environmentally friendly alternative fuel?Should new vegetable oil or used grease beused? And here’s the real kicker: It’s techni-cally illegal (see “Veggie Oil Vehicles andthe Law”). So, before you start hoarding Wesson Oil, there are a few things youshould consider.
WanT Fries WiTh ThaT?
To get a sense of how this works, consider the example of Ty Martin. On Thursdays andSundays the Lawrence, Kan., automechanic parks behind his favor-ite restaurant and heads inside fora hamburger and fries. As he eats with friends at the bar, kitchenstaff fill a tank in the back of his truck withgrease that was used to cook food just theday before. An hour later, truck and driverhead home, both smelling faintly of burntpeanut oil. The used grease then propelsMartin’s pickup all over town, all for free(except the food).For Martin, burning vegetable oil meansmore than maintaining a dual fuel system.It’s a lifestyle, attracting the bohemian ina growing number of Americans who, forenvironmental, financial and/or politicalreasons, bristle over using fossil fuels fortransportation. Whatever your motivationmight be, if you have a diesel engine, itcould run on cooking oil.In fact, in the 1890s German inventorRudolf Diesel originally designed his en-gine to run on vegetable oil.
a neW Kind oF KiT Car
The big challenge with using vegeta-ble oil in Diesel’s engine was, and is, cold weather. Vegetable oil works best when it ishot — ideally 160 degrees — and it thick-ens like butter when it is cold. That meansthe engine has to be warmed up before itcan run on vegetable oil, and the veggie oilmust be flushed out before the engine coolsdown. Otherwise, you will have cloggedfuel lines when you next try to start the car.To convert a diesel engine to run on veggieoil, you have several options.The conversion hardware canbe bought in kit form from a va-riety of manufacturers. GreasecarVegetable Fuel Systems of Easthampton, Mass., estimatesthey’ve sold about 4,000 of theirconversion kits over the past fewyears at prices ranging from $995to $2,000. Lovecraft Bio-Fuels of Los Angeles, Calif., and Portland, Ore., which sells kits and installs them, estimatesit has sold about 1,800 units, starting at$425 for the kit alone and $870 installed.(Lovecraft also sells a one-tank system.)Some people custom build veggie cars.Martin saw his friend Marcos Markoulatos’Greasecar kit in operation and decided hecould do the conversion himself. He ended112
Mother earth News
dm 2007/ju 2008
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Veggie Oil Vehicles and the Law
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The main attraction for manyveggie oil fans is that it’snot a fossil fuel.
s h a w n s c h r e i n e r