Renewable fuel use in 2019

Written by Ann Wilkinson

16 December, 2019

Renewable fuel has been a key focus for the car market in 2019, with electric cars reportedly having their biggest ever year in terms of sales, and government initiatives prioritising a reduction in damaging diesel and petrol engines. From electric cars and hybrids to natural gas-powered vehicles, there are more options for alternative fuel vehicles on the market today than ever before. Not only will this increase the use of renewable fuel vehicles reduce emissions, but it will also lower fuel costs, promote sustainable living and inspire better technology.

Looking at the annual sales of pure electric cars alone reveals that they’ve increased by at least 14% year on year, while new registrations of plug-in cars rose from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 227,000 in August 2019. Taking all sales of electric vehicles by type into account reveals a 17% increase in total sales between 2017 and 2018, with manufacturers like BMW and Nissan leading the way.

Annual sales of electric vehicles in the UK

At AMT, we know it’s important to promote sustainable driving wherever possible and that there’s still a long way to go before transport is emissions-free, so we’ve put together a blog reviewing how renewable fuel use has changed over the past year.

How have alternate fuel sources changed?

In October 2019, it was reported that renewable energy sources such as British wind farms, solar panels and biomass plants provided more electricity to UK homes and businesses than fossil fuels for the first time. Less than a decade ago, fossil fuels made up four-fifths of the country’s electricity, but in 2019 coal-fired power represented less than 1% of all electricity generated. 

This shift away from unsustainable fuel was also evident in the transport sector, which accounts for around 20% of the global energy consumption and is the biggest oil consumer in the world. Currently, around 80% of the world’s transportation fuels are derived from petroleum, including gasoline/petrol, diesel, jet fuel and marine fuel. Some alternatives to fossil fuel currently available on the market are:

  • Biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel
  • Synthetic fuels
  • Electric batteries and hybrid units

Despite car manufacturers investing more time and resources into alternative fuels and producing flagship electric cars, the business and transport sectors are among the slowest areas to reduce their carbon footprint. However, the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emissions were at their lowest in 2018 than they have been since the 1890s.

Renewable fuel figures for 2019

Government figures released last month reveal that biodiesel has been the most popular renewable fuel so far in 2019, comprising 53% of supply while bioethanol equated 39%. Overall, 1,561 million litres equivalent of renewable fuel has been supplied, which constitutes 4.9% of total road and non-road mobile machinery fuel for the year. This use of verified renewable fuels achieved an average greenhouse gas saving of 80% when compared to fossil fuels.

When it comes to supply, China was the biggest foreign provider of verified renewable fuel to the UK, accounting for 11% of the 324 million litres equivalent consumed in 2019. And although overall transport sector emissions have remained high, average CO2 emissions per vehicle produced has fallen by 31.2%, energy use has dropped by 43.3% and waste to landfill has been reduced by a staggering 95.4%.

The energy saved as a result of this is enough to power 9.5 million households for a year, while the water saved is equal to the yearly usage of 327,000 homes. Generally, more than half of the oil is consumed for road transport purposes in the UK, amounting to just over 36 million tonnes in 2018. Demand for petrol has reduced by 40%, while demand for diesel has increased by 60% since 2001.

Petrol vs diesel: what does the future of fossil fuels look like?

Petrol and diesel could see significant changes to lower emissions before 2030, as a result of driver purchasing habits and government campaigns. For example, in 2019, the way petrol and diesel were labelled at fuel stations changed to reflect the increased use of renewable fuels. Diesel is set to be labelled ‘B7’ and unleaded petrol to be labelled ‘E5’, because petrol now contains up to 5% ethanol and diesel contains up to 7% biodiesel.

For the past decade, renewables such as biodiesel and ethanol have been mixed into petrol and diesel in an effort to improve sustainability, so it’s likely this will continue until the emissions climate change target is met. Generally, biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared to fossil fuels and are made from a range of sustainable materials, including oil, fats and grease waste. In the not too distant future, it’s possible that we could see an E10 petrol and B14 unleaded diesel on sale.

Are electric cars better for the environment?

Not only are electric cars better for the environment when compared to generic fuelled cars – but they’re also more fuel-efficient and affordable in the long run. As they utilise electric motors and battery power in conjunction with fossil fuels as hybrid models, they emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants over their life than a petrol or diesel car – even after the energy required in their production is taken into account.

However, some drivers are still reluctant to make the switch to an all-electric model – whether it’s due to the higher purchase price or cost of charging. To find out whether an electric or hybrid car is right for you, take a look at our electric vehicles 101: FAQs.

With electric cars and sustainable fuels becoming standard on UK roads, it’s never been easier or more important to make the switch to a more efficient car. At AMT, we’re committed to providing a service that’s tailored to you. If you want to find your ideal electric lease car, contact our dedicated team today to discuss your lease requirements on 0113 387 4241.

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