Our motoring editor answers your questions on the renewable alternative to the traditional fossil fuel

What are biofuels and in particular HVO?

One of the proposed interim solutions to reducing carbon emissions is the use of biofuels. The term biofuel is a catch-all for fuels that are liquid or gaseous transport fuels — such as biodiesel and bioethanol — made from biomass. They serve as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels in the EU’s transport sector, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the EU’s security of supply.

Last July the ethanol content of petrol was increased to 10pc from 5pc. A target of 20pc biodiesel in diesel by 2030 has been set. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, otherwise known as HVO, is derived from waste cooking oils and is widely used in Europe and globally and its market use is expanding quickly.

What are the benefits of HVO?

The use of HVO fuels produces up to 90pc less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to fossil diesel and it reduces particulate matter (PM) emissions by up to 80pc and nitrogen oxide (NOx) by up to 20pc.

Where can I buy HVO and does my diesel car need to be converted to use it?

HVO is available at several forecourts around the country and is compatible with all existing diesel vehicles so there is no need for any type of conversion.​

But are there concerns around the use of HVO?

One of the concerns around HVO is where the feedstock comes from and how it’s grown. The use of palm oil, in particular, is one of the most contentious issues.

A wider deployment of HVO could lead to unintended environmental consequences. A hike in demand could drive an increase in palm oil-derived HVO or palm oil used as a livestock feed alternative. The effect would be to intensify further global deforestation.

Last month the European Commission published data from International Sustainability and Carbon Certification on the origins of the used cooking oil that went into Europe’s biodiesel and HVO fuels in 2022, highlighting the prevalence of fraud-prone products in the supply chain.

Top tip: Once the effects of land-use change and draining of peatland are accounted for, the greenhouse gas impact of palm-oil derived HVO could be up to three times greater than standard fossil fuel diesel, EU research indicates.

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