As far as green initiatives go, this is quite a cool one. Volkswagen Group Logistics (VGL) will be using used cooking oil to power the ships that ferry its cars. The certified fuel from vegetable residues is produced from materials such as used oil from restaurants and the food industry.

The first car freighter was refuelled for the first time with the used cooking oil earlier this month, and a second ship is due to follow at the beginning of 2021.

“We are the first automaker to make widespread use of this fuel. This way, we reuse waste oil in an environmentally compatible way. With 85% lower CO2 emissions than with conventional fossil fuels, the contribution to climate protection is enormous,” says Thomas Zernechel, head of VGL.

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For European shipments, VGL continuously charters two vessels which carry up to 3,500 vehicles on a route from Emden in northern Germany via Dublin (Ireland), Santander (Spain) and Setubal (Portugal) back to Emden about 50 times per year. In total, they carry about 250,000 new cars from Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen every year. The two 180-metre long ships are each powered by a MAN marine diesel engine with over 19,000 PS.

In future, the two ships are to be refuelled at sea off the coast of Vlissingen (Netherlands) with alternative fuel supplied by the Dutch company GoodFuels. This way, the CO2 emissions of the two vessels along their route will be reduced by more than 85% – from over 60,000 to about 9,000 tonnes per year. In addition, sulphur oxide emissions will be almost completely avoided.

This switch to “fuel from waste” is part of a strategy to make VGL even greener – another measure is the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power car freighters. These vessels travel between Europe, North America and Latin America. Also, all rail shipments in Germany with DB Cargo are being changed over to eco-power. “This way, VGL is helping the Volkswagen Group achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050,” says Zernechel.