For the last 100 years, Kohler Power Systems’ engines, generators, and UPS products have powered homes, hospitals, lawn mowers, stadiums, and everything in-between. With numerous direct-service locations and 800-plus distributors worldwide, Kohler’s customers have the assurance of 24/7 emergency service and responsive after‐market support. 

In the latest installment of the Blueprint Q&A, Beth Splittgerber, product manager for the small diesel product line for Kohler Power Systems, North America, sat down with Herb Woerpel, editor-in-chief, Engineered Systems to introduce hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), discuss its role in the company’s present and future, and much more. 

Engineered Systems: Please start by introducing yourself and Kohler to our audience.

Splittgerber: My name is Beth Splittgerber, and I’m the product manager for the small diesel product line for Kohler Power Systems, North America. I have been with Kohler for 30 years as part of a team committed to making sure we have the best quality of product to offer the market. This includes the latest focus towards clean energy, which is a key part of Kohler’s sustainability journey.

Engineered Systems: It was recently announced that Kohler Power Systems’ entire offering of mission-critical diesel generators is now compatible with HVO. What exactly is HVO? 

Splittgerber: HVO stands for hydrotreated vegetable oil and is an environmentally friendly alternative to standard diesel fuel. This paraffinic renewable fuel is made from waste products and residue, such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and used cooking oils. It’s 100% fossil-free and 100% recycled, therefore, offering a cleaner energy solution.

Engineered Systems: Thanks for the brief introduction. Can you share a little bit more about HVO’s environmental impact, or lack thereof?

Splittgerber: HVO produces up to 90% less carbon net over fossil diesel and can reduce NOx by up to 10%. HVO is significantly better for the environment compared to fossil diesel and will be key in helping to achieve a net-zero carbon target. 

Engineered Systems: To use HVO, will any adaptations or alterations be necessary to existing generators?

Splittgerber: No, there are no changes required to existing generators to switch from fossil diesel to HVO renewable fuel. As long as the HVO fuel is of the same standard as No. 2 diesel, ASTM D975, the two fuel types are completely interchangeable. 

Engineered Systems: Is HVO readily available? Is it expensive?

Splittgerber: HVO is plentiful and widely used globally; however, adoption has been slower in the U.S. There are a few areas that have it readily available, but it is becoming more commonplace, and Kohler is poised to serve the market as that happens.

Engineered Systems: Is HVO as reliable as diesel fuel?

Splittgerber: HVO is a high-quality replacement of fossil diesel that does not compromise the performance of the gen set. There are no reductions in power output, just a slight increase in fuel consumption (3%-4%), due to having a slightly lower density. The transient response impact when running the generator on HVO is negligible. It does not oxidate or absorb water; therefore, it is resilient in cold weather down to minus 32°C and is also extremely safe in warmer conditions.

Engineered Systems: Typically, when it comes to biodiesels, storage life is a concern. How about with HVO?

Splittgerber: HVO can be stored for up to 10 years, which far exceeds the timeframe of traditional biodiesels, which is typically six to 12 months. 

Engineered Systems: Can HVO and diesel fuel be mixed?

Splittgerber: Yes, HVO can be mixed with fossil diesel at any ratio and still perform efficiently. There is no difference in the fuel standard between HVO and fossil diesel. In North America, they both fall under ASTM D975, allowing them to be mixed and any percentage of blend.

Engineered Systems: What are the maintenance requirements for a generator utilizing HVO?

Splittgerber: Maintenance requirements of a generator do not differ when using standard fossil diesel or HVO.

Engineered Systems: How much research and development went into this decision?

Splittgerber: Kohler performed targeted tests on generators with HVO fuel and compared performance results with the same generators running on fossil diesel with little to no performance variations. These internal tests have been confirmed by the engine manufacturers. They have also carried out studies and tests on their engines and have shared the positive results with us. As part of its sustainable development approach, Kohler will continue to perform research and development tests of its new products with HVO. 

Engineered Systems: What do you have to say to the skeptics, who feel this may only be a fad?

Splittgerber: With the world transitioning toward a zero-carbon footprint in the fight against climate change, HVO renewable fuel is an available option that can be easily used in gensets today. It provides a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to fossil diesel and supports a move to an overpowering push to get to a sustainable future.

Engineered Systems: Anything else you’d like to add?

Splittgerber: Kohler has formalized its sustainability and social impact operating philosophy under the umbrella of “Believing in Better.” This is based on a philosophy where we believe our best can always be better: better for the lives we touch, better for our communities, better for our planet, and better for business. Kohler is improving its operational environmental footprint while paying uncompromised attention to designing environmentally friendly products that help its customers to reduce their own environmental impact.