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WVO – Fuel for a Diesel Engine

Rudolph Diesel designed the diesel engine to run on peanut oil

It is pretty amazing to think that vegetable oil is a viable fuel source for diesel engines… but it is!  Rudolf Diesel was the father of the engine which bears his name.  His first attempts were to design an engine to run on coal dust, but later designed his engine to run on vegetable oil.



We are running our Dodge Ram diesel truck on waste vegetable oil (wvo).  Let’s talk about the difference between biodiesel, straight vegetable oil (svo) and wvo because it is easy to get all the terms confused.  For more information on our 2 tank WVO system – Biofuel.

Biodiesel – a renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils like soybean oil or canola oil, that has been produced by a chemical process which removes the glycerin from the oil. Biodiesel can go straight into a diesel engine with no engine modifications.  It is typically made with vegetable oil, methanol or ethanol and lye.

SVO – straight vegetable oil used as diesel fuel (usually new oil, fresh, uncooked)

PPO – pure plant oils, same as SVO: PPO is the term most often used in Europe

WVO – waste vegetable oil (used cooking oil, “grease”, fryer oil, probably including animal fats or fish oils from the cooking)

Vegetable oil is an alternative fuel for diesel engines and for heating oil burners.  For engines designed to burn diesel fuel, the viscosity of vegetable oil must be lowered to allow for proper atomization of the fuel, otherwise incomplete combustion and carbon build up will ultimately damage the engine.  Many enthusiasts refer to vegetable oil used as fuel as waste vegetable oil (WVO) if it is oil that was discarded from a restaurant or straight vegetable oil (SVO) or pure plant oil (PPO) to distinguish it from biodiesel.

As of 2000, the United States was producing in excess of 11 billion liters (2.9 billion U.S. gallons) of waste vegetable oil annually, mainly from industrial deep fryers in potato processing plants, snack food factories and fast food restaurants.  If all those 11 billion liters could be collected and used to replace the energetically equivalent amount of petroleum (an ideal case), almost 1% of US oil consumption could be offset. Use of waste vegetable oil as a fuel competes with some other uses of the commodity, which has effects on its price as a fuel and increases its cost as an input to the other uses as well.


  1. Hello
    What a great thing that you are doing!
    My girlfriend and I are about to do something similar. We are buying a diesel RV, class A, to convert to WVO.
    Your blog is very helpful!
    Have you acquired oil from restaurants along the way? Do you know how this request is received? I have heard that McDonald’s is a good resource while cross country traveling.
    Thanks and keep up the good work!!

  2. Howdy Robin –

    Your adventure sounds great. We were VERY careful about picking up wvo on the road. You have to have a bomber filtration set up to pick it up, filter it and immediately put it in use. We collected and filtered from a local restaurant (in our home base city of Alameda) and then used it as we came and went from the home base. We did buy wvo ready to use and already filtered. it was about $2.50/gallon. List of places here –

    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

    For on board filtration check out –!/~/product/category=563879&id=2047104

    As far as approaching restaurants I would think that many would be open to donating – just be careful of how and where they store waste oil – make sure no water or cleaners are in it. Call ahead if you can and let them know you will be in the area.

    Good luck!

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