New York City plans to test the use of renewable diesel in its fleet across at least four departments and in several hundred vehicles in 2017 to help meet Mayor Bill de Blasio's aggressive pledge to cut emissions from city fleet vehicles.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has begun laying the groundwork for the demo program by meeting with potential fuel suppliers and San Francisco city officials, who began using the fuel to power fleet vehicles in July of 2015. Renewable diesel is a nonpetroleum renewable fuel that's made from materials such as natural fats, vegetable oils, and greases.

New York City plans to dispense renewable diesel at four to five agencies. The city is now working with the New York Fire Department to permit use of renewable diesel from the city's underground storage tanks.

"We are working on an initial implementation of renewable diesel," said Keith Kerman, chief fleet officer for the DCAS. "We think renewable diesel is an extremely viable way to introduce a change to fossil fuels on a rapid timetable."

This summer, the city ordered 340 diesel-powered Mack LEU613 refuse trucks for the Department of Sanitation, a move the New York Times questioned in an Aug. 19 editorial. The agency maintains a fleet of 6,056 vehicles, including 2,000 collection trucks. Of those, natural gas powers 42 trucks.

Kerman said the new trucks could be shifted to run on renewable diesel or higher levels of biodiesel to help meet the de Blasio's ambitious emissions reduction goals. The mayor has pledged to cut emissions from the city’s vehicle fleets by 50% by 2025, and by 80% by 2035.