Arctic Cat’s new diesel ATV, test driven by Sam Ziegler of the Minnesota Soybean Grower’s Association runs as well or better on biodiesel than standard fuel, confirmed by tests conducted last winter and this summer. Sponsored in part by AURI’s Center for Producer-Owned Energy, the tests were the first using B20 in small diesel engines.

Thief River Falls, Minn. –Arctic Cat has taken biodiesel fuel “off the road.”

The Minnesota company is recommending biodiesel blends of up to 20 percent in its new diesel ATV. The renewable fuel performed as well as standard diesel fuel in two test rounds last winter and this summer. B20 actually worked better than winter-blend diesel in some cold temperature tests.

“What is significant about the test results is that there was nothing very significant,” says Ole Tweet, Arctic Cat vice president of new product development. “Arctic Cat was very pleased with the minimal performance impact of biodiesel fuel.”

This was the first time B20 — a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel — had been commercially tested in small diesel engines. The research was sponsored by the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Minnesota Corn Growers Association and AURI’s Center for Producer- Owned Energy.

Engine, fuel system OK with B20

The trials were done on three 2007 Arctic Cat ATVs equipped with 700 cc twin-cylinder Lombardini diesel engines. There were no significant differences between B20 and standard No. 2 diesel fuel or No. 1 winter blend diesel fuel for emissions, sound levels or hot-start capability at air temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

B20 also performed well in normal-life engine durability tests, which simulate five years of consumer use. There were no differences in engine or component wear, and no degradation of the fuel system with B20, Tweet says.

Power and acceleration dropped slightly in the B20-fueled ATVs. Top speeds declined about 1.5 miles per hour, on average, and horsepower fell about six percent. Fuel mileage was lower, too, averaging about 15 percent less than regular diesel. That wasn’t a surprise, says Craig Kennedy, engineering project manager. “We had expected to see some power reduction based on the [lower] heat value of B20 versus straight petroleum.”

Arctic Cat was concerned about B20 gelling at cold temperatures. But biodiesel actually outperformed No. 1 winter blend diesel fuel in some tests. “We expected to see some fuel gelling above zero degrees Fahrenheit,” Tweet says. His team of engineers “were amazed when, on the first set of cold tests, the B20 started down to zero (degrees F), and the regular No. 1 winter-blend diesel did not start at zero.” In subsequent tests, though, the ATV running on winter diesel blend also started at zero degrees. But B20 had the advantage in cold weather. “Biodiesel consistently helped the engine turn over faster at low temperatures,” Tweet says.

Arctic Cat began manufacturing the new diesel ATV in August. The machine comes with a fuel tag that recommends biodiesel blends up to 20 percent. Two percent biodiesel, or B2, is now standard in Minnesota, but higher concentrations of biodiesel are not yet available in most places. However, distribution is expected to grow.

This summer, the Minnesota Soybean Growers demonstrated the diesel ATV at county fairs and parades where it generated lots of interest, Tweet says. The vehicle’s biodiesel fuel capability will be a great selling point, he adds, especially for farmers. “It says to them, ‘Here’s a vehicle for you that runs on the very stuff you grow.’ That’s a tremendous attribute.”