If you peruse the policy statements of diesel-engine manufacturers on biodiesel usage, you’re likely to come away scratching your head at their near-identical language. On the one hand, most manufacturers officially state that the use of biodiesel does not affect their materials and workmanship warranties. On the other, they also officially state that problems resulting from the use of it are not defects of workmanship and/or materials and therefore will not be covered under warranty.
“All this is pretty confusing,” says Tom Verry of the National Biodiesel Board, “especially to the public at large. In fact, about the only advice I can give the individual boat owner who wants to burn biodiesel is go to his engine dealer and talk it over with him--see what he says.”
Don’t expect a positive response, however. Most dealers will turn thumbs-down on biodiesel, according to Verry, at least where an individual customer’s concerned. He hastens to add, however, that fleet operations fielding many vessels and therefore swinging lots of business a given dealer’s way will fare much better because of their increased financial clout. “Most of these guys will get good warranty coverage for biodiesel right now,” Verry explains.
The good news? With help from manufacturers like Cummins and others, several regulatory agencies are addressing standardization issues that currently muddy the waters for biodiesel blends in the marketplace and keep manufacturers from getting fully onboard with the fuel. At presstime PMY asked a major engine manufacturer (other than Cummins) if biodiesel will ever win full acceptance within the marine-diesel community. “Absolutely,” said the rep, who asked to remain unidentified. “All the engine manufacturers are doing right now is waiting for and working toward sufficient standardization to ensure the availability of good, high-quality fuel. Then biodiesel’s gonna take off--and the whole warranty thing’ll be history.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.