Biofuel use by Cork City Council

Basic Information


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In order to promote the use of cleaner vehicles, 16 vehicles from the council fleet were converted to run on biofuel (rapeseed oil).

Implementing sustainable mobility

Prior to the MIRACLES project, Cork City Council owned approximately 250 vehicles, running exclusively on petrol and diesel. Pure vegetable oil had never been used in local authority vehicles in Ireland. The measure was an opportunity to test other alternative fuels, such as waste cooking oil, in order to convert between 5 and 10 percent of the city council fleet to fun on lower-emission fuel.


Research was carried out to assess the feasibility of using compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), electric power, hydrogen, biodiesel, ethanol and pure cold-pressed plant oil (PPO). The capital costs associated with establishing a fleet of vehicles running on hydrogen, electricity or CNG were outside the limited project budget.

In the end, PPO was chosen because the conversions could be carried out within the budget, and in Cork the exhaust pollutants of greatest concern were greenhouse gases (GHG). In 2000, the National Climate Change Strategy estimated that GHG emissions from the transport sector alone had risen by 180 percent, whereas air pollution analyses carried out in 2001 by the Environmental Laboratory indicated that most other exhaust pollutant emissions were all between 30 and 72 percent of the EU threshold values.

The clean fleet options analysis “Comparison of Clean Fleet Options in Cork” was posted on A detailed report summarising research carried out into the use of renewable oils for fuel was also posted on

Based on this report, it was decided to use cold-pressed rapeseed oil for vehicles converted with the ELSBETT conversion kit. This was chosen because it is a single tank kit, which was thought to be more reliable and simpler for drivers than a dual tank system.

In May 2003, ELSBETT trained council employees to convert 11 Fiat Ducatos, four Couriers and one VW Transporter.

In the first six months there were concerns about extra visible smoke, the rancid exhaust smell and possible power losses in the clean fleet. Adjustments were made to the engines and up to 25 percent diesel was added to the rapeseed oil to address these problems.

In parallel, researchers at the University of Limerick carried out emissions tests on a Fiat Ducato and a Ford Courier running on pure rapeseed oil, pure diesel, and a blend of the two. Although some pollutants were higher from the engine running on rapeseed oil for a few seconds at start up, the steady state emissions were similar for all pollutants except CO2 (rapeseed oil is considered CO2 neutral). However, engine power and torque were 5 to 10 percent higher when the vehicles were running on rapeseed oil or the blend.

Unfortunately, significant cold-starting delays with the Fiat Ducatos continued to occur up until Autumn 2004. It was then discovered that fine mesh gauzes in these fuel tanks were impeding fuel flow. After these tanks and gauzes were thoroughly cleaned out, the Ducatos began to run far more smoothly.

All the lessons learned by Cork City Council were developed into checklists, which are provided to anyone getting their cars fitted with an ELSBETT kit. The rapeseed oil supplier Eilish Oils ( has highlighted these recommendations on its website FAQ section.

The other significant drawback associated with the use of rapeseed oil in Ireland was the relatively high cost. Previously, it had been possible to invoke a clause in the Finance Act, which exempted research on biofuelled vehicles from fuel excise duty. Unfortunately, this waiver no longer applied when the CIVITAS MIRACLES project was being drafted. However, as a result of lobbying by the budding biofuel industry, supported by Cork City Council, a full excise duty exemption for biofuels was introduced in spring 2005.


It was proposed to convert at least five vehicles to run on lower-emission fuel (rapeseed oil). 17 vehicles underwent the conversion process, but unfortunately six of these vehicles dropped out during the course of the project due to technical reasons. In 2005, problems with five of these vehicles were solved, which meant that these vehicles could run on biofuel again. This meant a 6 percent conversion of City Council fleet vehicles running on lower-emission fuel.

This fact sheet has been updated by a third party on the basis of available information (not by the city itself), therefore we do not guarantee any data with respect to their content, completeness or up-to-dateness.

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