When my fuel gauge starts heading for the red, it’s not a petrol station I start looking for, but a fast food restaurant!
Being a Vegetarian and Raw Foodist, it’s certainly not the junk food I’m after, but the waste frying oil. You see, I drive one of South Africa’s first true Greasecars, a retro-fitted 1998 Toyota Landcruiser which I’ve converted to run on straight vegetable oil (or SVO as it’s known amongst the greasing community).
My search for a “green” car only started in the middle of 2005, but the story of veggie-oil-powered engines starts way before that. It is as old, in fact, as diesel technology itself.
The inventor of the Diesel Engine, Rudolph Diesel, first showed his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. The engine was powered by peanut oil! Even then, Rudolph saw the benefit of an engine which could run off an environmentally-friendly fuel which farmers could produce for themselves.
In 1913, while on a boat trip to England to discuss converting their submarine fleet to diesel engines, he vanished. His body turned up a few days later, floating in the English Channel. The papers were filled with stories of assassination by the French who didn’t want the English fleet converted. The French fleet had already been converted to diesel by 1905. The petroleum industry was quick to capitalize and offer a cheap alternative by labelling one of its by-products as “diesel fuel”.
So that’s how dirty, stinking, polluting diesel fuel became the fuel for the Diesel engine and vegetable oil as a greener, cleaner less toxic fuel supply was forgotten.
The world was in the early throes of the oil explosion and this seemingly unending fuel source was available in huge quantity and at low costs.
As the years rolled on and fuel became comparatively cheaper, the heyday of petrol vehicles, big-ass American V8’s and family cars rolled in and diesel power was relegated to the workhorse engines of the farms and trucking lines. Some companies still continued to produce Diesel passenger vehicles; however these were almost always seen as the slow and dirty cousins of the petrol brigade.
Fast forward to the 1970s and the fuel crisis in South Africa. As fuel prices soured and availability was at an all time low, several farmers and diesel vehicle owners began experimenting with vegetable oil again. More successful was the research into Biodiesel and South Africa soon became a world leader in this regard. Less successful were those who tried running unconverted engines on vegetable oil or blends of oil and diesel. Although they worked for some time, most engines eventually clogged and had to be stripped down completely to remove the buildup from cylinders and glow plugs. Some engines were a complete writeoff.
Eventually though, both these routes were left in favour of South Africa’s coal to oil program (SASOL) which continues to this day.
So back to me and back to 2005. Fuel prices are souring, word is out that world oil peak is expected sometime between this year and 2012 and car manufacturers world wide are looking at a variety of new technologies for fuel.
The writing is on the wall, either we need to look at short term, realistic alternatives to petrol and diesel, or we will find ourselves in a cul de sac with no way of turning around.
After examining the various systems and methods of converting a modern diesel engine, I ended up choosing to go with the Greasecar kit (www.Greasecar.com) due to its superior manufacturing quality and backup.
The full conversion includes a heated fuel tank for the vegi oil, a set of heated fuel lines and filters, and a vegi oil gauge and switch for the cabin. The conversion is a 2 tank system which allows the vehicle to run on any waste vegetable oil, diesel or biodiesel so you have the freedom to chose whichever fuel you want to go with.
The vehicle is started on diesel and switched over to the vegetable fuel systems once the engine is warm. The conversion also has an all-important “flush” setting which allows the engine, injectors and filters to be purged of vegetable oil before switching off. This purging prevents the problems experienced by those who experimented with SVO in the 70’s in that all the oil is removed from the engine and replaced with diesel/biodiesel.
The fuel behaves much the same as Diesel with regards to economy and power, however many users of the system claim much reduced engine wear due to the lubricating qualities of vegetable oil.
Waste oil from pretty much any restaurant can be used and most restaurants will part with their old oil for R1 – R2 per litre at the most and some will even give it away for free just to not have to dump it. The waste oil is then left for the bits to settle, and poured through big coffee filters. Although more complex filtering systems can be set up, this is sufficient.
The emission reduction is incredible and the vehicle gives off a faint “chips frying” smell as opposed to the usual diesel fumes. Other than that, there is no way of telling that you are running on vegetable oil.
Besides the reduction in NOx (Nitrious Oxide) and PM (Particulate Matter, the black smoke associated with diesel engines) the Carbon Dioxide is “zero-weight”. This refers to Carbon Dioxide which was captured by the growing plants, now being returned to the atmosphere. Unlike fossil fuel, which pumps CO2 which has been dormant for millions of years into the atmosphere, a Greasecar is simply part of the natural CO2 cycle!
It’s time to take action, stop by-standing and start getting involved. Take a stand against pollution and free your vehicle to run vegetarian! Contact us and convert to Greasecar.
Some of the questions we are frequently asked:
How does the Greasecar system work?
The Greasecar system is a two tank fuel system. The vehicles existing diesel tank and filter will supply diesel fuel to the engine at start up and shut down. After start up radiator fluid will transfer heat from the engine to the heat exchangers in the Greasecar fuel system. These heat exchangers will heat the vegetable oil in the fuel filter, lines and fuel tank. The heat will reduce the viscosity of vegetable oil so that it is similar to diesel and can be injected into the engine properly. When the vehicle is being shut down for a period long enough for the fuel to cool the vegetable oil must be purged from the fuel system and replaced with diesel for the next start up.
Do you have less power with a Greasecar system?
There have been no complaints of power loss with converted vehicles. Some customers claim to notice smoother acceleration when running vegetable oil. May vary depending on vehicle.
Is there added engine wear using a Greasecar fuel system?
No. Studies show that vegetable oil has superior lubrication and detergent values over conventional diesel fuel. Examination of engines running with the Greasecar system has shown dramatic reductions of carbon deposits over petro diesel in the engines studied.
Is there any extra maintenance to be done on a Greasecar?
Greasecars require only routine filter maintenance; commonly available filter under R100 for replacement. Filter replacement intervals depend on how clean oil is before it is poured into the fuel tank.
What kind of fuel economy do you get using a Greasecar fuel system?
There should be no difference in fuel economy between diesel and vegetable oil. You will receive the high efficiency of a diesel engine on either fuel. (diesel engines are generally 40% more efficient than their gasoline counter parts)
Will a Greasecar fuel system reduce emissions?
Yes. There is no sulfur content in vegetable oil which eliminates the first major carcinogen associated with diesel fuel. Vegetable oil plants absorb more carbon dioxide from the air during their growing cycle that is released when the oil is burned, this means that vegetable oil does not produce excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (this is referred to as carbon neutral).
Due to a slightly cooler burn some studies have shown NOX reductions when burning vegetable oil. More studies are underway and results will vary depending on engine and tuning. As a sulfur free, bio-mass fuel vegetable oil emissions are less harmful to the environment and less toxic to people and animals.
Will a Greasecar work in a cold climate?
Yes. The Greasecar system is engineered to perform in any climate, requiring only slightly longer warm-up times in extreme cold. Greasecar modified vehicles are used daily in temperatures below -30F.
Where do you get your vegetable oil?
Most Greasecar users fuel their vehicles with filtered frying oil that is collected from local restaurants. Most restaurants are happy to sell their oil for between R1 and R2 and many will even give it away for free to avoid having to dispose of it.
What vehicles do you recommend for conversion?
Our standard systems are designed to work with any diesel passenger vehicle or light truck (custom kits available for larger applications). Currently we are still in research on certain newer “common rail” or “unit injector” equipped vehicles.
How much work is involved in installing a kit?
The Greasecar conversion kit is designed for a do-it-yourself installation. Some vehicles will be more complicated than others, if you are concerned about successfully installing the product contact one of our installation specialists.
What if you can’t find vegetable oil? Can you still use your Greasecar?
Greasecars are dual-fuel vehicles; The existing diesel circuit is left in place. The engine is started and shut down with diesel fuel and can operate using the diesel tank at any time.
Can I use any type of vegetable oil?
Yes, any type of vegetable oil will work in your Greasecar including hydrogenated oils. As long as the oil is filtered and free from water, bacterial and chemical contamination it can be burned in a Greasecar.
Will the Greasecar system work with TDI vehicles?
The Greasecar system has been installed in hundreds of new VW TDIs some of which have logged more than 100,000 miles since conversion and no problems have been reported.
Are there significant differences between the Greasecar system and other systems on the market?
Yes, the Greasecar system has been developed to offer more reliable operation and assembled from the highest quality materials and components. The Greasecar system has been installed in thousands of vehicles and logged millions of miles, we have been in research since 1998 giving us unmatched expertise in development, research, design and manufacture capabilities.
Features include tig welded aluminum tanks, 10 micron heated filter, QuickFlush in under 1 minute, open return circuit in diesel function, recirclation in veg function and our unique purge feature.
What should I avoid when securing an oil source?
Avoid sources that rinse their fryers with water. While water will settle out of oil a source containing water will require more attention and create contamination risks. It is also wise to avoid unsecure out door containers as they are more likely to contain water and bacteria contamination.
What type of restaurants tend to have the best oil?
Asian food restaurants and bar & Grilles tend to use pure canola or soy oil which has a lower gell point and will be easier to collect and filter. As a basic rule of thumb, higher quality restaurants will use higher quality oil, most fast food restaurants use hydrogenated oil.
Will oil go bad?
Vegetable oil is a compostable material and will go rancid if exposed to the elements or subject to bacterial contamination. Filtering and storing your oil in a sealed container in a cool place will extend its life. There are addatives called biocides that can be mixed with the oil to prevent bacteria from growing.
What does a “backflush” do?
Our backflush feature directs return fuel into the vegetable oil circuit at shutdown. This enables the injection system to be purged of vegetable oil in a very short period of time while priming un heated lines in the engine compartment with diesel. This feature can also be used to bleed air out of fuel lines without stopping the vehicle and opening the hood.
Can I modify my existing diesel tank to be used with vegetable oil?
Theoretically this is possible, although modification of a existing tank is not something Greasecar offers a system for. For numerous reasons including legality of modifying a DOT certified tank, difficulty and reliability of installation as well as other complications we have learned over the years.
Can I purchase a kit minus the tank?
We do not offer the sale of systems without tanks. Only the sale of complete systems.
Will adding a Greasecar Vegetable Fuel System void my vehicles warranty?
This seems to vary on a case to case basis and should be discussed with the dealer you have warranty coverage with. Generally we have found that the addition of a conversion system will at the most void coverage of fuel system components only.