Grease it up!

“Greasecar” conversion kit for 1979-1994 Mercedes sedan

1981 Mercedes sedan all "greased" up!

 

Do you have a diesel passenger vehicle or pickup truck?  Do you want to spare yourself some of the burden of high diesel fuel costs while also reducing your carbon footprint?  If so, you should consider converting your car to run on used vegetable oil.  It may sound pretty wild, but take a few minutes to consider the benefits.  There are four big reasons why vegetable oil (or “grease,” as it is often nicknamed) is a more environmentally-friendly energy source than gasoline:

1) Grease is a carbon-neutral fuel, meaning that its combustion does not release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the fuel took out of the atmosphere when it was in the form of a photosynthesizing vegetable.  This helps to reduce the severity of global climate change.

2) Grease is a sulfur-free fuel, which means that it does not release some of the main carcinogens that diesel fuel emits.  This makes it a healthier fuel choice.

3) Grease is a NOx-free fuel, meaning that it does not have the necessary gases to make smog and acid rain.  This leads to less air pollution.

4) Grease is a recycled fuel, because it has already been used once to cook our food even before the grease hits the fuel tank.  By utilizing an energy source that restaurant owners often simply toss into a landfill after it is no longer of use to the restaurants, we can help reduce the mountainous size of dumps.  Also, since restaurants have no more use for the grease, they are generally willing to give it away for free.  And who doesn’t like saving money?

 

Of course, all solutions present their own problems.  Grease is not for everyone, and here is why:

1) Grease must be filtered in order to be used in an engine, an endeavor which requires time, effort, and some specialized tools.

2) Grease must be stored at room-temperature once filtered, which poses a problem for most single-home-owners and renters.

3) While diesel engines combust the grease just fine, a conversion kit including a separate fuel tank and tubing needs to be installed in the car.  The kit itself costs over $1,000 (but quickly pays for itself), and installing it takes time, though it can be done with a moderate level of knowledge regarding how an automobile works.

4) The car must be started on diesel fuel in order to give the car a chance to warm the grease up–or otherwise it solidifies partly and will not flow consistently to the engine.  This can use a lot of diesel fuel in the winter and for short trips.

5) The grease must be non-hydrogenated used vegetable oil, which is not necessarily the type that all restaurants are using.

6) It is becoming more and more difficult to obtain grease from restaurants, because the cooking supplier companies that sell fresh vegetable oil to its restaurant customers are now beginning to buy back the used grease in order to sell it to biodiesel companies.  Once a restaurant has signed the supplier’s contract, it has no choice but to sell the oil back to its supplier.  What should happen, then, is that local greasecar owners need to get to the restaurants before the restaurants are forced hastily into a binding veggie oil contract, and car owners need to offer the same price for the used oil that the suppliers are offering (which is still less than the cost of diesel).  Otherwise it seems that capitalism will once again crush the little guy; ironically enough in this case it will be the environmentally-minded biodiesel companies crushing the more-environmentally-minded individual citizens.

 

Conversion kits for available models can be purchased at greasecar.com.  Also check out their website for FAQs, to join the greasecar community, and for support and maintenance of greasecar products and vehicles. If you are interested in this topic or have any questions or thoughts, please contact me at emilyb.challenge@gmail.com.  I currently drive two family-converted greasecars, and I would love to discuss them, used vegetable oil as a fuel source, and possible courses of action regarding obtaining grease from restaurants.  I think this is a great path toward greener, cheaper energy, one which we should continue further down.  I would strongly urge you to consider whether you would be a viable candidate to grease it up!

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