• Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board

Wisconsin soybean farmers help city of Madison grow sustainable vehicle fleet with biodiesel


B100 biodiesel
Photo: Optimus Technologies

The Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board and the National Biodiesel Board announced mid-April the investment of funds to help the city of Madison retrofit 20 fleet service vehicles with Optimus Technologies’ Vector System to run nearly 100 percent on biodiesel fuel. Economic and environmental benefits of this investment will include reduced carbon emissions, cleaner air and water, and an expanded market for Wisconsin soybean farmers whose soybeans are a key ingredient of biodiesel fuel.


“As demand continues to grow for domestic, renewable, low-carbon fuel, Wisconsin soybean farmers are answering the call,” said Jonathan Gibbs, a Wisconsin soybean farmer who also is a Wisconsin Soybean Board member and serves on the National Biodiesel Board. “Not only is biodiesel good for the environment, but it’s great for Wisconsin’s economy. The work our farmers are doing is helping to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and creating jobs. The more biodiesel our industries use, the more our farmers produce, and the more jobs are created.”


Biodiesel is a renewable, cleaner-burning diesel-fuel replacement made from a variety of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. It can be used in all diesel engines in blends from B5 (5 percent biodiesel blended with 95 percent ultra-low sulfur diesel) all the way up to 100 percent (B100). The 20 Madison vehicles will be retrofitted with technology that starts their engines using standard diesel and automatically switches to B100 fuel when the engines reach a certain temperature.


Mahanth Joishy, Madison fleet superintendent, said Madison’s desire to lower carbon emissions is a driving force behind the use of biodiesel fuel.


“The city of Madison is eager to put more vehicles on the road that reduce carbon emissions,” Joishy said. “And 2021 is the year we’ll start to have some B100 year-round for the first time ever.”


Last year, the Madison fleet used a 20 percent blend of biodiesel fuel from April to September, and a 5 percent blend for the remainder of the year in its ambulances, fire trucks, garbage and recycling vehicles, and snowplows. Currently, the fleet service operates nearly 600 trucks that run on these lower blends.


Since 2018, biodiesel fuel has helped Madison Fleet Services save more than 5 million pounds of carbon emissions—or more than 8 percent of the fleet’s total carbon emissions. As a bonus, all of the biodiesel used by Madison Fleet Service comes from farms in Wisconsin.


“The relationship between soy and biodiesel is win-win,” said Donnell Rehagen, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “Soy is the primary source for biodiesel feedstock, and biodiesel is the largest-growing soybean oil customer of the last decade. Biodiesel supports the economy as much as it does the environment.”


By making use of excess soybean oil, biodiesel fuel creates additional value for farmers. According to financial services firm StoneX, biodiesel adds 13 percent of the cash value of soybeans—or $1.87 per bushel—giving soybean farmers a strong return on their investment.

The U.S. EPA classifies biodiesel as an advanced biofuel, meaning its lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are at least 50 percent lower than baseline petroleum diesel. It is the nation’s first domestically produced, commercially available advanced biofuel. Compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel, biodiesel has several environmental benefits:


  • Reduces lifecycle greenhouse gases by 89 percent

  • Lowers airborne particulate matter by 47 percent, resulting in cleaner air

  • Reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67 percent

  • For every unit of fossil energy it takes to produce biodiesel, 3.5 units of renewable energy are returned—the best of any U.S. fuel.

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