BioDiesel or Veggie Oil?
June 15, 2006 9:23 PM   Subscribe

BioDiesel or Veggie Oil? What is working for you?

I am about to purchase a Diesel Van with the idea of converting it to Bio-Diesel or Vegetable Oil. I would like to know peoples experiences with both options. (how well does vehicle run, conversion costs of both, access to fuel and overall feelings)

I live in SoCal area.
posted by goalyeehah to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Veggie oil will require a conversion while biodiesel won't. Biodiesel requires no changes, really. Maybe some tubes depending on ho wold the car is. Veggie Oil requires fairly significant changes.

The biggest difference is that oil gels in cold temeratures. You'll need some sort of warmer in the fuel tank if you plan on leaving your warm climate.
posted by GuyZero at 4:44 AM on June 16, 2006

Response by poster: Yes. I Realized that after I posted.
posted by goalyeehah at 5:37 AM on June 16, 2006

Oy. Yeah, I've now been fooled twice by this question. "What works for you?" sounds interesting.
posted by callmejay at 7:13 AM on June 16, 2006

I have a newer VW TDI and it runs fine on any blend of biodiesel I put in it. I did not make any modifications other than changing the fuel filter after the first tankful. There is a little loss in MPG when I run straight B100. Fuel is readily available from several area sources.

I live in the SF Bay area. In Southern California you can check here and here for regional biodiesel info.
posted by pgoes at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2006

goalyeehah, stop by subMedia and drop a note to my friend Frank Lopez. He has a diesel station wagon that runs on biodiesel and he made a short film [link to .mov] about the conversion/production process with the help of one of the musicians in Man Or Astroman.

The short film is called "Strikes Against Corporate America Part II: From the Fry Daddy to Your Car." Frank is a big proponent of alternative fuels and will be more than happy to assist you with any questions and/or network you with people who've tried every variety of alternative fuel. Good luck!
posted by NationalKato at 8:56 AM on June 16, 2006

I once attempted to convert a 1982 Chevy G20 van to veggie oil and failed.

Converting a van is tough because the engine is shoe-horned into a very small space. Certain parts I needed to access were obscured by larger parts that would have been a hassle to remove. You would also have to decide where to put an extra tank (unless your van already has two tanks).

You can start running your van on biodiesel without any conversion. Eventually you will have to switch to synthetic fuel lines and you'll have to monitor your fuel filters. Often biodiesel will dissolve the plaque that regular diesel builds up in the fuel tank. The plaque can clog your filters.

If properly processed and heated, both SVO (straight veggie oil) and biodiesel will make your car run better than dino diesel will.

Access to fuel? Veggie oil must be collected from restaurant waste. Access hinges on the number of (preferably Asian) restaurants near you and whether they will give you their waste. You can make biodiesel yourself from veggie oil (by chemically processing it) or you can buy it locally from biodiesel companies or coops.
posted by zonkout at 9:12 AM on June 16, 2006

Here are two helpful forums that taught me everything I know about biodiesel and SVO/WVO.

Greasecar Forums

Biodiesel Forums
posted by zonkout at 9:14 AM on June 16, 2006

I run two diesels, neither of which is converted to SVO. I run biodiesel when it's convenient, but even when I'm running petrodiesel, I figure I'm ahead environmentally and economically because diesels are that much more efficient than gassers. That, and my main diesel is a VW EcoDiesel, which has a catalytic converter.

OK, disclaimer over. Here are the pros and cons:

  1. Processing your own SVO does not require highly toxic chemicals; all you need is filtration.
  2. No messy byproducts to get rid of (as there are with biodiesel if you make your own).
  3. Assuming decent quality oil and proper filtration, SVO extends the life of your injection pump because the glycerin provides lubricity lacking in commercial petrodiesel.
  1. You have to convert your vehicle to run on SVO. The conversion consists, in the main, of adding an auxiliary fuel tank for the SVO, and tapping into the coolant system to get heat to preheat the SVO. An auxiliary tank is necessary because you can't shut your diesel off with the injection pump full of SVO; it will gel and clog the pump. So you have to switch to petro (or biodiesel) a few minutes before you shut it off, and you have to start on petro or biodiesel as well, and switch to SVO when the temps get high enough. Some companies are developing alternatives to tapping into the coolant system, but as far as I know that is still the best way to ensure that your oil is sufficiently preheated. (It needs to be preheated to lower the viscosity.)
  2. If for any reason your conversion does not adequately preheat the oil, you will get coke deposits on the injectors, which will shorten the life of the injectors and possibly the life of the engine itself. It will also overwork your injection pump.
  3. For SVO to make any economic sense (to you, the individual, at any rate), you have to gather it yourself as WVO. That takes a fair amount of time and travel.
Biodiesel, pros:
  1. You can make it yourself with a fairly inexpensive homebrew set-up, and there are people pretty much all over the country doing it that would be happy to help you learn how.
  2. You can just buy it ready-made at a co-op. And it promises to become much more widely available soon; in my podunk Midwestern county, they've just broken ground for a biodiesel plant and another group of investors is planning another.
  3. No conversion required, other than, as pgoes and zonkout note, possibly changing over some fuel lines and changing your fuel filter more frequently during the "break-in" period.
  4. Biodiesel, like SVO, lubricates your IP much better than petrodiesel.
  1. Homebrew biodiesel (and, if I'm not mistaken, commercial biodiesel) usually involves the use of toxic chemicals which are themselves petroleum derivatives. So if the object is to distance yourself as far as possible from petroleum, you would have to resort to using ethanol for processing instead, which is much more expensive than the methanol which is typically used.
  2. And, if you homebrew, you'll need to dispose of the sludgy by-product of the homebrew process.
Perhaps others can add to these lists; I've probably forgotten something.

One more thing, which may or may not be a concern to you: I'm pretty sure that running biodiesel will void your warranty in any new diesel. And of course running SVO would.
posted by bricoleur at 7:53 PM on June 16, 2006

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