Making the Commitment: Powered by Vegetable Oil
The previous posts in this series have focused on solar PV and electric vehicles. For this last post I wanted to show that there are other ways to participate actively in sustainability and have always been inspired by Doug Allen, a colleague at BT, who runs his car on used vegetable oil.
I have been running a car on used vegetable oil for about five years. I had wanted to drive a more environmentally friendly vehicle, but I wasn’t ready to spend $30,000 on a Prius. I was intrigued when a friend told me that his VW diesel was converted to run with vegetable oil.
Back in 2005, through a fortuitous connection of my wife’s I came across an opportunity to buy a well maintained 1980’s Mercedes diesel for $1000. It had 150,000 miles which is low for a diesel engine of that age. It was just too good of a deal to turn down. For only $700 I had it converted to run on used vegetable oil by Lovecraft Biofuels and 60,000 miles later I have never looked back.
It is reliable, responsive to drive, eco-friendly, and best of all, I never pay for fuel. I do have to collect and process my own oil, but I enjoy that and don’t think of it as a cost at all.
Once a week or so, I visit a couple of restaurants whose kitchens I have inspected and trust, and I do them a favor by taking their used vegetable oil off their hands (in my experience soybean oil performs best). If I didn’t collect their oil, they would have to pay to have it taken away – so it is a win-win. I leave it to sit in a container at home and let the particles to settle and then put it through a manual filter process. Then it goes into my car.
You need some space in your garage and can expect to get a bit dirty. After all, it’s a hands on experience. But if you are up to it, it is simple.
Solar and an EV would be great one day, but for now, together with extensive recycling and a year round organic vegetable garden in the yard, driving my vegetable oil Mercedes has given me a lot of satisfaction and I would thoroughly recommend it.