In early 2023, Nicholsons started trialling a renewable fuel source. HVO, hydrotreated vegetable oil, is a fossil free paraffinic diesel, meaning it can be used as a direct replacement for traditional diesel without requiring engine modifications. It is produced using waste products including used cooking oils, residue fat from food industries, and tall oil byproducts. Unlike petrol and diesel which have a finite quantity, HVO uses renewable sources that will not run out.
So far, one third of Nicholsons vehicles are successfully running on HVO, with a further 57% of vehicles eligible to make the transition in the coming years. HVO brings a 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to diesel (Derv), the predominate fuel source used previously. HVO also produces up to 84% less particulate matter and up to 27% less nitrogen oxide, both large contributors to poor air quality and the development of respiratory diseases (Nationwide Fuels, n.d.). Despite the higher cost of HVO, it reduces wear on engines, promoting the longevity of vehicles and reducing maintenance and running costs.
Other uses of HVO include in Nicholsons own plant vehicles and machinery (3 x excavators and a 6t dumper). Despite a reduction in power output of approximately 10% this has not had a noticeable impact upon productivity. Over the last few years, Nicholsons has switched to rechargeable battery-operated hand tools, in the larger part, which traditionally run on petrol. Benefits include lower vibrations, quieter operation, and reduced environmental impact. Nicholsons has also influenced one of their main suppliers of plant vehicles to use HVO in all of their equipment raising awareness of alternative fuels within the landscaping industry.
There is a long way to go for the UK to fully adopt a low carbon transport sector. Nicholsons recognises the crucial importance of cutting emissions for the future of the planet. They have ambitious goals to have all vehicles running on electric or HVO fuel and hope to influence others by showcasing the benefits of more sustainable fuel options.