Q: What is the Veggie Car?
A: The SC4 Veggie Car is a 1982 Mercedes 300-SD powered by an in-line 5-cylinder diesel engine. Dr. Rudolf Diesel invented the first diesel engine in the 1890's and his first working prototype operated on 100% peanut oil. He fully intended the diesel engine to run on renewable organic fuels. Renewed interest in organic fuels came about during the oil embargo of the 1970's. Continued tension in the Middle East has made the idea very popular today.
Q: Can we put vegetable oil in the fuel tank of this car and expect it to work?
A: Actually, there is a separate fuel tank for the vegetable oil. The SC4 Veggie Car can run on regular petroleum-based diesel or straight vegetable oil-- the car has two fuel tanks. In order for the vegetable oil to work properly as a fuel, it has to be heated to 180 degrees (F) before being injected into the engine. We use the heat generated from the engine itself to heat the vegetable oil. The engine's cooling system radiates this heat. The cooling system on this vehicle has been modified to run directly through the vegetable oil fuel tank. Hence, the heat is transferred from the engine to the vegetable oil. We start the car using regular petro-diesel and once the car has reached an operating temperature of 180 degrees (F) we can switch over to vegetable oil.
Q: Isn't vegetable oil much more expensive than regular diesel fuel?
A: Of course it is. Vegetable oil costs about $5 a gallon. But vegetable oil does not need to be purchased at the store. Restaurants utilize vegetable oil to prepare many of their foods. French fries, for example, require tremendous amounts of vegetable oil. When the restaurants are finished with this oil, they are not allowed to deposit the oil in our landfill. The restaurant has to pay for someone to come and haul the used vegetable oil away. If you go into a restaurant and ask for their used vegetable oil, they are usually happy to give it to you for free. FREE FUEL! They probably won't even ask you why you want it. All you need to do is filter the used vegetable oil through a regular coffee filter 3 or 4 times and you have free fuel.
Q: How does the gas mileage compare to regular petro-diesel?
A: The person who donated the Veggie Car to SC4 drove it 5000 miles on straight vegetable oil. The gas mileage was the same either way. This can be verified by many others who have converted their diesels to vegetable oil (this Veggie Car is not the first). And the vegetable oil is a cleaner burning fuel than regular petro-diesel so the emissions are much better for the environment (Walwijk, 1995). In addition, the carbon utilized in this process has not come from deep within the earth (crude oil). The release of carbons from fossil fuels adds to the earth's greenhouse effect. The carbons from the vegetable oil are still released to the atmosphere, but they are basically recycled when new plants are grown for more vegetable oil. It is a closed system.