“The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today, but such oils may become in course of time, as important as petroleum and coal tar products of the present time. ”
Rudolf Diesel, 1912 – the creator of the Diesel engine.
My family is a compilation of extremely busy people, especially now that we are doing a lot of travelling into the interior and all over B.C for work. Given that we are a family that is trying to be as “green” possible, my dad decided to do some research on alternate fuel sources back in 2010. He discovered that people around the world are converting their diesel vehicles to run on vegetable oil.
Yes, you heard correctly, that stuff we use to fry our food.
How? That’s nuts! Can that even work?
Yes, my friends, it does. Here’s the abridged version of the process:
-Secure a diesel vehicle that is suited to conversion. (Technically most diesel engines can be converted, but there are some that are easier to convert than others).
– Acquire the appropriate parts. This includes heaters, extra fuel tanks, many pipes and valves as well as some kind of filtration equipment. Many companies are now selling all of these materials in kits.
-Find a Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) provider; basically any restaurant that is willing to give you their used oil. Many restaurants get charged by waste companies to have their used oil taken away. So when you show up saying “Hi, I want to take your used veggie oil FOR FREE,” they are happy campers…or genuinely confused.
– Run your WVO through a filtration system, and you are ready to use the oil!
Dad’s filtration system
From what I can tell, to convert a vehicle can range from $2,000 upwards, depending on the size of the engine. Trust me, it pays itself off within three years or less. Once you have converted the vehicle, the engine works a little differently when you turn it on:
1) Turn on the car. You must always start your car using diesel in order to heat the WVO to a temperature that allows it to stay in a liquid form. It goes through at least three filters and heaters within the converted engine. You can still drive when the engine is heating up.
2) Once you are notified that it has reached the right temperature, your engine will either switch over to veggie oil by itself or, if it is not automated, you can flick a switch in your car.
4) When you plan on turning off your car, there must be a period of time allotted to flushing the system of veggie oil in order to avoid clogging pipes with cooling and hardening oil. If it is automated, the engine will continue to run even after you have taken the keys out of the ignition until it is notified that the pipes are clear. If it is not automated, you must run the engine for 20 seconds on diesel, at which point the system will notify you that the engine pipes are clear.
So, why convert to veggie?
Well lets start by looking at gas and diesel prices at the moment. It doesn’t take an accountant to know the cost of fossil fuels is considerably high… and rising. If you can find a good supplier, veggie oil is often free. Some restaurants now charge for their veggie oil, as it is used by larger companies for creating biodiesel (but this is a different conversation). Veggie oil as a fuel source is a more economical choice, and, as I mentioned, you can typically expect a full return on your investment within three years or less.
It is a prime example of reuse, reduce, recycle; you are essentially repurposing waste material. Sweet!
Vegetable oil is considered by many to be carbon neutral and, by using it, you may be reducing your carbon footprint. In contrast, fossil fuels have been sequestered by the earth and stored for hundreds of millions of years. Essentially when you burn non renewable fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline in your car engine, you are releasing carbon dioxide and other environmentally damaging gases and particulates into the atmosphere, that should have never been released in the first place. On the other hand, when you use a renewable source of fuel from a plant based source such as veggie oil (canola oil, peanut oil, etc.), you greatly reduce your footprint. As a renewable fuel, vegetable oils causes no additional output of CO2, as growing crops absorb almost the same quantity of CO2 that they release on combustion. And, another plus for the environment, you don’t need huge fossil -fuel-using,drilling machines to dig up vegetables…
The combustion of diesel produces considerable particulates (the cloudy part of exhaust smoke) into the atmosphere. These are known to cause health and respiratory problems in humans and animals. The combustion of cooking oil is known to produce less particulates in comparison to standard diesel.
It Works the Same:
Does it drive like a regular car? In terms of performance, there is really no compromise when using vegetable oil. Our vehicles run the same as the did before the conversion, with the exception that the engine needs to run on diesel for a minute or two at the beginning and end of each trip.
our favorite place to get veggie oil!
Sure, using vegetable oil as a fuel source takes some extra work; there is the time it takes to source the oil and the time it takes to filter the oil. But at the end of the day, it is an opportunity to rethink the system, reduce your dependency on fossil fuels and it is kind of a fun hobby. Not to mention a good point of conversation.
Oh, and there is one more notable pro that should be on the list. Do you like onion rings? French fries? Tater tots?
Yeah, my cars smell like that 24/7. Be jealous.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts! Love to hear what you think!