7 facts you need to know about the diesel alternative, HVO


7 facts you need to know about the diesel alternative, HVO

7 facts you need to know about the diesel alternative, HVO

While electric cars are taking over the streets, corn choppers, combine harvesters and large tractors will still need internal combustion engines in the future. However, they will ideally no longer run on diesel, but instead will use a sustainable liquid fuel. Hydrotreated vegetable oil, or HVO, has similar properties to diesel, giving it one clear advantage: it can be used pure without any technical adjustments – known as HVO100 – or mixed with fossil diesel. This reduces the carbon footprint by up to 90 per cent in comparison with fossil diesel. Read on for seven facts about the three letters you won’t forget.

1 – CLAAS makes HVO the new standard. 

No need for modifications or investments in farm infrastructure: HVO is a drop-in fuel, meaning that it can be used in existing machinery straight away. HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) has been approved for use in CLAAS harvesters and tractors currently in emissions stage V since 1 October 2023. What’s more, new machines leaving the plants in Harsewinkel in Germany and Le Mans in France now come with a tank of HVO as standard. This change alone has enabled CLAAS to reduce its CO2 emissions by 2,500 tonnes per annum.

2 – This sustainable fuel is made from leftover and waste materials.

“Be honest, where do you get rid of your old fryer oil?” wonders CLAAS product strategist Patrick Ahlbrand. Instead of being thrown away, old cooking oil, together with other biogenic waste, can be refined to create HVO. The process is similar to the way in which crude oil is refined to make diesel, and the result is the same: fuel. The big difference is that when HVO100 is burned, it only releases into the air the same amount of CO2 as the oil-producing plants had previously extracted from the air to grow. The result is that sustainable biofuels used as part of the circular economy reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent.

3 – The tractor doesn’t smell like an old fryer. 

Diesel engines are all-rounders and can also run on pure vegetable oil after a few adjustments. Some farmers did this years ago – when there were still grant incentives to do so – and noticed one side effect: their machinery smelled like an old fryer. But when diesel is replaced with HVO, it smells more like a traditional fuel, says Patrick Ahlbrand. Although it releases less soot, fewer particles and lower nitrogen oxide emissions during combustion.  

4 – HVO is still unknown today, but it will be ubiquitous in the future. 

HVO100 cannot be sold at filling stations yet – but that is set to change from 2024 following new legislation. “The wider public will then gain awareness of the fuel,” thinks Ahlbrand, the strategist. The price of HVO is linked to the price of diesel and is currently around 15 cents per litre higher. “We hope that HVO will be included in the agricultural diesel subsidies to make it competitive.” However, farmers can already opt to use HVO, to reduce CO2 on the one hand and to market their products as sustainable on the other. CLAAS experts also believe that more stringent obligations to be imposed on dairy farms or grain mills in the future, requiring them to verify emissions, will stimulate the market.

5 – HVO can be stored for longer than diesel.

“HVO is oxygen-free and stores better than diesel,” says Ahlbrand. This sustainable fuel can simply be kept in the same tank that previously held diesel. That’s a tremendous advantage over new battery- and hydrogen-driven systems that require many times the infrastructure.

Große Erntemaschinen werden in absehbarer Zeit auch weiter auf flüssigen - aber nachhaltigeren - Treibstoff angewiesen sein

6 – There is plenty of HVO for everyone who needs it. 

Global production capacity for biogenic fuels is increasing apace: by 2025, worldwide HVO production is likely to exceed 30 million tonnes. For comparison, agricultural demand for fuel in Germany is around two million tonnes, so there is plenty of fuel available for all the vehicles that need it and for which alternative drive systems are not suitable (e.g. large agricultural and construction machinery). On top of that, the fuel is more sustainable, too. While palm oil was once used to produce it, that raw material has been banned in Germany and other EU countries since 2023. Today, the fuel is primarily produced from sustainable leftover and waste materials, meaning that it does not compete with the production of food or animal fodder. Expanding the recycling chains will mean that more leftover and waste materials will increase availability still further in the future.

7 – Before long, it will be impossible to imagine a farm without HVO. 

“It’s not the engine itself that’s the problem, it’s the fossil diesel that it runs on,” says strategist Patrick Ahlbrand. His vision of the future of agriculture is that small tractors up to 150 hp for work close to the yard could be powered by batteries: “It’s nicer for livestock and farmers not to have to stand around in exhaust fumes,” but agricultural machinery for energy-intensive applications will continue to need liquid fuels.