Biodiesel Fuel Information

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Basics | Environmental Benefits | Types of Systems | More Info

Basics

Biodiesel fuel is diesel fuel that is derived from vegetable oil instead of petroleum oil.

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine. It can be mixed with regular diesel fuel at any ratio. Even small ratios of 20% biodiesel to 80% diesel result in significant benefits to the environment. 100% biodiesel fuel can be used in diesel engines.

Commercially made biodiesel fuel can be purchased from a variety of sources across the US. It usually comes in 55 gallon barrels and costs between 2 and 3 dollars per gallon including delivery. In some cities you can drive up to a pump and fill your tank with biodiesel fuel.

If you have a source of vegetable oil (like waste from a restaurant's fryer) it is fairly easy and safe to make your own biodiesel fuel.

No conversions or adjustments are needed to run a diesel engine on biodiesel fuel.

It is also possible to run a diesel engine on straight vegetable oil, but a conversion is required for this. Kits are available for about $1000.

Environmental Benefits

The environmental benefits, of even mixing in a small ratio of biodiesel fuel are numerous. Here are some basic facts:
  • Compared to regular diesel fuel, biodiesel emits half the amount of Carbon Monoxide, particulate matter, and smog-forming ozone.
  • Compared to regular diesel fuel, biodiesel emits ZERO sulfates (the major contributor to acid rain)
  • Compared to regular diesel fuel, biodiesel emits 80% to 90% less PAHs (a known carcinogen)
  • Biodiesel fuel is non-toxic and biodegradable, posing no threat to human health. It is ten times less toxic than table salt.
(source: http://www.biodiesel.org)

Types of systems

There are basically three different ways you can utilize Biodiesel fuel in your vehicle. You must have a vehicle with a diesel engine before you can consider any of these options.

Purchase Biodiesel Fuel

This is what we're doing currently on the Solar Bus. If you have a diesel vehicle, you can purchase biodiesel fuel that is commercially produced, tested, certified, legal, and taxed for road use. You can use commercially produced biodiesel fuel in any diesel engine, usually with no modification. You can mix it with regular diesel fuel at any ratio. On our first use of biodiesel, we simply estimated how much fuel was in the tank and calculated about how much we had to put in to make a 50-50 mix, started the engine, and drove away. The Solar Bus ran perfectly and the only noticeable difference was the smell of the exhaust, which was much more pleasant than regular diesel fuel.

Obtaining this commercially produced biodiesel fuel is not always easy. In the Midwest, it is much more available than on the coasts. It typically costs more than regular diesel fuel (we paid $2.70 per gallon), and you may need to purchase it in 55 gallon drums and pump it into your vehicle with a hand pump. Regarding the extra cost over regular diesel, we feel it's well worth it, considering the environmental and health benefits. Some people pay extra for organic vegetables; in a similar way we feel it's worth it to pay extra for biodiesel. Currently biodiesel costs about 40% more than regular diesel, but the trend is for the gap to narrow.

To find a place where you can purchase certified biodiesel fuel, check out Biodiesel.org's current listing of suppliers.

Brew your own

Some people are making their own biodiesel fuel. They usually start with waste vegetable oil from a restaurant. Opinions differ on how easy and safe it is to make your own biodiesel but if you're interested in this, it's worth investigating. Read From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank, By J. Tickell for all the information you'll need.

Convert your vehicle to run on straight vegetable oil

Conversion kits are available that enable you to run your vehicle on used vegetable oil from restaurants. See Greasecar.com for more information. We hope to do this conversion soon on the Solar Bus.

More Info

Biodiesel.org
GreenDiesels.net
Greasecar.com
Ken Oldrid - Vegetable Oil Conversions
VeggieVan.com

An excellent book available that explains it all:
From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank, By J. Tickell