The move towards low-emission mobility in Finland took a leap last June when Helsinki declared that all city buses, working machines, and other heavy-duty vehicles would switch to advanced biofuels made from residues and waste, by 2020. The shift will remarkably cut CO2 emissions of the existing fleet. The buses will also meet strict emissions requirements and achieve significant reductions in NOx, NO2 and particulate matter. The regional transport system will be decarbonised in a very cost-effective manner with air quality in Helsinki expected to improve, especially in the city center. The shift is a result of the Smart & Clean project which aims at making Helsinki one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly cities in the world.
Some 1.400 buses are currently operating in the Helsinki area, making 360 million trips every year–a number that is constantly increasing. In this context, all changes to the network must be handled with care and advanced biofuel appears as the strategic choice for the city, looking at regional feedstocks and traditions. In fact, using high quality advanced biofuels does not necessarily require new infrastructure or new vehicles for the alternative fuels, meaning that substantial results can be obtained at a reasonable cost.
At the moment, the Helsinki bus fleet requires 40.000 tons of fuels on an annual basis. In comparison, advanced biofuels production capacity in Finland is reaching 500.000 tons with biodiesel alone. Moreover, Helsinki can also rely on national champions such as Neste Ltd, which are counted among world leaders of the sector. The environmental benefits of the shift will be carefully assessed. The Bio-Sata project will be monitoring the effects on air quality, energy efficiency and service needs for the fleet. It is expected that particle emissions will be cut by 30% and GHG emissions by 80-90% following the methodology outlined in EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.