Using Biodiesel in Vehicles

What Types of Vehicles Run on Biodiesel?

Biodiesel blends can be used in any light- or heavy-duty diesel engine. However, it is important to check with your manufacturer before using biodiesel. As with any fuel, an engine component failure caused by the fuel may not be covered under warranty.

Houston Used CarsBiodiesel blends are being used in a number of heavy-duty vehicles throughout the country. The most common blend of biodiesel is B20 (20% biodiesel / 80% diesel), but B100 (neat biodiesel) and blends of less than 20% biodiesel can also be used.

Vehicles that have successfully used biodiesel include school and transit buses, refuse haulers, military support vehicles, farm equipment, and national park maintenance vehicles. Biodiesel fueling of light-duty diesel vehicles is less common. It is important to always consult your vehicle manufacturer to make sure they approve the use of biodiesel in their products.

Fleets looking to comply with the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) must use fuel blends that contain at least 20% biodiesel. For more information on EPAct go to the EPAct Web site. For more information on fuel blends of 20% biodiesel or less, please see our site on fuel blends.

Fuel Availability

Biodiesel is available in various parts of the United States; visit the fueling station locator page to find locations offering biodiesel. To obtain biodiesel through bulk suppliers, check Biodiesel Industry Contacts for a listing or contact the National Biodiesel Board for a list of registered suppliers.

The Biodiesel Driving Experience

In the United States, more than 10 million miles have been driven on neat biodiesel and biodiesel blends. Learn about Biodiesel Success Stories as part of the Clean Cities Program.

Biodiesel Safety

As with all vehicles, adequate training is required to operate and maintain vehicles running on biodiesel. The flashpoint of biodiesel is significantly higher than that of conventional diesel fuel, which makes the fuel safer in general. Neat biodiesel is nontoxic, biodegradable, and emits fewer carcinogens in the exhaust than conventional diesel fuel.

Biodiesel Fuel Costs

Using biodiesel blends requires little or no engine modification and maintenance costs are comparable to those of conventional diesel vehicles. Neat biodiesel costs range from $1.95 to $3 per gallon, depending on the feedstock and supplier. In general, B20 will cost $.20 to $.40 per gallon more than conventional diesel. For more information, download the Alternative Fuel Price Report from the AFDC.

Maintenance Considerations

Always check with the vehicle manufacturer before fueling with biodiesel. In older vehicles, high-percentage blends of biodiesel (greater than 20%) can affect fuel hoses and pump seals made from certain elastomers. The effect is lessened with lower percentage blends. Elastomers (found in hoses and gaskets) that are biodiesel-compatible are required for use with B100 and high-percentage biodiesel blends.

All diesel fuels require special measures for use in cold temperatures. Biodiesel has a higher cloud point than conventional diesel. However, the same strategies used to ensure operability of conventional diesel fuels in wintertime will also work for biodiesel blends. These include the use of additives and blending with No. 1 diesel.

To protect equipment and ensure trouble-free operation, B100 used for blending with conventional diesel should meet the ASTM D6751 specification.


  • According to the National Biodiesel Board, using a B20 biodiesel fuel blend can reduce vehicle emissions:
    • Unburned hydrocarbons – 20% reduction
    • Carbon monoxide – 12% reduction
    • Particulate matter – 12% reduction
  • Biodiesel is domestically produced, so its use helps reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil and can help boost the agricultural sector of the economy.
  • Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from domestically grown crops like soybeans and mustard seed. Biodiesel can also be produced from recycled cooking grease.
  • When using biodiesel, lubricity is improved over conventional diesel fuel.


  • Horsepower, torque, acceleration, cruising speed, and fuel economy are similar to those for diesel fuel.
  • The energy content of B100 is 10%-12% lower than conventional diesel. This leads to roughly 2% lower energy content in B20 blends.
  • The cetane number for biodiesel is significantly higher than that of conventional diesel fuel.


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