Coffee to fuel future fleets?

Coffee gets most people up and active in the morning, but could the left over grinds also be used to get your fleet moving?

It does seem impossible, but researchers from the University of Bath have revealed waste coffee grinds could be used to make biodiesel in the future. Fuel consumption is always a pressure point for fleet managers, however, the advent of electric vehicles and even self-driving cars in recent years have proven nothing is out of the realm for scientists.

The ACS Journal Energy and Fuels recently published the study which found oil can be extracted from coffee grounds by immersing them in a solvent which chemically transforms them into biodiesel. Close to 8 million tonnes of coffee is produced each year, with most coffee grounds thrown away. In fact, the grounds can contain 20 per cent oil per unit weight.

Dr Chris Chuck, a researcher at the university's Department of Chemical Engineering, said the study analysed different coffee types and found all were capable of producing biodiesel.

"This oil also has similar properties to current feedstocks used to make biofuels. But, while those are cultivated specifically to produce fuel, spent coffee grounds are waste," he said.

"Using these, there's a real potential to produce a truly sustainable second-generation biofuel."

While it might take a heap of coffee grounds for widespread adoption, researchers suggested it could be made on a small scale by those with access to the grounds and used to power individual fleet services.

Rhodri Jenkins, a PhD student in Sustainable Chemical Technologies and first author of the study, said researchers are investigating other fuel options from food waste while coffee beans are also a possibility.

"There is also a large amount of waste produced by the coffee bean roasting industry, with defective beans being thrown away. If scaled up, we think coffee biodiesel has great potential as a sustainable fuel source," he said,

While brewing coffee for your fleet might be some time away, fleet management software can give accurate fuel consumption readings for your vehicles so you can analyse possible areas to reduce usage.