Saturday, December 8, 2007

Central America: Diesels Reconsidered ; Injection Pump Update

Thursday marked the end of a 3 week surfing trip in Costa Rica, and after spending 24 hours in San Jose, I can't say I'd be real excited if we had more diesels here in the United States. Those familiar with Central American traffic know that it's noisy, congested, and dirty--really dirty. Diesels make up the lion's share of vehicular traffic in most other countries, and consequently have a substantial impact on local air quality. A permanent cloud of bluish smoke permeates the city streets of San Jose, making foot traffic extremely unpleasant and unhealthy. Additionally, meeting such a large diesel fuel demand with petroleum alternatives would simply be impossible, even if Costa Rica's entire palm oil operation (which is substantial) was diverted to the issue.

In other news, Seattle Injectors has informed me that my Toyota's injection pump is 'beyond salvage'. I've instituted a worldwide search now for 2LT diesel injection pumps, with limited success. While in San Jose, I did some research since I thought Costa Rica would be the perfect place to pick up Toyota parts. The Toyota dealership said 'sure, we can get one for 1,500,000 colones ($3000)'.

I also called Toyota dealerships in Vancouver B.C. and they told me this model pump has been discontinued, which doesn't come as much of a surprise, but means my truck is dead in the water until I can find a new one. Hit Google with a search for 'Toyota 2LT injection pumps' and you will now find multiple forum threads on the topic. I'm throwing out a broad net.

My best bet may actually be in Karachi, Pakistan. The administrator of the OFFROADPAKISTAN forum says I may be in luck. At the conclusion of this little adventure I'll be sure to post all forum topics and resources for those of you following my footsteps.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Toyota Diesel Injection Pump Failure

Goodbye injection pump. That's a hell of a way to end a day of surfing, but after some troubleshooting and another tow to the mechanic, we've discovered that my breakdown resulted from injection pump (IP) failure.

This is an excellent opportunity for anti-SVO critics to rail against veg. oil conversions. But I firmly believe the conversion is at fault, which once again amounts to operator error. Greasecar kits do not have a temperature gauge, which makes it impossible to maintain optimum fuel temps. What most people don't understand (and I'm not sure how you would know this without using a system with a temp gauge) is that SVO temp fluctuates wildly during normal operating conditions.

For example, draft a semi and your SVO temp will increase 20 degrees F. Pass that same semi and you'll see the temperature gauge plummet. It all has to do with the amount of air flowing across the engine and SVO lines. Temps can also change dramatically at the bottom of hills (inversions), and obviously fluctuate based on cruising speed.

So how the hell do you know if your Greasecar kit is up to temp?
You don't.

I'd planned on testing the system by installing a digital temperature gauge right before the injection pump, and I may still do that. But I'm not sure I want to put it through any unneeded stress after the $500-$800 rebuild.

In any case, here are some forum topics about Toyota 2LT injection pumps:

1985-1987 Toyota diesel Trucks - Injection Pump Forum Topics:
Nissan diesel forum: Nissan SD22 or Toyota 2L?
1987 Toyota TurboDiesel 2LT Injection Pump Failure
Toyota Diesel Forums - needing a new lift pump

Specifications: the pump is a rotary, Denso model 096000-3210.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tip of the Month: Always Buy Towing Insurance

Make sure you buy towing insurance. It only costs about $10 / year, and it will save you a lot of money. In fact, I can't figure out how insurance companies can afford to offer this kind of insurance at all.

Last week, I was driving home from the coast when I lost power - the sort of feeling you get when a filter clogs or you run out of fuel - and switching back to the diesel system didn't solve the problem. The truck ended up spending the rest of the weekend in someone's driveway, until I could figure out what my towing insurance covered.

It turns out, that for a measly $5 / 6 months, SafeCo. Insurance will tow you to the nearest towing facility and pick up the bill. I decided to have the truck towed to my house (worked out to be the nearest facility for my repairs) to see if I could solve the problem without incurring additional mechanical expenses. The last thing you want to do is let a auto shop get a hold of your vehicle.

The towing bill came out to be a whopping $123.20. All I had to do was fax them the bill, and I had a reimbursement check within 3 days.

This is the second time I've had a major towing incident with old diesels (the last one cost me $90). Don't go out without towing insurance.

Question of the Day

I received this question today from Shawn on Facebook:

Is there any local group/info for biodiesel and/or veg oil conversion?
I don't really have the option now, with a gas car, but hoping that my next will be a diesel.

Good questions.

There is one group on campus, the OSU Biodiesel Initiative.
About a year ago I worked with them quite a bit. We built a biodiesel reactor in the basement of Gleeson hall, and would have used it for converting cafeteria grease, but the local fire marshal shut us down.

The initiative's ultimate goal is to build a small-scale reactor facility and education center on campus. Join the listserv on the website to find out about meetings.

As far as veg oil, there are two companies in Corvallis: Enviofuel and Greaseworks. They sell conversion kits and work full-time converting vehicles. Nate at Enviofuel is typically more accessible for questions than Justin at Greaseworks, but both are a wealth of information. By the way - Greaseworks was one of the original biodiesel/SVO groups in the country as far as I know.

Beyond that, a few of us have batted the idea of a grease coop around, but I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon. It seems like there's plenty of oil to go around though, and I have a bit of a stockpile at the moment. If you need help with the process of getting a diesel or converting it, let me know. I'm trying to compile that type of information on my blog, and I've also written some things on, like the Biodiesel Mythbuster.

Let me know if you have more questions.


Friday, October 19, 2007

VegTruck Has a New Look!

That's right folks, the VegTruck has been upgraded. While saying farewell to the old Datsun will be a bittersweet affair, I have to make room for something new: a 1987 Toyota Diesel Toyota Xtra Cab 4x4 with Greasecar SVO conversion.

You may be thinking:
"Where, for the love of God, did you find a Toyota Diesel?"
And I would have to reply: "Canada eh!"

Well, indirectly. I found the truck on the Toyota Madness Forum, which is obviously a good place to look for Toyota Diesels of Canadian Origin (Toyota made very few diesels for the U.S. market). This truck happened to be located in Bozeman, MT, imported to the U.S. by the previous owner. So I took a weekend trip to Bozeman and picked it up. The whole thing was a risky proposition, but the trip turned out to be a total success. Todd (the seller) was extremely helpful and hospitable, and it became evident that just about everyone in Montana had the same disposition. The local grease coop filled us up with 50 gallons of filtered, dewatered veg. oil, and we drove the more than 1,000 miles home all on SVO. I would at some point like to post some pictures of the *extensive* grease filtering operation they had there.

The upshot for the VegTruck Blog will be new posts on a different vehicle. I plan to run a few tests on the Greasecar system, especially system operating temperature (they don't come with temp. gauges).

This also means that the original VegTruck - of which, sadly, I haven't posted more about (yet), is for sale. It's a 1982 Datsun 720 Diesel King Cab with top-of-the-line Enviofuel SVO system installed, including a 36 gallon tank that gives it a range of 1000 miles. Let me know if you're interested.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Inital Thoughts on the Carbon Balance of SVO

The phrase "emissions reductions" seems to be wholly misconstrued by a disturbingly large portion of biofuel advocates, critics, and average folks with limited information on the issue. Last month, during a forum on plant-based fuels at Burning Man, a representative from one unnamed biodiesel manufacturer stated plainly that "biodiesel is emissions free". When pressed, the speaker admitted uncertainty about the definition of "emissions free", and whether or not biodiesel fits that bill.

I can clear that up right now: anything the burns produces emissions. What the spokesperson was trying to say is that biodiesel may offer emissions reductions over regular diesel fuel. And this is true: biodiesel reduces the emissions of most pollutants by about 50% (see my biodiesel mythbuster for more detail).

That being said, it's always important to qualify statements about emissions reductions with the source of the fuel under discussion. Why? Because NET emissions are different for all of them. Just last Friday, researchers released a new study showing that ethanol made from most feedstocks, and biodiesel made from rapeseed (canola), actually increase net greenhouse gas emissions (via increases in Nitrous oxide - N2O).

That's quite a buildup to the purpose of my post: How does Straight-Vegetable-Oil fare in the battle to obtain the most significant GHG emissions reductions (I'll deal with other pollutants later)? Here are some initial thoughts on the issue.

SVO reduces net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (when compared to biodiesel) for the following reasons:

  • SVO is typically a recycled waste product collected from restaurant fryers. GHGs produced in cultivating, harvesting, and processing the feedstock shouldn't be counted since they would occur anyway.
  • SVO requires almost no processing or transport when compared to biodiesel. Oil, even used vegetable oil, must be transported to a biodiesel manufacturing facility, processed, shipped to a distributor, and then shipped to local retailers.
  • Here's an interesting tidbit that warrants further research: According to the Greasecar exhibit at this year's Burning Man, waste oil is typically picked up by chemical companies that ship it to China for processing. There, it's turned into pet food or cosmetic bases and shipped back to the United States. If this is true, using SVO domestically actually circumvents significant CO2 emissions and therefore is carbon negative. You could even call it a carbon sink.

While I can't substantiate this yet, I also don't have any reason to believe it's not true.

The moral of the story is this: any discussion about biodiesel/SVO pros and cons must take into account the specific oil source. The best answer is almost always 'it depends..."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vegtruck goes to Burning Man

Last week concluded this years Burning Man, which you can read more about [here].
It wasn't difficult to tell which vehicles had been on the playa for 8-days. After a brief rain and several dust storms, everything was plastered white, and I leap-frogged burners all the way back to Oregon.

This year's theme, the Green Man, warranted additional consideration for reducing personal impact. Before leaving Corvallis I was able to fill myauxiliary 36-gallon tank with vegetable oil from a local restaurant (thanks to Enviofuel for topping it off with filtered oil), and also picked up a spare fuel filter for the SVO system (Davco 234). My stock tank was filled with b100, as per usual in the summertime. I figured that at 26 mpg (which is possible when the truck is fully loaded with 388 lbs. of fuel and steel tank - 30 mpg is standard) I would need exactly 36 gallons to make it to Burning Man and back - about 850 miles or so.

My calculations were right on, and I'm happy to report that I used a grand total of less than one gallon of biodiesel on the trip, relying solely on 100% vegetable oil. It went something like this: as I was getting onto the highway in Corvallis, I switched over to the SVO system. I drove through Oregon and into Northern California, stopping for less than 30 minutes per stop (I don't like to let it sit on SVO for too long), and thenswitched back to b100 to camp. I did the same thing on day 2, and the whole way back. My stock tank fuel gauge was pegged slightly below 'F' when I pulled into the driveway in Corvallis.

Total fuel cost for the trip: < $3.30 + $8.64 (Road Tax) = < $11.94


Upon arrival I hurried over to a scheduled biofuel demonstration which turned out to be a friend from Corvallis representing Enviofuel (it's a small world we live in). They were making french fries and talking about SVO systems - always a good time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rollin' in the Golf TDI - 45 mpg on B99

Trying to save the planet with the car you buy? Forget hybrids and get a diesel. A co-worker of mine just bought a 2000 VW Golf TDI. This stylish little bugger is getting 45 mpg on B99! That makes the Prius look kind
of sad considering the additional technology required for similar fuel efficiency.

Obviously, the VW Golf will reduce my co-worker's carbon footprint by using less fuel than the average vehicle, but running it on B99 will further reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by about 40%. Combine that with conscientious vehicle usage and this is about as green as an internal combustion engine can get.

If I was primarily a city driver, I'd look for a small passenger diesel like this one (expect to pay about $6000 for a VW Golf good condition). Another good choice is the 1996 VW Passat Wagon - I've heard these get up to 55 mpg!! These are excellent choices for commuter vehicles, especially if biodiesel is available in your area.

Of course, if you are desirous of a little more freedom, range, or further reduction (?) in carbon footprint, the SVO option is available, but tends to make more sense in larger vehicles (like a truck). Otherwise the trunk space gets appropriated for the vegetable oil tank. In any case, these vehicles can be found in Autotrader or a quick Google search. Try Craigslist for older models.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Phillips

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

2001 VW Beetle TDI WVO Conversion

Here's a new blog dedicated to recording the conversion of a new VW Beetle.

Wouldn't it be sweet to get 45+ mpg on WVO? But where will the tank go?

The conversion kit comes from Frybrid, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

SHUTDOWN: Getting Busted for Straight-Vegetable-Oil (SVO)

It's all fun and games until the IRS knocks on your door. At least that's what Bob Teixeira must be thinking after his home state of North Carolina fined him $1,000 for converting his 1981 diesel Mercedes to run
straight-vegetable- oil (SVO). Bob was minding his own business when fuel inspectors, out to nab weekend-RVers using illegal fuel, noticed his "Powered By 100% Vegetable Oil" bumper sticker. After being fined by the state for allegedly avoiding motor fuel taxes, Bob was told he should also expect a nice fat $1,000 fine from the Feds, in addition to a $2500 bond if he wants to continue using vegetable oil in his fuel tank.

Prompted by high gas prices, global warming, and good old curiosity, more and more proud diesel owners are converting their vehicles to run on 100% vegetable oil. While the concept isn't new, the number of dedicated users is steadily increasing, and this means more potential conflict with regulators who have no idea what to do with the vegetable oil crowd. Since vegetable oil is not recognized by the EPA as an official alternative fuel, most states have not decided how to handle the issue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Site Construction Underway

I'm happy to say that VegTruck blog construction is now underway. I've been mulling over certain ideas for the last few weeks, trying to free up the time, excited about the possibilities. More people have asked me for an explanation of the SVO thing in the month than I've had time to answer. A lot of this comes from MySpace traffic, as I recently opened an account. That was a mistake, in terms of time allocation, since everyone asks what I've been doing. Well, I'm going to write a large part of it down here... stay tuned.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Let me welcome you to the initial post for the VegTruck blog. Although the name is generic, the story is unique, and is intended to provide you with useful information. In this story you will find a common theme: the quest for sustainable transportation. The last 2 years of my life have been dedicated to this end, what I find to be the most difficult task of personal sustainability. Here you will find detailed information about converting a diesel vehicle to run on vegetable oil...