Ten Things I’ve Learn About Driving A Car Powered by Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)
What makes a seemingly rational guy, who can afford to drive pretty much whatever car he wants to, trade in his shiny, new Audi for a 27-year old Mercedes 240D that runs on waste or straight vegetable oil (WVO/SVO)? Well, in my case, someone took the time to call me out on my level of willingness to make a difference–or at least try to.
In late 2007, my partner and I took on a brand development project for a fledgling, Washington DC-based hybrid limousine company. These guys were not only driven by a real desire to reduce their industry’s carbon footprint, but also to engage with the theoretical decision makers on Capital Hill. Every week, we’d be on these long conference calls, where I would inevitably begin to complain about the escalating price of gasoline and the perils of foreign oil dependency. Finally, one of these brave entrepreneurs told me to shut up and do something about.
As with all my Gas 2.0 articles, I feel compelled to readdress the fact that prior to my grease car adventure, I had absolutely no experience working on cars, and still, to this day, have only a very basic understanding of what makes them go. While not particularly proud of this lack of “gear-headedness”, I think it’s important to know that you don’t have to be a full-on car geek to pull off some good results using WVO/SVO as an everyday fuel source.
So here are the top ten things I’ve learned in the past year. Please remember, this is just one man’s opinion, based on the real-life experience of saving approximately $2,600.
1. Don’t over-think it. I know from many of the comments I receive here (often angry) that you may feel compelled to do tons of research on veggie-powered cars, fuel filtering, the pros and cons of the different conversions kits, and on and on and on. Go ahead and do your due diligence. There are a lot of great resources to explore (including of course, this site), and I urge you to check them all out. But please, don’t let your research keep you from taking the plunge. I meet roughly a dozen people a month that are in some perpetual phase of “research”. Sadly, most of these folks will never make the switch to WVO.
2. Line up your grease supply before you buy or convert your car. Sounds silly, but a lot of people skip this step and end up scrambling for a consistent fuel source. Most of us know at least one person who owns or manages a restaurant, diner, or pub. If you don’t, now is the time to befriend the guy who owns your local fish n’ chips joint. Here in the East, most restaurants still pay to get their used fryer grease hauled away. Out West, as bio-diesel becomes more readily available, the opposite is the case. Rendering companies are now, in some cases, paying the restaurants for their surplus oil, so lining up your suppliers becomes even more critical. I met with two local restaurant owners from places I eat at frequently to arrange picking up my grease about a month before I even got my car.