Even as natural gas yet reigns as king of alternative fuels for trucks, and electric drive and fuel cells are gaining interest as up-and-coming technologies, there are still other fuels that fleets may consider as worthy alternatives to straight-up petroleum diesel.

For commercial vehicles, these other choices chiefly include propane (aka autogas), biodiesel, renewable diesel, and dimethyl ether (DME). Each has its advocates. Propane autogas has been in use for years, and the two diesel alternatives can be adopted simply by fueling with them. DME is more of an outlier in that it caught a lot of attention a few years ago but is not engendering much high-level interest of late.

“All alternative fuels are viable, but not in all applications,” says analyst Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Research. “Because each company’s goal for its fleet is different, even two similar fleets may make different fuel choices. Each fleet will assess its own corporate goals, the local/regional availability and price of the respective alternative fuels, and any regulations and incentives for the areas in which the fleet operates before making the fuel decision. Cost, range, weight, performance, and time will all factor into each fleet’s decision.”

Bob Carrick, Freightliner’s vocational sales manager – natural gas, who is a former fleet manager, handicaps the other alternatives succinctly: “Propane autogas makes sense and is gaining traction in the lower GVW classes, up through Class 7. Renewable diesel is a very clean alternative to diesel, and so far has demonstrated fine performance with no significant downsides. Biodiesel works in low concentrations [blends]. DME, however, is still a long way from any adoption. There is no fuel supply, and very little engine durability testing [using the fuel] has been performed to date.” Read the full article here.