TdS Report #45: Driving on Used Vegetable Oil
I have heard of driving on used vegetable oil, but always thought there had to
be a chemical process to make the raw oil suitable for diesel engine use.
Justin Carven of Vegetable Fuel Systems tells me otherwise. His car is labeled
"This is a 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit with a standard, non-turbo diesel engine. It
has been modified with one of our systems, which we are marketing now, to run
on used cooking oil. We can pull this vehicle up to the kitchen door of a
restaurant and pump out of a waste oil container right into the vehicle, and
drive away. All the processing is done on board. There are no chemicals
added, unlike bio-diesel. With bio-diesel you modify the oil to burn in the
car we modify the car to accept the oil. It is a simple system. We use the
waste heat from the engine, the hot coolant water, to warm up the oil. Because
of that we keep the standard diesel tank and start up with diesel and then
switch over to vegetable oil when the oil is up to temperature, about 160
degrees. Then the fatty acids have broken down into a lipid state and it is
light enough to inject properly. A heat exchanger in the vegetable oil tank,
the fuel filter and the fuel line are heat jacketed."
What about the salts and bits of food that are usually in frying oil? "We
filter down to 10 microns which gets the particulates and a lot of the salt
matter out. Also, when it is stored, the salt tends to sink to the bottom of
the tank with the water and most of the heavy materials. So the only treatment
we give it is filtration, although I have heard of people washing it with water
to `rinse out' the salt and sugars." And how often do you have to drain out
those residues? "The end of our suction tube has a strainer that keeps most of
the heavy material out. So we are just filtering the light material with the
polishing filter. We are able to pump about 200 gallons through that without
changing it. So the maintenance is pretty infrequent. I haven't changed our
prefiltering filter in over 200 gallons, over a year, and the onboard filter
generally gives 10,000 miles or more. I would recommend that people change
these filters when their in there changing the normal engine fluids and
filters, but it generally is not necessary until about 10,000 miles."
"We have very little contact with the corporate chain restaurants. They are
generally so caught up with protocols that the don't know what to do with us.
We find locally owned restaurants and find that their oil is of higher quality
and changed more frequently. Dealing with those people is usually easier."
The GreaseCar is not competing in the evaluated road rally. Instead it is
serving as the "sweep vehicle" that picks up the plastic signs that help the
rally teams find their way from place to place. "We drove the vehicle down
from Florence Massachusetts, our base, and are driving the entire Tour route."
And as they go they visit restaurants and ask for 15 gallons of waste oil.
"This is pretty much a short-range trip as far as this car is concerned. We
get about 500 miles per fill-up. We filled up in Baltimore," and they'll have
to fill up a couple of times before they get home.
"We are marketing this to any one who wants to do this on a vehicle. Right now
we have 30 of our systems on the road in the last year. About half are in the
Northeast and half in the Northwest. A couple are stationary applications.
The system sells for about $800, and they are looking to produce a $500
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The complete set of Tour de Sol Reports for 2002 can be found at:
The complete set of past Tour de Sol Reports can be found at:
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The above is Copyright 2002 by Michael H. Bianchi.
Permission to copy is granted provided the entire article is presented
without modification and this notice remains attached.
For other arrangements, contact me at +1-973-822-2024 .
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For more on the NESEA Tour de Sol, see the web page at
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Official NESEA Tour de Sol information is available from the sponsor,
the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) at
413 774-6051 , and 50 Miles Street, Greenfield, MA 01301 , and
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