Operation costs

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This article discusses the operational costs of a vehicle. These are mainly made up by the fuel costs. On average, fuel costs represent about 20% of the Total Ownership Costs (1). So other expenses like the purchase price of the vehicle, maintenance costs, life span of the vehicle as a whole, insurance costs, ownership tax represent the bulk of the cost (about 80%).

Fuel costs

Conventional fossil fuels for vehicle use are gasoline, diesel, LPG and CNG. Let's take a closer look at the prices thereof, for both Europe and the USA:

Fossil fuel type Price in the USA Price in the EU (France)
Gasoline 3,45 $/gallon (or 0,69 $/liter) 5,67 €/gallon (or 1,5 €/liter)
Diesel 2,586 $/gallon (or 0,52 $/liter) 5,29 €/gallon (or 1,4 €/liter)
LPG 0,56 $/liter 0,8 €/liter
CNG 2,06 $/GGE 3 €/gallon (or 0,8 €/liter)

Now, let's compare this with the prices of some biofuels. Note that there doesn't seem to be much difference for the prices of these between countries, so we present a general price here:

Biobutanol 3 $/gallon (or 0,6 $/liter)
Ethanol (not pure, E85) 1,93 $/gallon (or 0,386 $/liter)
Pure plant oil 0,75 - 1,5$ per gallon
Waste vegetable oil 0,75 $/gallon
Biodiesel (B99-B100) 3,18 $/gallon

Looking at the tables above, our initial findings are that:

For gasoline engine vehicles: In Europe, using biobutanol and ethanol, is vastly cheaper than using regular gasoline or CNG. Biobutanol or ethanol are not as cheap as LPG though.

In the USA too, using both biobutanol and ethanol are cheaper than using regular gasoline, but less so than in Europe. Ethanol is a lot cheaper here than biobutanol (for the moment, because biobutanol is expected to drop in price considerably over time). Ethanol is cheaper than using CNG, but biobutanol is more expensive than CNG. LPG is the cheapest fuel here as well.

For Diesel engine vehicles: In both Europe and the USA, using pure plant oil or biodiesel is cheaper than using regular Diesel fuel. Pure plant oil is hereby a much cheaper option than even biodiesel.

We haven't included any taxing on carbon in the above price comparison, and these are expected to be introduced soon. However, the costs of this are negligable. A general price for CO² these days is 15€/tonne (or hence 0,015 €/kg). Gasoline has 2,3 kg CO² in a liter, Diesel 2,6 kg, CNG 0,6 kg, and LPG 1,5 kg. So that makes that for gasoline we would need to increase the cost by 0,0345 € per liter. For Diesel, we increase the cost by 0,039 € per liter. For CNG, we increase the cost by 0,009 € per liter and for LPG, increase the cost by 0,0225 € € per liter

Conclusion

When you have a Diesel engine-powered vehicle, using one of the biofuels (pure plant oil or biodiesel) will be cheaper. Although biodiesel would allow you to not convert your engine, it is still best to opt for doing a conversion and then use pure plant oil instead. This is considerably cheaper.

When you have a gasoline engine-powered vehicle, conversion to LPG will be even cheaper. However, there is curently a move towards biofuels. As such, a conversion to either LPG or CNG remains risky. Even if you have a gasoline engine-powered vehicle, the best option would be to convert it to ethanol. Alternatively; don't convert it at all and just use biobutanol. The latter fuel is, at the moment of writing -2017- not yet available at gas stations, but you could make it yourself. If you then still feel like you're paying too much, consider implementing some changes on your vehicle that will improve your fuel economy, so that compared to when you would just use LPG, you'll still be better off using ethanol or biobutanol + the implemented fuel economy changes. Some changes you could do include adopting a more efficient driving style (2), adding an HHO booster, or making some specific cuts on your piston. You can have the latter done by a local gadgetman.

We should finally also note that just using a cheaper fuel won't save you that much money anyway (since the fuel costs only represent 20% of the total cost of ownership). That said, with the move towards biofuels, it can be expected that -if you use biofuels- you'll get financial benefits on the other costs too, in due time.

Notes

References

Data for the fossil fuel prices (2016-2017) were obtained from

Data for the biofuel prices (2016-2017) were obtained from

Carbon tax: calculation