?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

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Hristo Botev
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?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Hristo Botev »

I did a search on the forum to this (e.g., it appears that SClass might be the resident expert?); so apologies if there's already been a specific thread on this topic.

My situation, my family of 4 has 1 car which gets used for carting kids to/from soccer practices/games (including occasional weekend tournaments that are sometimes up to 1.5 hours away), and also for runs to the grocery store, etc. (which we're working on limiting by stocking up some stores like rice, beans, etc.). Neither DW nor I drive for our work commute.

The problem is the 1 car we have is actually a 8-cyl Ram 1500 truck, which we bought with the thinking that eventually we'd like to get a camper trailer. That's still the plan, but there's no reason to have a half-ton truck as grocery-getter and soccer limo.

So inspired by Peter Klamus's book I started googling around about the veggie oil conversion thing, which I knew nothing about until this weekend. I know this is not some sort of global solution--"if only everyone switched to restaurant veggie oil then we could save the planet!"--but, it looks like it could be a good idea for our family. I've got a couple of friends who own restaurants who said they'd be happy to give me their used frying oil. And I've got a small garage where I could set up a minimal filtering system (some of the rigs I saw on YouTube looked a bit over the top). And per Craigslist, it looks like there are quite a bit more 80s-era Mercedes diesels in my area for relatively cheap than I would've thought.

So, what am I missing? What's the catch (apart from the smell, the messiness, and the time/labor involved)?

Alphaville
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:48 am
So, what am I missing? What's the catch (apart from the smell, the messiness, and the time/labor involved)?
it requires a conversion to handle the grease (heaters etc- catalytic converters?), and oil quality is not guaranteed, so this could quickly damage/depreciate your pricey truck. i’ve seen it done in old school buses and pickup trucks etc. where you can afford the experimentation. e.g. old vw rabbit diesel is a popular choice. maybe an old mercedes would work too, sure.

as for scalability, biodiesel competes with food crops for land, so now people have been looking at algal oil grown in deserts as an option—a bit like a solar farm.

Hristo Botev
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Hristo Botev »

Should have been clearer: I'm not thinking of doing this on my truck (it's not a diesel, for one); I'm thinking of buying an old 80s-era Mercedes or VW for a few thousand dollars and doing the conversion myself (the truck would likely sit in my in-laws' garage until it's needed). And not as a cost-saving measure, but more as a DIY hobby, as I've always wanted to learn more practical knowledge of car mechanics (with the added advantage of giving me some smugness street credit).

Also, I understand the scalability issue; I'm just asking if there're practical issues involved with us doing this on an individual/family level I maybe haven't come across in watching a handful of YouTube videos and reading Klamus's "Be the Change" book. Basically, for the next 8-9 years or so we're going to have to drive the kids around for sports-related activities, and I might sleep a bit better at night if I know that I'm having somewhat less of an impact on CC as I drive my kids to a neighboring city so they can kick a soccer ball around on a field with the kids from that city.

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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by jacob »

1) The fire hazard (insurance complications) associated with running a small-scale amateur oil refinery in your garage.
2) Your free source of frying oil drying up. I understand that used oil has positive value and some restaurants are able to sell it.

Alphaville
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

might be also a state/local emissions requirement.

eg, in the state of new mexico, vehicles registered in albuquerque must pass emissions test, but in the rest of the state you’re free to churn out black clouds from your exhaust. (rurals are allowed to pollute more).



eta: i should add i often get nauseous in diesel vehicles. locking a bunch of kids inside a box of random fumes on a long drive might not be ideal. but in a ranch trucking some haybales for a couple of miles, just open the windows

Toska2
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Toska2 »

So here are some technicals

1. WVO can be burnt as "straight wvo" in IDI diesels only. These diesels are those Mercedes 240D & 300D , vw rabbits and ford 6.9 and 7.3 non-powerstroke. All the above are now weak engines that are dangerous on freeways.

2. Straight and processed WVO gels at a much higher temp than diesel. The tank, fuel lines and fuel filters need to be heated. iirc most people mix with diesel, lessens this issue but also rate of return.

3. WVO straight goes rancid and I believe that WVO processed absorbs water which damages injectors instantly. Your batch process might waste more fuel than you burn.

4. Using that WVO in an oil burner to heat a house is faster, easier and cheaper.

5. The batch processing takes up considerable space in a garage.

6. Certian locales require a permit to take WVO. It is considered a hazardous waste.

Alphaville
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

i’d trade the big truck for a used prius v :mrgreen:

(roomy+cargo space)

/me ducks

(but seriously, i like that vehicle, though you might not)

back seats fold flat and can get pretty cavernous with 2 passengers

https://assets.newcars.com/images/car-p ... oto-15.png

otherwise, classic minivans are great roadtrip vehicles. ample room, fuel efficient, passengers welcome, etc. yes they are not “macho” signaling but highly practical. hence real men secure in their manhood will drive them with no shame.

eta random findings: https://community.cartalk.com/t/what-ki ... van/30843/
https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/min ... -love-them

Hristo Botev
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Hristo Botev »

@alphaville: It's tempting, certainly. Sell the truck (and it's ~16mpg) for ~$42K and buy a used Prius (40+mpg?) for ~$6K; that'd pay for Catholic school tuition for 2 kids for 2.5 years. DW is hoping we get an Airstream sooner rather than later, though; so it's going to be a tough sell. That said, her priority (mine also; but it's really the driving factor for bringing DW around to the ERE mindset) is the kids' schooling--so, maybe?

Is what the Prius has going for it is that it's battery is charged by the gas engine, as opposed to something like our old Leaf, where the power comes from coal/natural gas? I've only ever heard people complain about their Prius, so I don't know. That said, if I had to guess people complaining about the Prius is because it lost its smugness appeal when the electric cars became a bit more mainstream.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Mon Nov 16, 2020 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Hristo Botev
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Hristo Botev »

As for the "macho" signaling; I'm the guy walking down the sidewalk after dropping the kids off at school, on my way to work, wearing over-cushioned running shoes with a grey suit, as all my friends from church/kids' school, and my neighbors, drive by with a wave and a honk, b/c "no longer give a shit" is my favorite thing about being in my 40s and ~FI. I'm also the guy whose big bicycle upgrade a couple years ago for my own commuter and grocery getter was sticking these (https://www.rivbike.com/collections/han ... 5cm-x-25-4) and this (https://www.rivbike.com/collections/rac ... 3334714753) on the front of my 1985 Schwinn. I also spent a somewhat drunken night in the church parking lot a couple years ago trying to figure out if we could fit my Leaf into the back of my friend's F-350. So a Prius would suit me just fine, but only if I get to stick a "MAGA" bumper stick right next to a Citizens' Climate Lobby one (jk, though just a little bit--maybe instead: "Birkenstocked Burkeans for a Carbon Tax"?).
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Mon Nov 16, 2020 1:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Alphaville
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

haaahaaaa ok

so, prius v is nice and big, prius c is a shoebox. they don’t make the v anymore, they make a... something else. the v was like a refrigerator on wheels, very simple, 2 people can sleep in the back with seats folded.

you’re a family of 4 though (plus kid’s friends)...and minivans, even the ordinary types, are crazy efficient with gasoline. even if not hybrid— one tank keeps going & going vs large pickup (i rent minivans for roadtrips, have slept in them).

your insurance might go down as well since potential liability is diminished.

idk about airstream. rent a truck to pull when needed?

Hristo Botev
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Hristo Botev »

Any problems with the batteries in older Priuses [sp?]? Anything to avoid?

Alphaville
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

the v was recent, was just not a popular model (“unsexy” i guess).

maybe start here? https://repairpal.com/reliability/toyota/prius+v or https://www.carcomplaints.com/Toyota/Prius_v/2012/

one caveat for diy is hybrid repairs need specialized mechanics due to high voltages, whereas conventional gas is much more diy friendly and you or any indie mechanic can manage easy.

Riggerjack
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Riggerjack »

I'll back up Alphaville on the Prius.

He is recommending the Prius V, the van version. I drive the Prius C, or child size (though they claim it's short for City).

I'm over 6' and over 275lbs (#_!$# C19 weight gain!) And it's comfortable for me.

Going for the V should fit the kids well.

For what it is worth, I shop for cars at copart, and pull them from the waste stream. Not a bad source if you want a project.

Back to the original subject, my old boss drove a VW Golf on biofuel. He sourced his biodiesel from a service that delivers processed biodiesel in a 55 gal drum, so he just needed room for 2 barrels in his garage, and he filled up at home, and ordered a spare barrel when he emptied the first.

He said his only modification to the VW was a different fuel line.

YMMV. Good luck!

Hristo Botev
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Hristo Botev »

Thanks all. I think this is all just an exercise is me coming to terms with the realization that we shouldn't have bought the truck. We get carried away, and are very impulsive. It's funny that we never manage to hold on to "new" cars for very long; exchanging them for used cars sometimes within a matter of weeks because we get tired of the car payments (though now we tell ourselves it's OK to buy new because we pay cash), or because the "new" car gets a scratch or a dent.

Regardless, a pick-up truck designed for towing a camper trailer is a bad idea for a grocery getter and soccer limo.

anesde
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by anesde »

I drove a Prius for about 2 years (work vehicle), driving hundreds of miles every week. It was a 2011, allocated to me with 80,000 miles and I took it up to 120,000. I’m not sure of the exact model. I really liked the car; it was very spacious and had tons of room, especially with the seats folded down. It was also surprisingly quick when I ran it with both electric and gas engines running simultaneously - the electric gives incredible torque making it very zippy when I punched it.

I also drove a 1980 Mercedes CD300 (“compact diesel”, a two door tank that no one would ever call compact today). I love that car, lots of good memories as a kid taking a family roadtrip from NY to Texas in it (family of 4 sleeping in it whenever there was no vacancy at the cheap motels). I drove it in high school, college, and again after I graduated for a few years. It definitely suffers a bit getting up to speed on freeways but once you’re cruising there’s no better vehicle IMHO.

I thought about running it on WVO post graduation but my father (who bought it used in 1985) was afraid of ruining the engine and I dropped the notion of doing it once my company started paying gas/tolls.

Reading your journal I think using WVO would likely be more about scratching an itch to be more hands-on vs. really tackling CC. Nothing wrong with that (I have similar inclinations, currently thinking about making my own sheepskin rug over Christmas as my aunt will be slaughtering a sheep and they just discard the skin which seems a massive waste to me). However, I think trading for a used Prius is likely a better move, both financially and for CC. I would do your DD on the specific car, but I wouldn’t worry too much generally. It’s a popular choice for taxis which is always the best proof of a reliable car.

Alphaville
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

this is for more recent vehicles than the prius v (last manufacture 2017), but it widens your options with other possible models:

https://www.lendingtree.com/auto/best/m ... d-minivan/

notice the standard chrysler pacifica’s towing capabilities. might not pull a regular airstream, but maybe something lighter...

https://www.themanual.com/outdoors/best ... -trailers/

then again a good glamping tent might satisfice.

https://www.bestproducts.com/fitness/eq ... ury-tents/

https://www.rei.com/search?q=tent&sort= ... 7C4-person

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing

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Sclass
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Sclass »

If you’re still interested I can guide you along the most efficient path. I actually enjoyed driving my 1980s Mercedes diesels on SVO from 2004-15. I quit after I relocated and lost my sources. It was a thrill to not pay for diesel fuel especially when it hit $5.99 a gallon.

Most of the warnings here are ho hum. I don’t think anyone giving advice here has actually done this (apologies if I’m wrong). I got around all those issues. If you cannot deal with this easy stuff you won’t last very long. A lot of people here are confusing biodiesel with SVO. They have different challenges. One converts the car the other converts the fuel.

The big challenges now are 1) availability of good cars, 2) your ability to maintain a 40 yo diesel, 3) Mercedes making parts NLA for anything older than 25 years, 4) price of fuel. I have ways around all the other stuff. I never got caught on the legality even though I was breaking half a dozen laws at a time. No enforcement.

Cleaning up the fuel is another skill that needs to be learned. I got pretty smart about it at the end but it still is work. There is also the cost of filters which came out to around $50 a year. I can share some of the designs I finally evolved into using. I ended up building an automated system that ran on compressed air. Pour in dirty oil, come back a day later and collect fuel. At one point I even built the filter into one of my cars so I could fill my car directly from a dumpster but it took up too much trunk space.

Mixing in diesel is actually a good thing and shouldn’t be looked at as “diluting free fuel”. It makes your filters last longer by melting wax. It depends how you want to spend your money and time because changing filters is time consuming and expensive. There is an optimum amount of diesel one should mix for best results.

Back in 2004 I was in my accumulation stage and saving $2000 a year on fuel was a big deal. IDGAS now. That’s the depreciation on a new car.

It’s funny, my neighbor in LA got his oil free from his fast food franchise for years and he has finally quit too after a decade. He had the advantage of having a great source and being able to take only the “top oil” from the fryers unlike me. He sold the dregs to a renderer. Even then he got worn out. He drives a company Prius now wrapped in their logos.

Most people quit long ago. The fad is over. Greasecar went out of business. Only the faithful remain.

I’ll go dig for some photos of my filtering and recovery rigs. I had a really good heated filter design and heated fuel line design that was easy to make and very cheap.

I think I have some spare parts around like three way Pollack valves if you are interested in freecycling.

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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Alphaville »

Sclass wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:07 pm

Most of the warnings here are ho hum. I don’t think anyone giving advice here has actually done this (apologies if I’m wrong).
my experience with diesel vehicles is from operating pickup trucks, tractors, backhoes, etc. we kept diesel in steel barrels with a hand pump for farm equipment—safe to keep around as it’s not explosive. besides, it wasn’t right next to the house so no risk of feeding a fire.

being around diesel fumes makes me pukey, since my school bus days, so i’ve always been leery. running a tractor or backhoe i take fresh air breaks. driving a diesel pickup i open windows when possible.

clean diesel had promise, but the vw scandal was also a huge turnoff for everyone—a friend actually had his passat recalled, he switched car brands. then they also found out in london and other cities that nox emissions from diesel were worse than gasoline for air quality. it’s well know stuff by now.

so then i looked into biodiesel which is supposed to burn cleaner, but supply never took off. i just checked and there are only 4 biodiesel gas stations in my state right now.

i also looked into a fryer oil vehicle but gave up due to logistics. while i know restaurant owners, i have adhd and can get lost in busy-style procrastination, running around accomplishing little.

gasoline also is becoming cleaner and more efficient... and there’s hybrid and full electric (coal-powered). what to do?

so eventually i cut the gordian knot moved to a pedestrian friendly area and ditched all motor vehicles.

but now, with covid... i’m entertaining the notion of an emergency jeep... maybe a diesel so it can last forever? :lol:

i’ll do fryer *if forced by circumstances* but not as first or second or third choice in life.

also... i hate rats! do they like grease?

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Sclass
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Sclass »

Most people have quit. Usually people in the hobby ask how many miles have you driven on SVO/biodiesel. If you do it a few years you must have figured out the problems that scare the majority of dabblers away. The rest are those who have read about it online but haven't tried it.

People debate damaging the cars with SVO all the time. I'm on the fence. I'm not sure if it is good or bad. My leaning after rebuilding injectors is that it doesn't harm/coke the injectors or wear out the pumps. The comments on water are irrelevant because all the fry oil I've collected has been dewatered in a fryer. Biodiesel brewers need to remove water because the transesterfication reaction can be disrupted by water. SVO people use oil as long as it doesn't have emulsified water in it - which is visible.

That being said I don't think I'll be taking up SVO any time soon. I like my engines too much. I'm going to drive them on diesel till they're dead.

Okay, here are some images. My garage "refinery" took up very little space. I pour the oil into a modified BBQ gas tank, close the valve and pressurize with compressed air. The oil is pushed through a whole house filter. The flow rate at 30 psi is a slow trickle. You get five gallons in a few hours. Fill, pressurize and walk away. If you look at the other techniques shown online, like crank pumps, micron sock filters and centrifuges it can be very time consuming. It took me a few years to settle on this method. Low labor and low cost. I went through a $1 filter every fifty gallons.

Image

Custom tank I welded up for my car. I did this at work out of company materials. Thank you Bill and Dave.

Image

Waste oil/diesel switch in the car. So you start on diesel and you switch over to oil after the car warms up. My machinist made me that black beauty ring. He even anodized it.

Image[/url]

Version 1 of my filter. The gas can eventually split as I went to higher and higher pressures to increase flow.

Image

Engine bay on my 240d showing some of the plumbing and switch gear. I plumbed using PVC airline from Home Depot. Purge valves were gas valves and the electric switch over valve was a 12V Pollack off a Ford pickup with twin tanks.

Image

A heated filter helps with fuel flow from the tank. I heated the line from the back of the car by running a copper fuel line along the exhaust pipe. Then I used this hot water heat exchanger (a coil of copper tube circulating radiator water) to heat the filter.

Image

Image

Changing the filter meant slipping it out of the coils. I wasn't terribly motivated to do this often so I tried hard to use clean oil. A little diesel fuel in the oil helped wash out the filter.

And that's it. Looks pretty easy right? As I said, everyone here is worrying about the wrong stuff. The game stoppers will be maintaining a smog exempt (old) diesel car, not getting tired of filtering fuel because it is hard if you do it stupidly. Learning how to sense a clogging filter emergency and reacting before it leaves you stuck on the side of the road with a dry injection pump. You basically have to get smart or you'll get tired of it in a year. Depends how you perceive the learning the process I guess.

None of this applies to newer diesels with higher pressure common rail systems and selective catalytic reduction systems. Do not do this on a modern car.

Cheers.

BTW - yes everyone said I'd attract rats. They weren't interested in the oil back in Los Altos. I lived in an almond orchard and they cached almonds in my shed right next to the oil filters. The funny thing is I brought some tools to my new home with oil stains on the handles. The screwdrivers I used to close valves and tighten clamps while filtering in the past. My new rats have eaten the plastic right off the handles like it was coated in chocolate nuttella.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: ?s about the Veggie Oil Diesel Conversion Thing

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

That's seriously awesome. I especially like that you fabricated your own fuel cell. I wouldn't be brave enough to trust my work for that.

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