TdS Report #27: Run a car on vegetable oil?
Gavin Watson is here with a "Zero Fossil Fuel Vehicle" that he runs on straight
soybean oil. "Any kind of vegetable oil will work. I've had the car a little
over a year and it now has 22,000 miles of nothing but vegetable oil on it."
He calls it The VolksVegan.
"I get my oil at work. I work for a food company. A couple of years ago we
were buying the vegetable oil at work for 98 cents a gallon and that's the same
price I was paying for diesel fuel for the boilers. That got me wondering if
it would work.
Since this is food-grade oil, it can be just pumped into the car. (Using used
cooking oil requires filtering and processing before using it as a fuel.) "The
only thing I do to it is keep it warm. At 130 degrees Fahrenheit it has the
same viscosity as diesel fuel. The engine then cannot tell the difference. It
runs just as smooth, without any smoke." An insulated tank with a heating pad
underneath powered by 3 12-Volt batteries and a thermostat keeps the fuel at
temperature. The 3 batteries are charged by the car. "A timer turns it on a
couple of hours before I get in the car in the morning and an hour or so before
Since vegetable oil does not contain paraffin, there isn't a `cloud point',
"but oil will crystallize at 28 degrees F. so you definitely have to keep the
fuel warm. I ran it through the whole winter with the heating system. The
coldest it got at my house was 16 degrees F. It was fine."
"Economically it's a was as far as gasoline is concerned. It costs the same
amount per mile if you bought the vegetable oil at $2 per gallon" which is a
common bulk price.
"I first thought about it 5 or 6 years ago, but at that time vegetable oil was
2 or 3 times the price of diesel fuel. But, a couple of summers ago, because
of the mad cow disease, the Europeans needed to feed their cows another source
of protein, so they bought US soy protein. That left all the soy bean oil
behind. There was this massive glut which drove the price down to 98 cents per
gallon. That was the same as diesel fuel then. So I tried it on the boilers
at work. It was fine. I then had the emissions tested and they were much
lower on the vegetable oil."
A nice thing about this is since the vegetable oil does not contain sulfur it
does not contribute to acid rain. And since it simply releases the carbon
dioxide that was absorbed by the plants as they grew, it doesn't add to global
This has been done in Europe for a long time. "They are very proud of what
they have done so their designs are out there."
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