By cutting fees for the legal transportation of kitchen grease used to make biodiesel for personal use from $400 to $75 per truck, California hopes that would-be backyard biodiesel grease thieves will pony up and go legit.
Prices for regular diesel have been historically high nationwide, and all over the U.S. people are turning to backyard biodiesel as a way to make cheap fuel — a fairly straightforward process that can be accomplished for less than $1/gal.
One of the most copious sources of inedible oil to make biodiesel is the nasty, used fryer grease leftover from commercial kitchens — and what cheaper way to obtain it than stealing?
Rotting, leftover fryer grease has turned into gold in the race to our energy future — and thieves have taken notice.
It’s early in the pre-dawn dark hours of the morning. A group of Northern California pseudohippies just finished a game of Zonk — or rather, the game just stopped because somebody quoted a line from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and everybody forgot what they were doing.
Yet, by a stroke of luck, the conversation about Harold and Kumar reminds the group of their real reason for staying up so late. They pack into a truck and head down to the local fast food joint looking to load up — but it’s not the food they’re loading up on, it’s the nasty, half-rotted, leftover fryer grease.
Engine Repower is a new service that gives car owners the option of replacing their old, worn out engine with a rebuilt engine of the same vintage instead of simply buying a new car or repairing specific problems. When a first saw this page, I was very interested, as I am a proponent of keeping your car as long as possible to reduce wasteful manufacturing processes, even in the face of promises of lower emissions made by newer cars.
[social_buttons] Teams from around the world are gearing up for the Automotive X Prize, a competition that will award part of $10 million to the team that builds the cleanest production-ready 100 MPGe (mile per gallon equivalent) vehicle.
This isn’t a race centered on space-age concept cars that will never see a US highway, but aims to jump-start the auto industry with revolutionary, super-efficient vehicles that consumers will actually want to buy. Entries must be ready for production and have a business plan outlining how they’ll be brought to market. They’ll also be judged on safety, cost, and features.
Recently Darin at EcoModder dug up a Car and Driver article from the middle of the US gas crisis in 1974. It may be a little dated, but considering recent gas price increases these kinds of DIY hacks are becoming relevant once again.
The material prices may be a little different, the cars may be a lot different, but surprisingly little has changed in terms of fuel economy and gas prices. The Car and Driver article is interesting because not only is it old, but it’s still relevant today.
As someone who has been around ecomodding for a while, I can vouch for the efficacy of many of these modifications, and have done some of them myself. So, if you’re really interested, I encourage you to get out there and do some yourself. None of them are engine modifications, or particularly difficult, so don’t feel intimidated by them. Some of the biggest fuel economy gains can come through aerodynamics and rolling resistance modifications.
Read about the modifications after the break.
Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) have taken some undeserved heat lately, with the recent hullabaloo over their potential to drain U.S. water supplies. But as some readers pointed out, it all depends when you charge them.
This week’s report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which evaluated the impact of a substantial increase in PHEV ownership, found that nighttime charging of PHEV’s would not increase electricity demand over baseline levels. In other words, no (or very few) new power plants would need to be constructed if plug-in owners only charged their vehicles at night.
Not everyone is waiting until 2010 to get their first plug-in hybrid. As I reported previously, Hybrids Plus out of Boulder, CO, is offering conversions for the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids, turning them into 100 MPG+ superstars.
I’ve collected a little more background on Prius hybrid hacks, and a few more resources. Check out this video, which should give you a good feeling for what getting 100 MPG would be like:
55 MPG isn’t good enough for you? Then try adding a plug to your hybrid.
Hybrid vehicles retrofitted with systems from Hybrids Plus of Boulder, Colorado can achieve a significantly greater fuel economy. In tests these systems increased hybrid fuel economy up to 120 miles per gallon in the city and up to 90 mpg on the highway. The cost for the conversion ranges from $24,000 to $36,000 depending on the vehicle and size of battery pack.
If you can’t buy the car you want, then build it.
Gregg Abott (aka Gadget) custom-converts cars for a living, but instead of tricking out cars to run on biodiesel or get better mileage, he’s hacking them to run on electricity. He’s the owner of Left Coast Electric, a Santa Monica based company with a simple philosophy:
“…if electric cars are going to make a difference, a lot of people have to drive them. They have to be made affordable.”
Which means these guys aren’t putting out $100K Tesla Roadsters, but are converting older models to have the same functionality:
So instead of building cars from the ground up, Gadget and his business partner, Roger Wilson, convert existing cars or shells of cars into electric vehicles by supplying or outfitting them with pre-configured kits loaded with everything an electric car needs except a new motor.
Admittedly, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Each kit costs $10,000 and requires the tenacity to dive into major auto electrical work. But if this type of conversion seems like a daunting task, Left Coast Electric will do the work for you—for $17,000 that is, including parts—which means that for the price of a Prius, your old car could be fully electric.
For $30,000, they’ll even convert your Hummer.
Trying to learn how to make biodiesel, or interested in seeing how it’s done? It always helps to get a visual, and you may not be aware that there are currently enough biodiesel videos on YouTube to develop an entire college course on the subject. I’ve thrown out a representative sample, just to give you an idea of what’s available.
While this is a good general introduction to homebrewing biodiesel, I have to repeat the disclaimer I made earlier (see 6 Ways To Find And Use Biodiesel Anywhere – Part II): before attempting this on your own it’s important to do your homework. Don’t trust it just because you’ve seen someone do it. Most of these videos don’t discuss the specifics of making biodiesel, and for that I would recommend a solid resource (also see the link just above): Biodiesel, Basics And Beyond: A Comprehensive Guide to Production And Use for the Home And Farm.
You’ll notice a lot of these videos utilize a homemade biodiesel reactor called the “appleseed” reactor. This is the simplest and cheapest way to build a biodiesel processing facility in your garage. The plans for it can be found here.
Number 1: Guy Makes Biodiesel In His Kitchen
I can’t believe his mother lets him do this in the kitchen, and where are his gloves?! (I have a particular affiliation for the video, though, since I had the same old truck.)
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The first part of this guide should give you some good resources for finding biodiesel at home and on the road. But don’t think you have to rely on retail biodiesel to get by. Homemade (aka “homebrew”) biodiesel may be available in your area, or you may be inclined to make your own.
While fuel quality obtained by this method can vary considerably, it’s still possible (even likely) to get fuel that meets national standards. That being said, you may have to get your hands dirty, and this will require a bit more research than finding a local biodiesel pump.
Options 1-3 of this guide are located here.
4. Biodiesel Coops: Discount Fuel At A Price
Another option for the intrepid is to join hands with other biodiesel enthusiasts and participate in making the fuel yourself. Biodiesel co-ops pool resources, equipment, and know-how, and may be the best way to learn to make biodiesel. While you don’t necessarily have to get your hands dirty to participate in a co-op, it can be satisfying work, builds community, and lies at the heart of the biodiesel movement.
Looking to find a source of biodiesel? Perhaps you followed my previous post, 7 Steps To Buying A Diesel, or maybe you already have a vehicle and feel it’s time to boycott OPEC oil. Either way, this guide will help you figure out how to get from A to B exclusively on biodiesel. Part II (options 4-6) of this post can be found here.
Remember that biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine (warranty issues aside) without modification. The only conversion necessary is where you decide to fill up, and that’s what this guide is intended to supplement. One caveat: be advised that biodiesel use can be tricky in cold weather, and depending on location and season you may have to drop to a 50% or even 20% biodiesel blend (more on that later). Without further ado:
1. At Home: Find Biodiesel At Retail Gas Stations
Without your knowledge, a local retail station may already have converted one of their pumps to some blend of biodiesel. The most common blend is B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% diesel), but don’t be surprised to see “biodiesel stations” with a lowly 5% blend (B5). (Stations now commonly offer B5 to confer lubricity lost by the introduction of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel – ULSD.)
If you’re lucky, you may even find a B100 pump nearby, but there are other ways to get pure (aka neat) biodiesel (see below). You can find a list of retail biodiesel stations at both the National Biodiesel Board’s website, and NearBio.com:
Imagine if you could eke more mileage out of your Prius. If you’re like me, you’ve already tried. What if you could get a decadent 100mpg? More? A group of Prius owners in Japan are doing just that – by hacking their Priuses.
According to this CNN report, the record holder among an underground group called “Mileage Maniacs” (Japanese language only) has managed to travel 1500 miles on a single tank of gas. That’s about 116mpg; I’m green with envy! Fortunately there is a similar push in the USA and Canada to feed the demand for more efficient cars. Numerous easter eggs , and hacks are available so an enterprising Prius owner can get more mileage. There’s even a solar company and those who will modify your car into an hybrid plug-in. Some plug-ins are already on the road. Voided warranty aside, extensive green modifications require a lot of green from the owner, ranging from a $40 kit to thousands of dollars.