Off-road use of biofuels in Europe


Non-road engines are used for purposes other than for passenger or goods transport. These cover an extremely wide range of applications and include non-road equipment and non-road vehicles.

Non-road engines can be divided into (adapted from EPA 2014 and EC 2014):

  • Small spark-ignition engines: these are typically found in lawn and garden machines, in light duty industrial machines and in light logging machines, all fuelled with gasoline. Lawn and garden machines comprise hedge trimmers, brush cutters, lawn mowers, garden tractors, snow blowers and others. Examples for light duty industrial machines are generator sets, welders and pressure washers. Light logging machines are chainsaws, log splitters and shredders.
  • Spark-ignition engines >19 kW: these include forklifts, generators, compressors and many other farm, industrial and construction applications which are running with gasoline, propane or natural gas.
  • Land-based recreational vehicles: these are snowmobiles, dirt bikes or off-highway motorcycles and all terrain vehicles (ATVs) which are used for recreational purposes.
  • Land-based compression ignited engines: Non-road diesel engines are used in a variety of machines including excavators, other construction equipment, farm tractors and other agricultural equipment, heavy forklifts, airport ground service equipment, snow groomers, and utility equipment (generators, pumps, compressors). Small diesel engines < 19 kW are mostly used for small agricultural or industrial machines used in private households or farms. Diesel engines > 560 kW are heavy construction equipment and heavy mining equipment.

In Europe, the emission regulations are specifically clarified on the mobility by using the term non-road mobile machinery. Diesel and spark emission engines installed in these non road mobile machinery contribute greatly to air pollution by emitting carbon oxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matters. Emissions from these engines are regulated before they are placed on the market by six directives: the "mother" Directive 97/68/EC, and the amendments: Directive 2002/88/EC, Directive 2004/26/EC, Directive 2006/105/EC, Directive 2011/88/EU, and the most recen amendment Directive 2012/46/EU (EC 2014).

The use of biofuels for non-road application is technologically possible – the used fossil fuels (propane, gasoline, diesel) could be blended with biofuels. To run purely on biofuels, the engines of non-road machines and vehicles need to be adapted to the respective biofuel.

Initiatives in support of off-road biofuels in Germany and UK

At the moment the use of biofuels in non-road engines is limited. However, a number of schemes have been introduced to encourage greater use.

In Germany, the Bavarian government has recently started the so called "RapsTrak200-Programm" (Promotion of agricultural and forestry machinery based on rapeseed oil or vegetable oil fuel) running fo 3 yars from 2015. Farmers can apply for up to 7.5k Euro towards buying a tractor (or off-road machinery) using rape seed oil as fuel. The use of biodiesel and rape seed oil in the agriculture sector is still energy tax free. The programme is supported by Bavarian Centre of Technology and Renewable resources (TFZ).

In the UK, the extension of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to cover Non-Road Mechnical Machinery NRMM has encouraged greater use of biofuels for this purpose. UK biofuels suppliers, such as Ennovor Biofuels, now market biodiesel for non-road use.

For example, EnPlant is specified for use as B100 manufactured according to EN14214 using any blend of waste oils, animal fats or vegetable oils. It is designed for use in mobile power generation equipment and non-road mobile machinery and plant. Ennovor Biofuels' EnPlant biodiesel has comparable performance to petroleum-based diesel fuels and qualifies for the Renewable Obligation Credit for off-road plant and machinery. EnPlant cites the following benefits in the UK of using B100 for generators, plant and equipment:

  • Up to 2 Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) per litre when used for non-road mobile machinery (NRMM)
  • Reduced engine wear as a result of natural improved fuel lubricity and no engine modifications required
  • 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • All year round freezing point reduced to -15 degrees Centigrade, depending on the blend and additives
  • Improved safety, as EnPlant is non-hazardous when spilled
[Source: Ennover Biofuels website].

References and links


UK Government Response to: Consultation on the implementation of the transport elements of the Renewable Energy Directive - Non Road Mobile Machinery

Non-Road mobile machinery (NRMM) emissions: Directives and current status of NRMM legislation

EC 2009: Impact Assessment Study Reviewing Directive 97/68/EC - Emissions from non-road mobile machinery

EPA 2014: United States Environmental Protection Agency: Non-road Engines, Equipment, and Vehicles