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Biofuel

It’s official – Our tough “Big Horn” Dodge truck has been sold to an alternative fuel usin’, yurt lovin’, RV travelin’ couple based in Santa Cruz, CA.  Thanks Jen and Jason and have fun!

We will be looking for a smaller replacement tow vehicle soon.  Stay tuned.

Truck purchased used in 2010 – veggie oil system installed 1/2011 – had over 13,000 wvo miles on it at time of sale (late 2013).

There had to be a better way for us to get around than to pay $4 per gallon for fuel in the U.S. and $5.50 per gallon in Canada.  Don’t you think?  Yeah, we did too.

Proudly powered by Waste Veggie Oil (WVO)

We ran our 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 diesel truck on waste vegetable oil (wvo) using a two tank fuel system.  The veggie oil came from a local Oakland restaurant, is filtered down to 10 microns and allowed to settle for several weeks.

Pulls like a charm – pre-wired with integrated brakes

On the Green Road biofuel truck

Two Tank System

With a two-tank kit, one tank holds the filtered, pre-settled wvo and the other diesel or biodiesel.

WVO on/off switch and WVO fuel gauge located on the truck dash

The engine is started on the diesel/biodiesel tank and runs for the first few minutes while the vegetable oil is heated to lower the viscosity. Fuel heaters are electrical and/or use the engine coolant as a heat source. When the fuel reaches the required temperature, usually 150+ deg F, the engine is switched over to the second tank and runs on wvo.  We noticed that our truck likes it at about 175+ deg F.

 

150 gallon wvo tank with Hotfox

Before the engine is shut down, it must be switched back to diesel and the fuel system “purged” of veggie oil.  This assures there’s no cold veg-oil left to coke up the injectors the next time you start the engine.  Some systems have manual switches, some do it automatically.  Ours is manual.  We allow a few minutes to complete the purge cycle.

We used a local wvo bay area installer. There are multiple installers throughout the country that offer high quality kits and components for the conversion of diesel engines to use 100% vegetable oil as fuel without chemical processing or addition of harmful chemicals. Our wvo system was completed in February 2011. More info on conversion kits, where to score WVO, resources.

The aluminum tank holds 150 gallons.  On the top of the tank in the middle is the spot for the Hotfox.  The Hotfox is the heating element which keeps the veggie oil heated to reduce viscosity and help it flow through the engine.  On the corner closest to the front there is another circular hole for fill up.  This tank will be kept in the bed of the truck towards the back of the cab.  Once the tank is full we will be able to get around 2,250 miles – 3,150 miles before we need a veggie oil refill (we get an average of 15 mpg towing, 21 mpg not towing and on the highway).

We always try to leave our home base of Alameda, CA with a full tank of veggie oil.  When we need to fill up along the way we have a “go to list” of installers from across the country that usually sell filtered, settled wvo.  It usually goes for $2-$3/gallon.  Always call a few weeks ahead of time to make sure they have wvo available.  We are willing to spend this money because we are assured of the quality from these reputable sources:

Plant Drive – Berkeley, CA
Golden Fuel System – Japan, TX, OH, FL
Green Eye Autos – Eugene, OR
Grease Car – Holyoke, MA
Veg Power – Brooktondale, NY
SmarterFuel – Wind Gap, PA
Full Circle Fuels – OH and NY
Frank Motors – Winnipeg, MB

Hotfox up close

FASS HPFP 23A pump for wvo – located on underside of truck

HP-26 Hotplate coolant/WVO heat exchanger – underside of truck

Vormax coolant-heated two-stage water separator/filter with filter restriction gauge

Note: We also use biodiesel blends in the main tank when we can find it.  If we don’t have enough waste veggie oil we also use biodiesel in the secondary tank.  Biodiesel blends can range from 2% biodiesel (B2) to 100% biodiesel (B100).  We are also changing our secondary veggie fuel filter every 3,000 – 4,000 miles to maintain the trucks driving power.

Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. It contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend.  Biodiesel is made through a chemical process – the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products — methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable byproduct usually sold to be used in soaps and other products). It is true that engines new to biodiesel may get clogged fuel filters at first (so beware).

Our veggie fuel filter (not the same as the main diesel fuel filter) costs $30 for 3 microns and $40 for 10 microns.  The first fuel filter was 10 microns and we had to change it at 3,000 miles because the truck was loosing power.  On the second filter we tried the 3 micron and only got 1,000 miles before we needed to change it. I think in the future we will use the 10 micron filter.

It is also EXTREMELY important not to start using veggie oil until your engine has sufficiently warmed up AND to completely purge the system of veg oil before you turn off you engine for more than 30-45 minutes.  Be extra careful with this in colder climates.

Another concern with biodiesel is that it will gel in cold climates and clog up the engine.  When in colder climates, consider using roughly a 25% biodiesel/75% diesel blend to raise the gel point.

For more detailed discussion on possible challenges and fuel properties go to Biodiesel: Things to Know.

To find a Biodiesel station near you, check out the following sites:

www.biodieselsmarter.com/ – Great color map of the U.S. with B100 fill up stations

www.biodiesel.org/ – National Biodiesel Board

www.nearbio.com/ – Finding biodiesel using your cell phone or web

Treehugger.com has some good information on Biodiesel: How It’s Made, Environmental Impact, Where to Find a Fueling Station, and More.

ALSO Check it out – Possible future of biofuel:
Algae as a fuel

 

52 Comments

  1. This innovative idea for running a truck on a two system fuel tank is incredible. I suppose you guys are becoming the expert in this area as well as mechanics! Can’t wait for your journey to begin so we can hear how this is maintained in a green manner!!!

    • Hey Jenna :)
      Can’t wait to report on this as we drive the truck more. We are learning a ton about diesel engines and fuel systems… whew!

  2. You guys have totally inspired me to try this after I finish art school. The idea of using Waste Veggie Oil is so brilliant, I was just afraid it wasn’t practical! But you guys are rockin’ it.

    I am going to be following you guys closely in the months to come. So stoked to see what you guys get into next!

    – Cortney

  3. Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers starting a new initiative in alternative fuels in an southern community. Your blog provided us some great information and we are trying to work with local restaurants to collect their oil and start a wvo collective. You have done a wonderful job and can’t wait to hear how it goes as you travel the country on your eco activist mission.

  4. Hi Josh –
    Great stuff. We love to hear about projects such as yours. Let us know how it goes. How many people are in your group so far and how many restaurants?

  5. Great stuff. I love your eco project. I am motivated to try biodiesel or even WVO now. Thanks.

  6. More people should be doing this… veggie oil is everywhere and all you need to do is collect it, inspect it, filter it, let it settle and then use it. Good job girls… go teach people about this!

  7. I’m hooked.. we have been moving toward a greener life for a few years now. We have solar and rain water harvesting going pretty well. We are looking into grey water recycling and alternative fuels. We have a diesel truck and we were just going to start using biodiesel but after reading your success with waste veggie oil and doing some research we might just try it out. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. You have an incredible website here – love the Thumbs Up page. Can’t wait to follow more of your adventure.

  9. Shaun, Steve, Sally and Kathleen –

    Thank you so much for the kind words. Shaun and Sally – go for it.. and email us with any questions.

  10. I am glad I found your page, especially on wvo/biofuel. Great info., great pics, great resource!

  11. Hello. You have an impressive story here. We will definitely be following you. Thanks!

  12. Thanks everyone!

  13. Great blog and site! Hope to see you out on the road – we travel in our RV here and there. Great page on veggie oil!

  14. I am also pushing alternative energy, especially biofuel and wvo – great site. I have been using wvo for 5 years on a 2 tank fuel system mercedes diesel (mid 80’s model) and it really is amazing. Collect, filter and settle good quality waste veggie oil and you are good to go. I get it from a local pub. Thanks for the site.

  15. I just want to leave you an note to say thanks for your blog! Love your concept – go green girls!

  16. Yara, Rene and Suzanna –

    Thanks so much for writing!

    Yara hope we see you out on the road.

    Rene go with your bad self and your Mercedes – love to hear others using veggie oil.

    Suzanna we are trying to go, go go…. Take care ladies.

  17. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed!

  18. Hello to you! I am so glad that modern technologies come to the protection of our environment at last! Biofuel will solve a great number of problems concerning the state of the air, atmosphere and resources. I think that more drivers should choose biodiesel and save the planet from pollution and devastation.

  19. ok, super psyched to read about you 2 using biofuel for the truck. Keep the great blogs coming.

  20. Thanks Brock, Dorothy and Caroline. See you out on the road?

  21. I love what you are doing and always share your site posts with my friends. keep blogging!

  22. Your diesel/vegetable system seems so innovative.
    You mentioned that you drive about 12,000 miles a year.
    adding the cost of modifying the engine, adding the large stainless tanks, and getting a $30 filter every 1000 to 3000 miles do you save any money in the end? Have you estimated how much air pollution is reduced by this system?
    Frank

  23. Hi Frank – thanks for writing. We will make back the money we spent on the wvo system in the next year. Since we will keep the truck and use the system for years to come we will start saving money by using this alternative fuel system. We use a 10 micron filter that costs $40 and is changed every 4,000 miles (sometimes longer if we use some biodiesel in the tank as well). We run B99 in the back tank when we can’t find filtered veggie oil on the road. We know that emissions are reduced by using biodiesel and wvo as fuel but the % is undetermined.

  24. How much did it cost to install this system? Many (like myself) have dreams to do what you’re doing, but limited starting funds.

    • Hi Tristan –

      WVO kits do cost a bit but are worth it if you keep and use the vehicle over several years. The parts are anywhere from $1,150-$3,000 depending on what type of vehicle you have. I am sure you can pay less by piecing parts together but if you go with one of the companies listed on our site that is the general pricing you should expect. If you are doing a 2 tank system you will need to buy a 2nd tank or in our case have one built. Then there is installation which will vary depending on who you use… but a reputable installer that does this for a living should go for $1,500-$2,500 depending on the vehicle. It’s tricky business so be sure to work with an installer that REALLY knows what he/she is doing. Hope this helps.

      • Very helpful – thank you!

        Keep up the amazingly cool work. I’m living my dream vicariously by reading your blog :)

        I’d love to see more about how you live with the animals. I see you have a cool litter box, but I wonder about other things, like how you keep the Airstream cool enough in summer/warm enough in winter for the animals. We have 3 dogs and a cat who would be on a similar trip with us.

        • Hi Tristan – Thanks!!! Yes we do have a covered indoor litter box area for our kitty, Luna. It is inside a cabinet away from the dog. Traveling with our animals has been great. Both travel with us in the truck. We let Luna run free once we get to a destination. She is cautious and older and stays close to the Airstream. During the summer we have to use AC on the hot days. We figured out a solution for times when we visit friends and family. We split our 30amp power cord into 2 15amp cords using an adapter. If we are staying at someone’s house we plug these cords into 2 different outlets on 2 different circuits and that has worked fine. The 30amp cord is 50 feet and then we have 2 25 foot large diameter electrical cords. Otherwise to run the AC we have to be at a campground with 30amp power and simply use the 30amp cord without the extra electrical cords. We can’t boondock and run the AC on solar. In cooler temps we just run the heater which runs on propane.

  25. Its good to see people using WVO on newer vehicles.
    I have done installs on my chevy 6.2 and will be converting my GMC RTS in the near future.
    How many miles do you have on WVO in your 6.7, have you had any issues you can share with the rest of us enthusiasts?
    I am picking up a 2008 3500 that will be a candidate for WVO but i need to look into the DPF issues and all that to see if it is viable. Last thing i want to do is start clogging components on a long road trip.

    Keep the faith!
    Jeff

    • Hi Jeff –

      Thanks for writing. We have about 9,000 miles on the system and it is currently working perfectly. Originally the installer routed the system through the stock fuel filter and this was a mistake. Every time we turned the system off/on a bit of veggie oil was purged into the stock fuel tank. The systems should be completely separate in our truck. 2 fuel injectors were ruined. Luckily our after market warranty covered the work. The installer did a free reroute of the system and we have had zero problems since. Good luck with the 2008!

  26. Great blog a true source of inspiration! I’d love to travel “green” and you are making it look like great fun!

    Re: filters – might it make sense to rig up an ordinary automotive spin-on oil filter “upstream” of the more expensive filter, to extend its lifetime? You could change the auto oil filter frequently at (relatively) low cost.

    Do both of your furry friends ride in the truck with you, or do they sometimes ride in the trailer? I had a cat who liked to travel. He would sit crosswise on my shoulders and meow bad advice to me the whole time. Once we arrived, he liked to go on hikes with me. I am serious.

    David

    • Hey Dave – thanks for writing. Both Luna and Faith ride in the truck in their crates. We know a few folks that let their cats roam free in the Airstream as they travel but Luna DID NOT enjoy this when we tried it with her. We drove a few miles and stopped to check on her. She was hiding behind/under the coach and was NOT happy with us. So everyone travels in the truck where it is safe and not so bouncy. As far as the wvo filter, we like our system and have noticed that we can get more than 4,000 per filter if we add some diesel and/or biodiesel in the tank with the veggie oil. So when we fill up the 150 gallon tank we just add 10-20 gallons of diesel/biodiesel too.

      • Hi. Would love to know where I can get a 150 gallon tank like the one you have. Would you mind letting me know who made it and how much it would cost. Thanks! Chris

        • Hi Chris – yes we had the tank custom made by the folks at Plant Drive in Berkeley,CA – our contact was Craig Reece. I believe the tank was $1200.

          • Thanks for the timely response! I’ll definitely be getting in touch with Craig real soon!

  27. Just so you know, you’re slowly killing any diesel engine by running it on WVO. Older mechanically injected engines (like the 5.9 cummins with Bosch P7100 injection pump) will take the abuse for quite a while before showing any symptoms of increased wear. In fact the older fuel systems are actually lubricated better by properly heated WVO, but the central issue with WVO is a chemical one. You see no matter what reputable source you purchase WVO from, at best you’re getting a nice clean batch of triglycerides. This means 3 fatty acid chains (read fuel) which are attached to a glycerine molecule (read uncombustible damaging gunk). When the WVO is burned, your engine runs fine as the viscosity is great at 175+* Fahrenheit, but you can’t see or feel all the nasty by products that won’t burn building up in your cylinder head and working past rings into the engine oil drastically reducing its effectiveness. Modern CJ-4 or CI-4 plus diesel engine oils can do some pretty amazing things (look up used oil analysis of rotella T6 oil in all kinds of vehicles- its amazing), but I wouldn’t feel too comfortable running any WVO in any modern high pressure common rail injection diesel that I was planning on keeping for many years. If I were you I’d keep the two tank system in place and run B100 in it year round with fewer filter changes, no injector issues, and the cleanest diesel engine on the block. Processing your own biodiesel is not too hard and the benefits of removing the glycerine before it goes into your truck are definitely worth while.

    I sincerely apologize if I come off as condescending or argumentative, and I don’t mean to belittle what you accomplish in everything you do with your blog. I just don’t want to see a future post that your whole operation has ground to a stop since your nice reliable common rail cummins mysteriously died. I have no personal experience with injecting WVO as I have a newer truck with a DPF and urea injection exhaust treatment (to the above poster: no wvo with a DPF, but be happy as you’re likely already emitting pure tree food exhaust) but I can tell you my points are all founded in chemical fact. If you want to continue running WVO, I’d recommend used oil analysis to see what the effect is on wear metal particle count in your engine oil even though that’s not a terribly accurate reflection of what happens inside an engine.

    I absolutely love everything you do, and I’d love to talk sometime by email about some of your AS mods like cork floor, composting toilet, and the most awesome solar setup I’ve ever seen. Please hit me up, and happy camping!

    • Hi Mark – thanks for writing with your information. We appreciate the info. and of course will continue to research wvo and the benefits/negatives. Lately we have been running 50% diesel or biodiesel and 50% wvo in the back tank. It’s not always easy to find wvo.

  28. Oh! Also Caterpillar had a great document a while back about injection system wear. I can’t seem to find it but off the top of my head I want to say it was research using an HEUI injection engine and running different fuel filtration setups for a given time, then tearing down components to compare wear scars. They determined that the majority of injection component wear in that system was caused by particles in the 7 micron range. Subsequently caterpillar developed 2 micron synthetic micro glass media fuel filters (that only cost $10-20!!) and used them on their own equipment. Many people regard caterpillar as the gold standard in diesel engine durability, and I would bet alot of the credit goes to their emphasis on filtration. The high pressure common rail Bosch CP3.3 based system in your Ram is even higher pressure with tighter machining tolerances than an HEUI setup. If your WVO is clogging a 10 micron filter every 4k miles, either your filter is too small for your desired flow rate, or you should filter much more aggressively before putting the fuel in your truck. I wouldn’t expect your CP 3.3 or injectors to live too long in those conditions.

  29. I actually was hunting for tips for my own site
    and stumbled upon your post, “Biofuel”. I will start using some of these great ideas.
    Thanks -Harriet

  30. Biofuel got me addicted on your web page!
    Thanks for sharing -Eddie

  31. Seems like you both have learned quite a lot about this topic and it all shows on the “Biofuel” page. Great work. Keep it up.

    Thanks -Lonnie

    • Thanks Lonnie – we are learning new stuff everyday. WVO isn’t perfect but we are committed to using alternative fuels…

  32. I’ve never seen anyone with a 2 tank setup on a newer common rail before congrats! I am currently in the process of converting my 12V over to a 2 tank system and am always looking for great ideas keep up the good work.

    • Hey Brandon – thanks so much! Good luck with your conversion.

  33. As an experiment, Virgin’s eco-plane ran three engines with biofuel the other three engines were filled with standard jet fuel. In addition the Biofuel-powered engine was using a blend of conventional jet fuel and Biofuel: 80/20 in favor of the regular stuff. Oil from the Brazilian babassu plant, prepared by Seattle-based Imperium Renewable over the last 18 months. Tested by General Electric Aviation in Ohio.- Cool experiment.

    • Janette – thanks for the information. We didn’t know this. Very cool.

  34. My name is Josiah. I work for Blue Sky Biofuels in Oakland. We are a biodiesel manufacturer. I saw you were running biodiesel in your truck. It also looks like you sold your truck. If you or anyone you know is still running biodiesel, we would love to sell you our fuel. We are currently charging $4.25 a gallon and have the ability to deliver if you need. Thanks for living the green life. Should you have any questions or require any additional information, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Regards,

    Josiah Adams
    Fuel Sales
    510.599.0697

  35. Great post on biofuel… more people need to have access to alternative fuel options. Very nice!

  36. A great deal of good info here on biofuel. There is so much to learn about this topic. Thanks.

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