:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Wednesday, January 04, 2006  

Vegetarian Diesel Pickup Trucks?

About two years ago I ran across a really strange idea. A few wing-nuts were talking about how Diesel engines could be powered by used vegetable oil and someone even drove their car across the country using only french fry grease from McDonalds. I was intrigued so I investigated and learned that Mr. Diesel was a German inventor who made an internal combustion engine designed to burn vegetable oil. The story goes that Germany didn't have any strong links to middle east oil reserves so they had to find their own fuels to burn around the time of the world wars. Mr. Diesel was eventually found dead and his vegetable engine was converted to burn low grade petroleum (which is from old dead animals, for the most part).

So I decided to investigate further and found some local wing-nuts who were already running veggie oil in their vehicles and were also making BIODIESEL by mixing used vegetable oil with methanol and a few other ingredients. Biodiesel can be used instead of regular diesel with no changes or modifications to a diesel engine.

With gas prices rising, and myself needing a "new" vehicle, I purchased a used Dodge Cummins Diesel, '91 Pickup Truck about a year ago. The conversion kit cost me $1200.00. I then bartered with a mechanic to install the kit in exchange for 10 free medical visits, which he donated to a local church for their poorer members.

The truck has been running great on used vegetable oil for the past 8 months, and so far, even on cold days this winter, it is doing great. The way it works is this - you start your truck on regular diesel fuel and drive until the temperature of the vehicle warms up to about 140 degreees farenheight. I installed a thermometer to help me figure that out more accurately. Then you flip a switch and the truck starts drawing fuel from the used vegetable tank instead of the diesel fuel tank. When you are about 1 minute away from your destination, you flip back to regular diesel fuel and let the veggie oil wash out of the engine. I have forgotten to do this last part a few times and mostly, there are no noticable problems, aside from an occasional rough start in the morning.

For the past eight months, I;ve been relying on my mechanic to gather the vegetable oil and filter it. he's generously only charged me $1 per gallon. Today I made a big step towards complete independence. I approached a restaurant nearby my house last week, a Sushi bar, and asked them if I could have their used vegetable oil. The mostly use it for vegetable tempura dishes so there is very little animal fat mixed in, and it's a high quality restaurant, so they don't reuse their oil too many times. I thought they would think I was nuts, but they readily agreed. Its in their economic interest because if I don't take it, they have to pay a company who comes by and collects it to make animal feed. So today I picked up my first 5 gallons of used vegetable oil and will start to filter it later this week. The filtering is very simple. You get a 10 micron "sock filter" and pour the vegetable oil thru it into a clean container. That's it. After a few hundred gallons, you get a new sock filter.

Free Fuel! Gotta love it.


posted by andru | 1/04/2006 07:22:00 PM | |


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