A retired systems analyst who admits to getting ideas and having to know if they work or not, Leach began the process by researching the idea on the Internet. I looked into bio-diesel at first, but didnt want to mess with the chemicals that are needed in the process, he says. This is a pure vegetable oil alternative and the oil is waste that can be recycled.
In his research, Leach learned that converter kits were available for most diesel cars, so he decided to look for a reasonably-priced used Mercedes in good condition. It took more of a search than he expected.
It is recommended that you convert a car that is in good running condition, he says. Theyre hard to find in this area. We ended up buying one off eBay and going to Maryland to pick it up.
Using vegetable oil requires a conversion kit and can only be used in diesel cars. Bio-diesel fuel is a chemical process that most diesel vehicles can use without any conversion.
Leach found help from the website Greasecar.com, where he purchased a converter kit which was designed for use with filtered vegetable oils.
After getting the car and the kit, the next step was finding someone to install it, which also proved to be harder than he first thought.
I called five or six area mechanics and shops from Traverse City to Manistee and some were interested but either too busy or not sure what it might involve, he says. I was pleasantly surprised when Platte Valley Automotive just up the road in Honor jumped at the chance.
We are enthusiastic to tackle any unusual repair or modification of any vehicle. Our team is well certified and educated on the latest in automotive technology, including hybrids, bio-diesel and green vegetable fuel modifications. says Dustin Wolpoff, owner of Platte Valley Automotive. The job took a little longer than expected, but was completed in April. The conversion kit and installation cost just over $2,800.
Leach then found used vegetable oil free for the taking from two area restaurants: the Coho Café and Elberta Lighthouse Café, which set it aside for him. He built a filtration system in his basement for under $100 and now collects 30-50 gallons of oil on his weekly pick-ups.
He averages the same miles per gallon as before the conversion, but now only relies on diesel gasoline fuel. The vehicle must start and stop on diesel because the engine needs to be warmed up and vegetable oil needs to be heated before it can be used. An on-dash gauge acts as a co-pilot to show the temperatures and when the fuel switches from diesel to oil and back.
It needs to heat up to about 150 degrees to work, Leach says. Those who drive short distances and shut off the engine before it has time to warm up, or who drive infrequently may not find value in this technology.
The Greasecar system involves two fuel tanks. The vehicles existing diesel tank and filter will supply diesel fuel to the engine at start up and shut down. After start up, radiator fluid transfers heat from the engine to the heat exchangers in the Greasecar fuel system. These heat exchangers heat the vegetable oil in the fuel filter, lines and fuel tank. The heat reduces the viscosity of vegetable oil so that it is similar to diesel and can be injected into the engine. When the vehicle is being shut down for a period long enough for the fuel to cool, the vegetable oil must be purged.
Theres no difference in fuel economy between diesel and vegetable oil. Diesel engines are generally 40% more efficient than gasoline engines. Studies have shown that vegetable oil has superior lubricant and detergent qualities and has been shown to dramatically reduce carbon emissions over conventional diesel fuel.
You may spot Bruce and his wife Kathleen at one of the area festival parades, where the car is met with claps, whistles and high-fives wherever they go. For more information, check out Greasecar.com.