PSA Peugeot Citroen has approved a new biodiesel B30 blend for use in its cars which has just gone on sale at one of the UK's largest supermarket chains and which between two and three million vehicles in the country could potentially run on.

Although all of PSA's HDi engines are in theory approved to run on B30, which is a blend of 30% biodiesel and 70% fossil diesel, the small print reveals that this only applies if the B30 is sourced from Total in France. Now, however, the UK's fourth-largest supermarket chain Morrisons has started retailing a new brand of B30, from the independent fuel supplier Harvest, which PSA has validated for use in its cars.

"The new B30 is wonderful," Morrisons' petrol director Phil Maud tells just-auto.com. It's all UK-sourced from 50% recycled cooking oil and 50% rapeseed oil. It's refined in Northumbria [in the north of England], so we're very happy with it from a sustainability point of view."

All of PSA's HDi common-rail diesel engines can run on Morrisons' new B30. This equates to every single diesel-fuelled Peugeot and Citroen car sold in the UK since 1998, of which there are estimated to be over 1.5 million. In addition, all diesel-fuelled PSA vans sold in the country over the last three years can also run on it. 95% of PSA's UK-sold light commercial vehicles (LCVs) have diesel engines.

In addition, PSA's HDi engines are also used in the current-generation Mini as well as in the UK's long-standing best-selling car, the Ford Focus. Other cars using PSA's HDi diesel engines include the Ford Fiesta and S-Max, the Land Rover Freelander, and certain Jaguar, Volvo, Mazda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi models.

"Our 1.6 HDi engine is one of the best-selling engines in the UK," a Peugeot spokesman told just.auto.com. "However, because of the different electronic and engine management systems on those vehicles and the different policies of other car companies, not all cars and vans fitted with our 1.6 diesel are also warrantied to run on B30 biodiesel."

Good fleet potential

Morrisons' Phil Maud says he is not worried by the fact that many of the cars in the UK with PSA's diesel engines are not yet approved to run on B30. "We almost need to restrict demand so that we can maintain the current sustainability criteria for the new fuel," he says. "That's why we haven't made it cheaper to buy at the pump than normal diesel."

Maud says that companies with large fleets of vans who wish to reduce their carbon footprints or who have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements have shown particular interest in it. Media giant BSkyB has been trialling it in its Vauxhall Movano vans for the last six or seven months, Maud says, and they are entirely happy with regards both its sustainability and operationally. Now, telecoms company BT and energy supplier EON are also conducting widespread trials on the fuel.

Harvest B30 is on sale to the public already. "We've already rolled it into 20 sites and we're about to open another 32 locations, so we'll soon be selling it from more than 50 of our supermarkets. We don't expect B30 to account for more than around 10% of our total fuel sales, but even with that we'll be providing very good  greenhouse gas savings," Maud says. 

More popular than E85

Morrisons remains the only retailer of bioethanol E85 in the UK, selling it in around 21 of its supermarkets in England, Scotland and Wales. "We have talked about pulling E85," reveals Maud, "but I've recommended that we leave it in there. I still think there will be major opportunities for bioethanol in coming years. I think we will see the oil companies get more behind it. With the shift to electric cars and alternative fuels, biofuels might be the only way that petrol stations can stay open in the future."

Maud says that he was not put off by the findings of the recent 'Gallagher Review' study into the wider economic and social impacts of biofuels, following which the UK Government announced a slowing down of some of its biofuel targets. "If you read it, many of the findings in the Gallagher Review were actually quite positive," he says. "It basically says that biofuels can make a positive difference as long as they are sourced sustainability, which has always been our view on this matter anyway."

However, Maud admits that Morrisons has abandoned its previous strategy of opening a bioethanol E85 pump at every new supermarket it opens. "For the time being, it makes more sense to open more B30 pumps, given how many vehicles are already on the UK's roads which can run on this fuel," he says.

See also: The future of road vehicle fuels - forecasts to 2020 (download)