With HVO, DAF truck cuts C02 emissions by 90%

The Green Deal will require the transport sector to radically reduce its CO2 emissions. Usually, people think in the direction of the electric truck to achieve that goal. Yet there is already a solution today: the biodiesel HVO, which is made from waste products, reducing a DAF truck’s emissions. This reduces CO2 emissions by almost 90% compared to ‘fossil’ diesel. Some companies are already deploying HVO. Bornem municipality has also opted for it. The only brake today is the price, which is significantly higher of that of fossil diesel. But this is expected to change.

MAES Truckstation Londerzeel HVO

What is HVO?

– HVO is a biodiesel made from waste materials with as much as 89% less CO2 emissions, 30% less particulate matter and 9% less nitrogen oxide compared to ‘fossil’ diesel.
– Virtually any modern truck can run on HVO without modifications to the diesel engine.
– Maes Energy & Mobility is opening two HVO filling stations, in Londerzeel and Puurs.
– Today, the price is a brake for those travelling many kilometres, but it is expected to go down.
– Pioneer Gert Snel (Snel Logistic Solutions): ‘Twenty per cent of our trucks are already running on HVO’.
– Bert Vandecaveye (Tailormade): ‘In urban distribution, you find more and more customers who are willing to pay a bit more for environmentally friendly transport.’
– Luk Renmans (Duvel Moortgat): ‘We are considering using electric trucks, but with HVO we can already drive almost emission-free’.
– Bornem municipality is going full steam ahead with HVO and wants to send a signal to local SMEs.

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is a second-generation biodiesel: it is made from waste products and fats from the food industry (i.e. not from food crops such as rapeseed or palm oil). It is today the most sustainable fuel for diesel vehicles on the market, emitting as much as 89% less CO2, 30% less particulate matter and 9% less nitrogen oxide compared to regular diesel. So with this HVO, even a DAF truck emits up to almost 90% less CO2.

Key advantages of HVO

A key advantage of HVO is that it is a so-called drop-in product. ‘One can fill it up in almost any modern truck, without any modifications to the diesel engine. Additional advantage: maintenance intervals remain unchanged. HVO can be used pure or in a mixture with fossil diesel. If the truck’s tank becomes empty, ordinary diesel can be filled up. In fact, most truck manufacturers have already approved the use of HVO in their diesel engines,’ says Michiel Kuijs, managing director of DAF Trucks Belgium/Luxembourg.

‘Offering HVO at our filling stations is a way for us to contribute to the transition to fossil-free mobility and to meet our customers’ demand for environmentally friendly fuels. With HVO, the biggest pollution problems in a DAF truck, among others, have already been solved. This gives the diesel engine a new future,’ states Dirk Maes, CEO of Maes Energy & Mobility. This fuel distributor recently opened two HVO filling stations at following locations:

– Nijverheidsstraat 9 Londerzeel

– Nijverheidstraat 4 Puurs

Increasing interest

‘Maes Energy & Mobility was already supplying bulk HVO to a few hauliers such as Snel Logistic Solutions from Deinze and Tailormade from Ghent (see below). We are seeing increasing interest in this fuel among hauliers partly because more and more customers are expecting them to reduce their CO2 emissions. Natural gas – CNG and LNG – allows for rather small reductions in emissions and is an expensive technology. The supply of electric trucks is still scarce for now and they have major weight and range limitations. With HVO, they can meet their environmental targets without investing in technology,’ adds business development manager Hans Van Dam.
‘Now we offer HVO at our two truck filling stations in Londerzeel and Puurs. As demand increases, we will also offer this biodiesel in 15 of our other filling stations. This growth might be faster than expected: ‘last mile’ service providers, among others, are interested in using HVO in their vans and light trucks,’ Hans Van Dam adds.

Price is going to fall

The biggest brake on a wider switch from fossil diesel to HVO is the price. ‘HVO is 70% more expensive than diesel in Belgium today. There are three main reasons for this: making biodiesel from waste materials is currently more expensive than from crude oil; in Northwest Europe there is only one producer so there is virtually no competition; and – unlike in the Netherlands, for example – there are no fiscal support measures in our country. But we expect the price to fall. As demand increases, more and more oil companies are showing interest. Production will increase and competition will grow,’ says Hans Van Dam.

Fiscal incentive

According to Dirk Maes, Belgium could adjust fuel taxation to encourage HVO. ‘That would help our country meet its climate targets. I don’t see the government reducing excise duties because there would be less revenue. I understand that. That is why we are formulating a proposal to promote HVO in a budget-neutral way, through the so-called ‘professional diesel’. Today, hauliers are reimbursed part of the excise duty. One could work out a formula where one reduces the refund for fossil diesel and increases it for HVO. With such a formula, it is a zero operation for the state but a big improvement for the climate and the environment,’ he says.
‘If the price differential is no longer 70 per cent but 20 or 30 per cent, the ball will start rolling quickly,’ adds Hans Van Dam.
Despite the price handicap, some companies are already switching to HVO out of environmental awareness.

Snel Logistic Solutions

The HVO pioneer in Belgium is Snel Logistic Solutions from Deinze. The company started this back in 2018 and already has 400,000 litres on the counter. ‘As transporters, we owe it to ourselves to work more sustainably. HVO is the ideal way to bring down CO2 emissions from transport. Much more convenient than gas and electricity,’ says managing director Gert Snel. ‘Almost 20% of our fleet now runs on HVO, admittedly from our branch in Weert, the Netherlands, where we refuel HVO from a home-based filling station. In the Netherlands, there are more filling stations offering it. In Belgium, there are far fewer for the time being, so the detour costs have an inhibiting effect. The fact that Maes now has HVO available in Puurs and Londerzeel immediately opens up prospects for our company. Soon Snel trucks will also be running on HVO in Belgium’.
According to Gert Snel, the price difference is difficult to pass on integrally to customers. ‘By organising the transports differently and better, this can already be partly eliminated. But it is mainly a matter of ‘mindset’: by combining ecological maximisation with economic maximisation, you make your company future-proof. That in turn has advantages: you attract better people and ultimately it yields better contracts.’

Tailormade Logistics

Ghent-based Tailormade Logistics has been using HVO for much of its transport for a good year. The company even invested in its own HVO filling stations in Ghent and Ghlin (near Mons). ‘Fifty of our four hundred trucks run with HVO today. This is much more than expected: many customers were initially hesitant to join us in the HVO boat – the corona crisis made them more cautious – but today I notice that their environmental awareness is growing. Sustainability is getting more and more focus,’ says managing director Bert Vandecaveye.
He sees particular applications in urban distribution in the current circumstances. ‘Although the cost price of HVO has dropped by 30 per cent in one year, there is still a considerable surcharge over diesel in Belgium. In city distribution and local transport, the share of fuel in the total cost price is proportionally small. So it is easier to find customers in distribution who are willing to pay a bit more for environmentally friendly transport than in international transport. In that activity, the cost of fuel weighs more heavily,’ he judges.

Duvel Moortgat

Duvel Logistics, the logistics arm within brewery Duvel Moortgat, has also switched to HVO. ‘Since the opening of Maes’ HVO filling station in Londerzeel, our six distribution trucks fill up with HVO there. Our four ‘older’ trucks also run with it,’ says logistics manager Luk Renmans.
‘Duvel Moortgat is taking significant efforts in terms of the environment and CO2 emissions. For instance, we also deploy inland shipping and avoid empty or incompletely loaded driving as much as possible. We are considering deploying electric trucks, but HVO offers us the possibility to switch quickly. This allows me to drive environmentally friendly without having to invest in technology,’ says Luk Renmans.

Distrilog, Van Dievel and Roefs

Several other companies are seizing the opportunity offered by the opening by Maes of the HVO filling stations in Puurs and Londerzeel to drive with this biodiesel. For instance, Distrilog (distribution), Van Dievel (transport) and Roefs Group (industrial cleaning) are now also betting on HVO. The latter company uses, among others, the ‘Lean & Green’ philosophy and the CO2 performance ladder to give substance to sustainable entrepreneurship. ‘One such initiative is using HVO as fuel for our vehicles. And the nice thing is, there is now a filling station right on our doorstep in Puurs,’ the company states.

Bornem municipality

Not only companies are making the move. The Bornem municipality also just decided to go full steam ahead with HVO. Nicole Van Praet, alderman for the environment (IedereenBornem): ‘Our newest DAF truck will run purely on HVO anyway. To this end, we are installing a tank on the technical department’s premises. We are also looking at whether our older trucks qualify, if necessary in a ‘blend’ with traditional diesel. But we are going for it: with this solution, we drastically reduce CO2 emissions. The fact that HVO is produced from waste makes this fuel even more attractive, as it completes the circle,’ she says. ‘Although Bornem is a vast municipality, our trucks drive few kilometres.

The additional price then plays little role. We have calculated that the fuel bill is barely €1,250 higher per year. If that drastically reduces CO2 and particulate matter emissions, it is a small price to pay for a better climate and healthier air.’
Stefaan De Landtsheer, alderman for Local Economy (IedereenBornem) joins her: ‘With this decision, the Bornem municipality is sending a clear signal. I therefore hope that low-mileage SMEs will do the same exercise. Without having to invest in technology, they can already achieve almost the same environmental effect as with an electric truck. I therefore hope that Maes will soon also offer HVO at its petrol station in Bornem, so that they can follow our example.’

Best alternative to diesel

All users agree that HVO is technologically a 100% reliable alternative to diesel, for example for a DAF truck. ‘It is a fantastic product. No DAF truck or truck of any other brand has ever had a problem with HVO. Consumption is even slightly lower,’ says Gert Snel. ‘As long as electric driving is not affordable and hydrogen fuel cells remain futuristic, HVO is the ideal way to reconcile ecology and economy,’ adds Bert Vandecaveye.