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Biodiesel is a fuel that is typically made up of vegetable and animal oils mixed with an alcohol. A 100% mixture of biodiesel is called B100, the 20% blend of biodiesel (and 80% normal diesel) is B20, and the 5% mixture is B5. Most diesel vehicles on the road today have no problems running B5 (similar to how most gasoline powered cars can run E15 mixtures of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline). With some vehicles however using B20 can cause problems (especially contaminated oil, which can lead to lubrication failure) which aren’t covered by the warranty.
Because of the unique way diesel is taxed in Illinois and the prevalence of higher mixtures of biodiesel there, many cars are certified for running on B20 only if they are licensed in that state. If you do decide to run biodiesel (especially higher percentages) in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to regularly check your oil level. If the level increases, the oil has become contaminated and should be changed.
Here is a list of B20 compatible biodiesel cars in 10 different categories.
The only small car capable of running on B20 in all states is the Chevrolet Cruze. The 2.0l 4-cylinder engine in the Cruze makes 151 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque and sends power to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. That combination is enough to get the car to 60 miles per hour in 8.6 seconds. The Cruze is also very economical when ordered with the diesel engine, achieving 33 mpg combined, 27 mpg in the city, and 46 mpg in the highway.
Audi A6 and A7 TDI
Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC
If you’re looking for a mid-size biodiesel car, your only option is to run B5, unless you live in Illinois. If you do happen to live in the ‘Prairie State’ you can run B20 in the Audi A6 and A7 TDIs, the Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC, and the Volkswagen Passat TDI.
The two Audis share a 3.0l turbocharged V6 engine that puts out 240 HP and 428 lb-ft of torque and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Both are rated at 24 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined.
The Mercedes-Benz is available in both rear and all wheel drive. The 195 HP and 369 lb-ft of torque 2.1l turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel sends power through a 7-speed automatic gearbox. The BlueTEC is rated at 28 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, and 33 overall in rear wheel drive models or 27 city, 38 highway, 31 combined in all wheel drive configurations.
The Volkswagen uses a 2.0l turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that is rated at 140 HP and 236 lb-ft. Fuel economy is 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, and 34 mpg overall with a 6-speed manual transmission, or 30 city, 40 highway, and 34 combined for the 6-speed automatic.
Audi A8 L TDI
The Audi A8 L TDI is only certified to run B5, unless you live in Illinois where it can be run on B20. Using the same 3.0l turbocharged V6 diesel engine found in the A6 and A7 that makes 240 HP and 428 lb-ft of torque, and backed by the same 8-speed automatic, it can sprint to 60 miles per hour in only 6.3 seconds. Despite that performance, the A8 L is still rated at 24 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, for a combined 28 mpg.
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI
If a B20 compatible convertible seems like a good idea, hopefully you live in Illinois. The Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI is certified to run on B20 there, and B5 elsewhere in the country. Like the other Volkswagen 2.0l turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, it makes 140 HP and 236 lb-ft of torque. If you choose the 6-speed manual transmission, fuel economy is 28 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined, or 28 city, 37 highway, and 31 overall if you go for the 6-speed automatic.
Photo by Volkswagen
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
Again, unless you live in Illinois, you are stuck running B5. The only diesel wagon currently available is the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI, which is only B20 certified if registered in Illinois. The 2.0l turbocharged diesel engine is the same as in the Beetle and Golf, and makes 140 HP and 236 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined with the 6-speed manual transmission, or 29 city, 39 highway, and 33 combined with the 6-speed automatic.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the only SUV that can be run on B20 no matter where you are. The 3.0l turbo V6 makes 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque and sends power through an 8-speed automatic transmission, a combination that is strong enough to tow 7,400 lbs. Two wheel drive diesel models are rated at 22 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 25 mpg, while four wheel drive models are rated 21 city and 28 highway, for 24 combined.
Your options expand massively if you are lucky enough to live in Illinois. Your choices for B20 compatible SUVs there include the Audi Q5 and Q7 TDIs, the Mercedes-Benz GL350, GLK250, and ML350 BlueTEC SUVs, and the Volkswagen Touareg TDI.
Chevrolet Express Cargo Van / GMC Savana 2500 or 3500
If you want a van, you have a couple of choices, including the Chevrolet Express Cargo Van / GMC Savana in 2500 or 3500 models or the Ford Transit.
The General Motors vans are powered by a 6.6l turbocharged Duramax V8 engine that makes 260 HP and 525 lb-ft of torque and 6-speed automatic transmission. The GM vans are also capable of towing up to 10,000 lbs or carrying 3,613 lbs of cargo when properly equipped. Maximum cargo space is 284.4 cubic feet.
The Transit has a 3.2l inline 5-cylinder diesel that generates 190 HP and 346 lb-ft of torque and is backed by a 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The Transit can hold up to 15 passengers in 5 rows of seating or 487.3 cubic feet of cargo behind the front seats, depending on the wheelbase and roof height. Towing capacity is up to 7,600 lbs, and maximum cargo weight is 4,280 lbs.
If you live in Illinois (or just want to run B5), the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is another option.
Photo by Ford
Chevrolet Colorado / GMC Canyon
General Motors has announced that the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon will be available with a 2.8l Duramax diesel engine, making it the first compact truck in years available with a diesel engine in North America. While power figures haven’t yet been released, the Australian version of the engine makes 197 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. North American numbers should be similar, though probably slightly lower due to emissions regulations and engine tuning.
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is currently the only diesel half-ton truck currently available. Powered by the same 3.0l diesel engine as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Ram is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, for a combined 23 mpg. With 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, the truck can tow up to 9,200 lbs.
Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra 2500HD or 3500 HD
Ford Super Duty F-250, F-350, or F-450
Ram 2500, 3500, 4500, or 5500
All of the domestic heavy-duty trucks are certified to run on B20, meaning that you can choose the Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra 2500HD or 3500 HD, the Ford Super Duty F250, F350, or F450, or the Ram 2500, 3500, 4500, or 5500, depending on your brand loyalty.
The General Motors HD trucks are powered by a 6.6l Duramax V8 turbocharged engine that makes 397 HP and 765 lb-ft of torque. With their 6-speed Allison automatic transmission they are capable of pulling up to a 13,000 lb conventional trailer, or a 23,200 lb fifth wheel, depending on the configuration.
The Super Duty F-series trucks use a 6.7l Power Stroke turbocharged V8 that puts out 440 HP and 860 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via a 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The F-450 is capable of towing a 19,000 lb conventional trailer or a 31,200 lb gooseneck trailer.
The Ram uses a Cummins turbo engine that produces 385 HP and 850 lb-ft of torque. A 4x2 Ram 3500 can tow up to a 17,000 lb conventional trailer or a 30,000 lb fifth wheel when equipped with the Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission.