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Alternative fuels: Can we say goodbye to diesel?

As part of our ongoing drive toward sustainable logistics, DHL Supply Chain in the UK and Ireland recently switched from diesel to hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), reducing emissions by up to 80%! It’s all part of a bigger plan and only the beginning.

Driving the future means challenging the way we do things

Fuels at a gas station

Historically, the logistics sector has relied heavily on diesel, a significant contributor to carbon emissions. Introducing new, sustainably sourced fuels requires making infrastructure changes, which can be challenging. Especially when you’re talking about an entire fleet of trucks.

DHL Supply Chain (DSC) in the UK and Ireland faced this challenge. DSC operates 17 fuel bunkers across its UK network, from Scotland to the South West of England. The question was: How can they ditch diesel without switching to entirely new engine technology and overhauling the fueling infrastructure?

The answer was hydrotreated vegetable oil or HVO.

No new trucks required

To switch to HVO, each tank had to be cleaned thoroughly and the equipment recalibrated. Supply chain companies don't do that every day or on this scale. But the effort was worth it, and DSC’s operations in the UK and Ireland are now reaping the rewards.

One of the big benefits of HVO is that it doesn’t require new vehicles. HVO is a “drop-in” biofuel alternative to regular diesel, so almost any engine that burns diesel can run on HVO. 

What’s more, biofuels are available and scalable right now. Many experts see biofuels as a bridge to the future when electric and hydrogen technologies are more mature and widely available. 

Carbon cutback: Making the switch for immediate savings

Because HVO can be used within existing infrastructure, such as storage facilities, filling stations, and vehicles, the carbon savings are also immediate. You can reduce carbon emissions by approximately 80% after making the switch.

DSC UK and Ireland introduced HVO in September 2023 and had already used 6 million liters by the end of the year. The goal for 2024 is 25 million liters, which would save 60,000 tons of CO2e.

Goals for 2024

25 million

Liters of HVO used

60,000 tons

Carbon emissions saved

Cup with fuel

Just the beginning

HVO is just one step in our sustainability journey – and it doesn’t end there. We make it our job to understand the available fuel options and work with our customers to reduce carbon emissions in their supply chains. That’s why we’re constantly testing the latest developments, like this hydrogen truck, to understand their potential.

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HVO at a glance:

What is HVO?

Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) is a synthetic renewable “drop-in” diesel substitute made from renewable biomass, in particular, used cooking oils and waste from food production (e.g., animal fats). It’s produced via a high-pressure process that purifies the oils, creating a cleaner-burning fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

How much carbon can HVO save?

HVO can reduce carbon emissions by approximately 80% compared with regular diesel.

What is a “drop-in” fuel?

An alternative fuel that can be blended and used in conventional engines and infrastructure without modification.

What’s another example of HVO in action?

We use a fleet of biofuel trucks running on HVO100 to support all European Formula 1® races. In 2023, the fleet reduced carbon emissions by 83% compared to standard fuels. 

What else are DHL’s supply chain experts up to?


Published: May 2024


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