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News :: Education : Environment : Human Rights : Social Welfare : Technology
Drive Free - Veggie Fuel for your car
10 Jun 2006
How vegetable oil is turned into diesel fuel for cars
Thanks to recent television coverage, Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) is a fashionable topic in American living rooms. When you arrive at the deli requesting used cooking oil, they will act like you are their long lost cousin.


The first diesel engine, dubbed the Black Mistress, was invented in 1893 by Rudolf Diesel. Obviously, there was not diesel fuel before there was a diesel engine, so in the years that followed, Rudolf Diesel perfected his invention and discovered that this engine could run on practically any hydrocarbon, including shale oil, refinery tailings, coal dust, and peanut oil.

I feel like I am just taking the little Black Mistress invention (diesel engine) back to her roots. Letting her natural knotty hair grow out. Feeding her the food she was meant to eat, you know?

Running vegetable oil is what this engine was designed to do!


I run waste vegetable oil (WVO), which is different than biodiesel. Biodiesel is a vegetable oil - or animal fat - based fuel that can be run in any diesel engine without modifications. The benefits of biodiesel are that it reduces emissions by 80% and can actually be purchased at the pump in many large and small cities, especially common in middle America (farmers have been running biodiesel for decades).


The drawback to biodiesel is that it is a highly refined fuel, often processed from virgin oils or fats, that utilizes electricity and highly toxic chemicals, such as methanol in its production, and costs anywhere between $2.30 to $ 3.80 per gallon.

Furthermore, biodiesel destroys fuel lines and gaskets on older diesel engines. The toxic chemicals added to vegetable oil to convert it to biodiesel dissolves the rubber gaskets and fuel lines on older diesel engines. All the gaskets and fuel lines must be replaced with new items designed to withstand the chemicals in biodiesel. The cost of parts and the cost of labor of an mechanic can be expensive.

Moreover, on older diesel vehicles, the fuel tanks accumulate gunk over a period of time from the dirty petro diesel fuel. The chemicals in biodiesel will dissolve this gunk in the fuel tank and cause it clog up the fuel filters in a diesel engine. Thus, in many situations, the fuel tanks on older diesel vehicles must be replaced by a new tank. This will cost more money for parts and for labor of a mechanic.


Waste vegetable oil is literally used kitchen grease, the processing of which involves nothing more than hand-filtering to remove the deep-fryer floaters (water and microscopic food particulate).

See article: Collecting And Using Used Cooking Oil The Easy Way

The benefits of used vegetable oil are that it also reduces emissions by 80%.

It does not require chemicals or electricity in its processing. It is absolutely FREE. You will not be hanging out at gas stations anymore.

Most importantly, it prevents this massive byproduct of our fast-food industry from being dumped into the ground water or used in your body soap and cosmetics (yuk!).


Although, the Black Mistress diesel engine of 1893 could handle some good grease, the modern diesel fuel injection systems have been engineered to run on low-viscosity diesel fuel and can not handle thick grease, unless the viscosity is reduced first.

This can be accomplished in two ways:

1. Chemically transforming the oil into biodiesel
2. By heating the vegetable oil to a temperature of 160 - 180 degrees fahrenheit, the viscosity is reduced to that of diesel fuel, and voila, Rudolph’s dream is revisited.

So the conversion process is not an engine conversion at all, but a sort of add-on which heats and filters the WVO before it gets to the engine. With my car, a hot little 2001 TDI VW Jetta, the add-on begins at the main tank, which holds 15 gallons and is now used for waste vegetable oil. Two electric heating pads (drawing 7 amps each) are installed underneath the main tank, getting the grease started heating as soon as you put your key in the ignition.

From the heated main tank, an new fuel line is run to a custom 10 micron veggie fuel filter in the engine. The new fuel line is wrapped in the two lines of coolant borrowed from the thermostat, assuring that when the engine running temperature, the already heated main-tank veggie fuel will maintain 190 degrees fahrenheit temperature all the way to the fuel filter, which is wrapped in another 7 amp heating pad. At this point, the veggie fuel, filtered and fluid, is ready to go!

My 2001 TDI Jetta’s personal conversion includes one more add-on to accommodate my incorrigible gypsy lifestyle. You see, I can not tell you where I will be next week, let alone next winter, so I chose to install a two-tank system on my car. The tow-tank system equips my WVO machine with a small 5 gallon auxiliary tank (mine sits in the trunk around the spare tire) that is filled with biodiesel or diesel for cold-weather startup and shutdown.

[ Other methods for utilizing WVO in very cold weather,
see Plant Drive of Canada
They are operating WVO vehicles in the Arctic Circle.]

Prefabricated conversion kits start at $600 and go up to $3,000. Fortunately, for those with the ambition, mechanical inclination and a good set of socket wrenches, converting a diesel engine to run on Vegetable Oil, can be an inexpensive and very rewarding do-it-yourself endeavor. My personal conversion kit and installation cost a total of $2,500, which included four extra $40 veggie fuel filters, a $30 stash of filter bags and a $160 electric pump, all of which I would highly recommend. The electric pump plugs into my lighter outlet and is used to pump grease from one container to another, or from one container to my tank. That pump is invaluable, keeping me, this miniskirt-wearing girl, from getting greasy hands, etc.

Indeed, fueling your car with WVO requires more commitment and consciousness than pulling up to the gas pump (and losing your money to the oil pirates and robber barons), but if I wanted average results, I would be doing what average people do. I will settle for nothing less than an extraordinary life this time around, and will do with joy whatever it take to have it.

Tonya Kay
raw-food athlete, Educator, coach, dancer, actress and singer


Biodiesel can be used as home heating oil, but rubber fuel lines might have to be replace.

Waste Vegetable Oil also can be used as home heating oil, after filtering and some modifications to the heating system.


Vegetable Oil conversion kits for vehicles

book: From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank; author: Joshua Tickell

Making Biodiesel the Easy Way


Alternative Car Links

eco recycling - saving Energy and water intelligently

student organic gardens help food banks and help the poor.
Please help. Thank you.

PEAK OIL and Permaculture

Solar energy, solar heated homes - buildings
Solar heated swimming pools, spas and hot tubs.
~~Advanced Sustainable Technologies for Economic Progress
See also:

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Re: Drive Free - Veggie Fuel for your car
11 Jun 2006
Keep it local:

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