Sustainable Fuels Offer Immediate Emissions Reductions to Fleets While They Electrify

Dec 9, 2022 11:00 AM ET
A fleet of trucks sits in a parking lot, each with a different icon floating above depicting various fuels.

As the transportation sector toils to reduce carbon emissions, electrification is top of mind. But amid the buzz, simpler, more immediate decarbonization solutions may be overlooked. Sustainable alternative fuels, for example, offer instantaneous emissions reductions without significant upfront investment. These fuels can be deployed in parallel to the longer transition to EVs to speed overall decarbonization, explains Chris Kaufield, VP of Sustainability and Electrification at Booster®, in a recent article for Automotive Fleet magazine.

Media attention, federal funding, public conversation and market drivers all seem to highlight electric vehicles (EVs) and related infrastructure as the hero of transportation’s energy transition. While electrification is crucial to achieving a future net-zero state, it is only achievable on a wide-scale over a long-term view — most fleets are still unable to exclusively deploy EVs, and will remain so for a while. As kinks with EV sourcing, efficiency, charging infrastructure and more are worked out, sustainable alternative fuels can bring down emissions of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the meantime.

“To achieve a successful net-zero landscape, we will need to rely on a mix of decarbonization solutions and technologies, each best fit for different applications. In transportation, there are a range of ways to reduce emissions that don’t rely on standard electrification, from the fuels themselves to the way they reach vehicles,” writes Kaufield. “As the EV market continues to scale and fleet managers pursue customized solutions for their unique needs, mixed energy fleets will be key to lowering emissions.”

Mixed energy fleets — fleets with a combination of two or more vehicle types and/or fuel sources like, electricity, hydrogen fuel cell, gasoline, diesel and more — offer the adaptability necessary to succeed in a historically unpredictable energy market, along with the potential to incrementally reduce greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable energy types. Kaufield explains that sustainable alternative fuels made from renewable feedstocks like biomass and municipal waste can serve as direct replacements for many conventional fuels, offering significant carbon reductions with no required ICE vehicle modifications or replacements. Renewable diesel, available in California through Booster’s mobile fuel delivery service, offers up to 70% fewer lifecycle emissions than its conventional counterpart while also offering better vehicle performance, reduced maintenance and cleaner fuel burning.

As fleets take on multiple energy sources, fueling will become more complex, especially as many fueling stations still fail to offer electric charging or sustainable fuels. Kaufield offers mobile fueling as a potential solution, as it offers a range of fuels to any location while lowering emissions by up to 14%, even with conventional fuels.

But none of this is to say that fleets should avoid electrification, caveats Kaufield.

“For many fleets, the transition will be iterative and will require a range of solutions, from mixed-energy fleets to sustainable fuels to mobile fueling,” Kaufield writes. “What matters most is that we continue to make progress in decarbonizing transportation, and take advantage of every solution along the way.”