroleum diesel.