Monday, March 20, 2006

Runnin on Veggie (Runnin on): Tales of the Veggie Car Part II

I got a comment left by someone that liked the first installment of the adventures of the Veggie Car. Anyway, here is a short bit I wrote for the employee newsletter that will be coming out this week... At work, where you won't read it.

Since I am lazy (and want to keep you up to speed), I just thought I would repost it here so I don't have to write anything.

Check it out...

Runnin’ on Veggie.

I commute 60 miles everyday, but has not paid for gas in four months. How do I do it? I converted my 1983 Mercedes 300 D to run on Waste Vegetable Oil that I get for free from the back of restaurants.

How does it work?

The short answer is: “Surprisingly well”.

The longer more technical answer with some history follows:

The Diesel Engine was first displayed for the public in 1900 at the World Exhibition in Paris. This new engine design amazed engineers and the public because it ran on peanut oil. Rudolph Diesel was a forward thinker, as you can see from his quote from the early 1900.

"The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become, in the course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time."

Approximately 80 years ago, the petroleum industry created a gasoline fuel for these engines and they were nice enough to name the new blend “diesel”. Since that time, the original use of peanut oil was all but forgotten.

The use of vegetable oil in the diesel engine was re-discovered in the 1970s, and people started experimenting with this new “old” technology. Over the course of the past 30 years many people have experimented with veggie oil in their cars and have come up with a practical way for it to be used in today’s diesel engines.

Now that you have a bit of history, I will go into the technical details of the car itself. The theory behind this technology is you start the car on diesel, and when it is warmed up, you switch it to veggie oil. A few miles before you get to your destination you switch it back to diesel. Switching it back to diesel purges the fuel injector system of the vegetable oil, so when you go to start up the car the next time, it is not gummed up with cold veggie oil.

To get any diesel car or truck to run on veggie oil, you just need to install an extra fuel delivery system that can be switched on or off, that delivers hot veggie oil to the engine. One also needs a filter for the veggie oil and a way to heat the oil up before it goes into the fuel injectors. That is it! No internal modifications to the engine are needed. Just get that veggie oil hot and filtered and it can go right into the engine. Hard to believe, but it is true.

Burning veggie oil instead of diesel is also better for the environment and better for your engine. Vegetable oil is a natural lubricant, so it extends the life of your engine. Also, burning veggie oil has less particulate matter and burns no sulfur (burning sulfur creates acid rain). All in all, running vegetable oil in your vehicle is much better for the environment than even conventional gasoline engines. When you use vegetable oil, you are also reusing resources and saving them from the landfill. (Actually, the waste vegetable oil does not always go in the landfill, it is usually collected by a tallow company and fed to livestock-Yummy!)

Not only is it better for the engine and the environment, but running on waste vegetable oil is FREE! Yes, you heard that right, it is possible to get the waste oil for free from most restaurants. Restaurants have to pay a tallow company to haul their waste veggie oil away, so they are usually happy to let someone take the oil, so they don’t have to pay for removal.

Once you have a source of oil, you pump it out of the barrel into some kind of container and take it home. At home you need to filter it. The setup uses a 1 micron sock filter that drains into a 55 gallon barrel. Also, it is best to heat the veggie oil to burn off any water that might be mixed in with it, since water is very bad for your fuel injectors. The barrel has a hot water heater element installed in the 55 gallon barrel that the filtered oil is stored in. You just turn it on and the oil heats up and the water evaporates. After that it is just a matter of putting the oil in the gas tank and driving away.

The whole conversion cost $3,000. ($1,500 for the car, $700 in parts and $800 in labor) and since it has been converted, there has not been any repair costs, or gas costs. The costs involved, after the initial conversion are the purchase of sock filters to filter the oil. These cost about $3.50 a piece and last for at least 20 gallons of filtering, and usually they last for more. The car runs just as well as it does on regular diesel fuel with no loss of power and the gas mileage is the same. The only way to tell the car uses vegetable oil for fuel is the exhaust smells like BBQ chicken!

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