Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Vegetable Oil/Electric Hybrid

A diesel-electric hybrid converted to use SVO
  [vote for,

It is a little-known fact, but diesel engines can actually use straight vegetable oil for fuel. There are diesel-electric hybrid engines for big trucks and trains and stuff, and there are diesel engines for passenger cars, and gas-electric hybrids for passenger cars. I propose a turbo diesel-electric hybrid for a passenger car, converted to use vegetable oil, with a heated fuel line. GM had a concept car that got 108 mpg gas mileage on a diesel-electric engine. Now, if a car that efficient could be made to not use diesel at all, we could break our reliance on wars with Middle East countries to provide us with energy.
cocktaillouie, Mar 12 2004

GM Precept http://www.electrif....com/gmprecept.html
here's GM's concept car with 108 mpg [cocktaillouie, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

They know, just the US is a little behind http://greennature.com/article1083.html
[kbecker, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Greasecar.com http://www.greasecar.com
very economic - although not for NASCAR racing [xer0negative, Oct 04 2004]

Biodiesel C http://www.sovereig...nmouth/biofuel.html
[bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Melbourne biodiesel plant http://www.ata.org.au/28april2003.pdf
producing biodiesel for anyone who wants to buy it [reap, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

VeggieVan http://www.veggieva...biodiesel/index.php
Learn all about biodiesel. Interestingly enough, the veggievan smells kind of like donuts as it passes (yummmm). [reap, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Biodiesel A http://www.afdc.doe...fuel/biodiesel.html
[Fussass, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Biodiesel B http://ww2.green-trust.org:8484/
[Fussass, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Biodiesel D http://www.greasel.com/
[Fussass, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Bio diesel primer http://www.kk.org/c...archives/000456.php
[waugsqueke, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Oil yield per acre for various crops http://journeytofor...iodiesel_yield.html
[bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Inedible oils http://www.goodnews...iscovery/honge.html
[bungston, Apr 19 2005]


       //It is a little-known fact// It's actually a well known fact (link). The main problem is that vegetable oil straight from the press clogs up the filters and nozzels at low temperatures so you always have to run the engine on regular diesel at start up and just before you turn it off. That takes extra equipment (available as a kit). Around here you can sometimes see people getting their gas at a discount grocery store when a sale is on. It saves a lot of mineral oil taxes.
kbecker, Mar 12 2004

       Vegetable oil is much more expensive than diesel fuel. A quick price check on my local grocer's website shows the cheapest brands running over $5.00 a gallon. How is this desirable? For that much, we can do better things to break reliance on foreign energy.
waugsqueke, Mar 12 2004

       Heck, *water* is more expensive than diesel fuel, if you buy it at the grocer's. Still don't quite understand how that happened.
DrCurry, Mar 12 2004

       [waug] I have seen vegetable oil down to US$0.70/gallon at times when diesel was US$1.70/gallon. Your diesel engine won't ask for a special grade. It doesn't have to be squeezed from Italian virgins. Old crud from the McDonalds fryer will also do after you run it through a filter.   

       [DrC] Why would you buy water at the grocer's? It is just tap water, Google for Dasani to learn more.
kbecker, Mar 12 2004

       What a question! Vending machines sell 16-ounce bottles of water for upwards of a dollar a pop. How much will the price of vegetable oil rise if demand doubles, triples?
dpsyplc, Mar 12 2004

       $5 a gallon for veg oil is a lot cheaper than diesel in the UK.
sufc, Mar 12 2004


       Your suggestion solves so many problems, that it is inevitable. Well, in a way you could say it's been done already, as biodiesel (from veggie oil) is becoming very popular. The yanks have had it for years, and we here in Canada finally got our first pump up and running just the other day! It really is the only viable solution we have! Hydrogen is one of the biggest scams going, and pure electric, although the ultimate solution, is still too expensive for widespread adoption (but all the technical challenges have pretty much been solved, including range and charge time).   

       kbecker points out a common problem with SVO (straight vegetable oil) conversions, but one that could be easily solved with the construction of a purpose-built SVO hybrid. Oil in the fuel line and injectors could be electrically heated until the infernal combustion motor (an atmospheric heater that gives off some mechanical energy) spits out enough heat to take over the task. While the engineers are at it, give the car a recharging plug so that it could be used as a pure electric for 50 km or so (a plug-in series hybrid is the most energy efficient).   

       waugsqueke points out the problem of cost. Again, a little thought would solve this. I saw an idea here at the HB that suggested growing mats of seaweed as feedstock for a biofuel generator. Scale it up, and you've got very cheap oil. Why mine dino sludge, when the sun can give you fresh fodder daily? This closes the carbon loop quite nicely as well, so should give us a few more decades on the planet before we all drown.   

       DrC: That water scam happened because we've been programmed to be scared little bunnies - told that everything will harm us, and that if we're nice and quiet, and keep spending, everything will be alright. Trust in Coke, they care ;)
TIB, Mar 13 2004

       nice idea but vegetable oil becomes stickier than kerosene under a heat lamp. Vegetable oil also needs some preheating time before it will even work. Try frying eggs without preheating the pan. So initially you need a fuel injection or carb system that can turn this high viscosity liquid into mist so it can be easily combustible. Basically in 10 words or less, THIS IDEA IS STUPID. I peronally like kawasaki's new bikes for the marines. Multi fuel engine...
morbiddesire, Mar 14 2004

       Some guys from my college (Hampshire college) tried this out. I'm pretty sure they made it cross country and back. Check out the link.
xer0negative, Mar 14 2004

       [TIB] - // Hydrogen is one of the biggest scams going //   

       How so?   

       // pure electric [snip] all the technical challenges have pretty much been solved //   

       I was under the impression that the kinds of batteries that solve range+charge time are currently not viable when you consider refurbishment/replacement cost of exhausted batteries. Has the situation improved?
benjamin, Mar 14 2004

       [q2...] Hydrogen is a major scam. Fuel cell efficiency his barely 80% if you start with pure hydrogen. If you need conversion from methanol it drops to 30 to 40%. Hydrogen is difficult to handle in the small quantities used for cars. Tanks get very heavy, which leads to even lower efficiency.
kbecker, Mar 14 2004

       [morbiddesire], i specified that the fuel line would be heated, which eliminates the different viscosity problems you have with vegetable oil. When it is heated and turned into a mist, which is what happens in a diesel engine, it has all the same properties as diesel fuel (which also is turned into a mist). I don't see how this idea is stupid, beyond the fact that I don't think you understood what the idea actually consists of. The car I describe will work.   

       Also, for those of you concerned with the cost of vegetable oil, I know that there are companies who manufacture vegetable oil, and a lot of times the same plant will process several different varieties of oil, and in between runs they have to clean out all the pipes and dump the excess oil from the previous run. Well, at least here in California, they have co-ops already for people who have converted their diesels to run on either biodiesel or SVO, and these co-ops go around and collect wasted oil from oil bottling plants. Those guys are happy to get rid of it for free, and the co-ops are happy to collect it. So at least for now, the cost of straight vegetable oil is actually pretty low. Also, if you're concerned abou the price as your #1 consideration, then this car probably wouldn't be for you anyway :)
cocktaillouie, Mar 15 2004

       This is a fine idea. Biodiesel is a fascinating topic. I linked an article from Wales about it. One would think that if this were to really catch on, it would be in Europe where gas is taxed ferociously and diesel cars are more popular.
bungston, Mar 15 2004

       jalopinonacho, i was responding to morbiddesire, who called the idea stupid, in all-caps no less.
cocktaillouie, Mar 15 2004

       "Money has no object in this [sufc] "---- you've got to be about 12 years old to believe that, environmentalisim only became popular when it was economically viable for it to be popular.....   

       i.e cheaper to recycle cans than mine, this will never change.   

       Doesn't your vegetable oil car still produce CO2 as it's exhaust ?, doesn't sound too enviro-friendly there.   

       The best option for a hydrogen source would be a genetically modified bacteria that used sun light to produce solid carbon, and gaseous hydrogen off of bio-mass.   

       [kbecker] an 80% effcient fuel cell will aways beat a 30% effcient ICE, even if the Hydrogen comes from methanol. LNG....etc
SystemAdmin, Mar 15 2004

       //Doesn't your vegetable oil car still produce CO2 as it's exhaust?// Not more than the plants consumed to create the vegi oil.
Worldgineer, Mar 15 2004

       If you were looking to write something quotable, that were it.
dpsyplc, Mar 15 2004

// The best option for a hydrogen source would be a genetically modified bacteria that used sun light to produce solid carbon, and gaseous hydrogen off of bio-mass. //

       How is that better than direct photolysis of seawater?
benjamin, Mar 15 2004

       A lovely solution.(+)
For those concerned with cost, you need to keep in mind the economy of scale. The melbourne biodiesel [link] plant is mass-producing biodiesel from waste oil (mcdonalds, fish and chip shops, doughnut vans, etc) to provide an economical and environmentally friendly replacement for diesel.
There's a service station in Altona with a pump specifically for biodiesel from this plant. It's prices are always within 10c/L (that's AU cents per litre) of straight diesel, which means that it's usually a good 20-30c/L less than unleaded petrol.
Anyone running a diesel can run biodiesel without modification to their engine. They only need to modify the oil a little as oulined by the nice people who run the veggievan [link].
reap, Mar 15 2004

       Biodiesel is well known. The four links above were taken from previous ideas on HB. Diesel-electric drive is standard on a lot of equipment – just not very suitable for cars. If the invention is the combination of the two, it goes nowhere in terms of improving efficiency and so doesn’t help with the stated objective.
Fussass, Mar 15 2004

       First off, the very concept of taking (systemadmin) as a handle is fascist. Aside from that,   

       Dr. Diesel who was a real live engineer, designed the diesel engine as a means to industrialize agriculture. His thinking was that for thousands of years, farmers had grown the fuel required to work the land (fodder for draught animals). Now that the industrial revolution was occurring, farmers should continue to produce their own fuel. The shape and scale of the engine is designed around the combustion temperature produced by burning vegetable oils. Biodiesel is right there. It works. You need to make it yourself because the automotive industry is in bed with the oil industry and, conspiracy theories aside, the last thing that Exxon wants you to do is brew your own petrol.
Mungo, Mar 15 2004

       [Fussass], I don't buy the argument "diesel-electric is not very suitable for cars." gas-electric is suitable; regular diesel is suitable; but diesel-electric is not? please.   

       Furthermore, the objective is to break our reliance on fossil fuels. How you could maintain that my invention does nothing to accomplish that objective is beyond me.
cocktaillouie, Mar 16 2004

       [SystemAdmin] :   

       When [newser] says:
// Your ignorance makes me want to vomit with rage //
[newser] means:
"but you're forgetting that the vegetable plants take in C02 during photosynthesis; as long as the veg oil burning engines and the veg oil producing plants are within the same ecological system (same planet, probably) you have a closed carbon cycle; note that this is ignoring any non-CO2 exhaust products)".
benjamin, Mar 16 2004

       There several ideas mixed together here.   

       Diesel-electric drive: Running an engine through a generator then applying the electricity to motors does not give more direct efficiency than other types of drive, mechanical or hydraulic. All are good; if anything the electric has more losses and more weight. Where engine-electric is used it is for flexibility rather than efficiency.   

       In a car, engine-electric can be helpful when combined with a battery. The engine can then be undersized and run at higher manifold pressures, with the batteries to provide extra intermittent power and to store regenerative braking energy.   

       All this is well known. The joining of biodiesel to this has no effect one way or the other.   

       Getting to the crux of it - Biodiesel:   

       [Mungo] has told us about Dr. Diesel, an idealist as well as a practical man. He was one who could do a calculation then accept the results. Dr. Diesel said that a farm could produce a lot of its own fuel, and this is true. He did not say that a suburbanite could grow enough oil to drive an hour per day to work and to heat the house. That would be absurd. He did not say that a continent could grow enough to replace 12 million barrels per day of imports. In 1895 he could not have imagined such an outlandish responsibility ever being charged to his invention. Give him a break. As it stands now it is taking about 400 gallons of oil per year to grow enough food for one North American. How many more gallons would it take to grow 12 million new barrels of Biodiesel every day? What would we eat if we tried to do that?   

       The present reliance on fossil fuels will be broken, but not by incremental improvements nor by alternative energy sources.
Fussass, Mar 16 2004

       [newser] - if a comment like mine makes you want to vomit with rage, you must have a very messy life, might I sugest a bib ?   

       The point of what I was try to convey was that a carbon cycle energy system isn't environmentally friendly, at 30-40% effceincy it doesn't matter where you are getting your C-H bonds you are still only converting 30-40% of them, This means you are pumping out not only C02, but C0, VOC's and a large amount of particulates, all of which are not environmentally friendly.   

       It must be comforting to only look at one aspect of the problem.   

       [benjamin] I can't find anything about the "direct photolysis of seawater" what's involved ? sounds interesting.
SystemAdmin, Mar 17 2004

       Interestingly (but probably heading slightly off-topic): In principle, Diesel engines are capable of running on a wide variety of fuels. The 'Diesel' bit applies to a thermodynamic cycle developed by Dr Diesel, the principle being that the adiabatic heating during the compression stroke ignites the fuel to heat the gases for the expansion stroke. Even very heavy mineral oils can be used as fuel, and pulverised solid fuels also work, coal being successful. A prototype was built at UWE Bristol that ran on powdered dried algae, which used the CO2 from exhaust to grow more algae, powered lights for the algae to photosynthesize, and used the waste heat to dry the algae for fuel.   

       For the original idea, rather baked, but anything to promote biofuels gets my vote.
Frankx, Mar 17 2004

       [morbiddesire] SVO in unconverted diesel engines with a second tank and preheating isn't halfbaked. It's baked. Friends of mine have done more than 60,000km around Australia on waste fry oil, filtered but otherwise untreated.   

       Only problem noted so far is that after about half an hour they have to stop for hot chips...   

       [Fussass] "Running an engine through a generator then applying the electricity to motors does not give more direct efficiency" - of the two commercially available hybrid passenger cars, the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight, one does exactly that. The efficiency gain is in running the gas engine at one, optimal speed.   

       (I can never remember which one is which. I think it's the Insight, and the Prius is parallel hybrid ie two engines mated to one driveshaft)
BunsenHoneydew, Mar 17 2004

       [BunsenHoneydew] - close, but not quite.
The insight has the more obvious engine+motor unit (driving the wheels via a (cvt) gearbox).
The prius has a planetary gear system that's basically the merge of an insight and a 'diesel-electric-style' generator-motor system; not purely a geneator-motor system as you suggest. Quite a clever system none the less.
benjamin, Mar 17 2004

       Yes [BensenHoneydew], control of the engine speed is one of those advantages to be gained with the flexibility of electric drive, hydraulic likewise. It can increase the engine efficiency a bit, maybe even enough to make up for the increased losses in the drive.   

       So [cocktaillouie], we are getting a bit more serious than usual here, but I don’t see anything in the rules against that. The issue that you raise is the most serious possible. Your objective is commendable, to reduce reliance on war. With that motivation you will be able to read and appreciate the numbers involved. Most people have not come so far along and will avoid thinking about it.   

       It’s a matter of scale. We can produce energy with hamster wheels or sticking two wires into a lemon, but that won’t help us. As long as we are distracting ourselves with these things in the wrong order of magnitude instead of solving the problem, the default method will be used – wars. It will get worse and no one will win. Oh, too serious now. Cheers.
Fussass, Mar 18 2004

       [Fussass] - // We can produce energy with hamster wheels... //   

       Really? I was under the impression that all we can do is convert energy.
benjamin, Mar 18 2004


       You could spend a few weeks wading through past articles at evworld.com if you?d like a complete education on the topics of energy efficiency, and battery technology? Check out the Tzero, and recent battery charger articles. Yep, like I said, EV technology is here, but still too expensive.   

       Basically, hydrogen, as it is being presented to us by Bush-the-selected, would be extracted (reformed) from fossil fuels, as about 98% of it is today. Remember, hydrogen is just an energy carrier, like an electron, and doesn't exist in appreciable quantities here on Earth. It is always bound with another element, so energy must be added to separate the hydrogen from whatever it is attached to. Instead of burning fossil fuel derived hydrocarbon, you'd be "burning" fossil fuel derived hydrogen in a fuel cell, with the carbon already stripped off at an earlier stage in processing, as this is the cheapest method we have. If we could get rid of the fossil-fuel part of the equation, then great! Fossil fuel powered electrolysis of water is even more inefficient! Think well-to-wheel efficiency. Don't fall for the hype, as it only serves the interests of big oil and co.   

       Then there's the storage problem. To store enough hydrogen to be of much use requires technology we don't quite have yet (see evworld.com for more on this too). If simply compressed, there comes a point at which the energy required to compress the gas is more than the energy it contains, so compression is just another step in the inefficient scam of hydrogen fuel cells that's being shoved down our throats. BTW, would you feel safe driving around with 10 000 psi hydrogen tanks under your bum?   

       Did I mention transportation? No. Well, think about it. After stripping down natural gas, for example, what do you do with the hydrogen destined for market? You could run it through a pipe, but hydrogen is so tiny it requires very specialized pipes, not to mention the deleterious effects it has on metals. How about liquefaction? Sure. Just blow off a whole lot of energy to cool hydrogen into this state, then fill very expensive super insulated tanks and hope that your truck doesn't get into an accident.   

       Don't get me wrong - I'd be a huge hydrogen supporter if we could only figure out how to produce it cheaply enough through some sort of electrolysis, powered by a clean source such as wind or solar, and then store it with reasonable efficiency and safety. Who cares about efficiency if the energy source is free, limitless, and non-polluting?   

       As it stands, today, a biofuel powered series hybrid with plug-in capability is the most efficient option we have, in terms of cost, environmental damage, and overall efficiency. Not only would it solve those problems, but could also be the key to solving our power grid woes. Millions of these electric cars could act as tiny power stations, buffering the grid from times of peak energy demand.   

       For now, I'll stick with my VW diesel, and await for the inevitable biodiesel stations to crop up in my area, safe in the knowledge that my car gets substantially better efficiency than a PEM fuel cell (if you get your hydrogen from a fossil fuel source). It also costs an order of magnitude less!!
TIB, Mar 19 2004

       Biodiesel would provide a fine cash crop for third world nations. Also, biodiesel lends itself to GMO technology, as people might be picky about what they eat, but less picky about what they burn.   

       [Fussass]'s comment about being unable to grow enough vegetable oil makes me wonder - exactly how many acres of soy would it require to equal our oil imports?
bungston, Jun 15 2004

       Could the genome of Kelp be modified, or could plasmid rings be inserted in bacteria so that they produce large amounts of oil? If you could farm shallow water as well as land, you could greatly increase the potential fuel supply.
WordUp, Jun 16 2004

       Oil-producing algae have been used for this... I _think_ they are pressed and/or centrifuged to extract the oil. They provide more oil per acre than oilseed rape / sunflowers etc.
david_scothern, Jun 16 2004

       What we really need is more governments that will support the manifestation of alternate technologies. Brazil already runs on 100% ethanol fuel if I'm not mistaken, and a fair bit of the Midwestern US uses 85% ethanol fuel, or E85. Driving through Iowa (which was otherwise nothing to write home about) I bumped my fuel mileage from 14 mpg (yeah, I know) to 25 mpg driving on E85.
disbomber, Apr 19 2005

       "Government support!" is the warcry of alternative energy folks. I do not understand why that would be needed for biodiesel. We already have a petrochemical based economy here in the US. We have the ability to grow and process large amounts of agricultural material. I conclude that the cost per unit energy prodcued must still favor mining over growing, or Archer-Daniels and other big ag companies would get into the energy business.
bungston, Apr 19 2005

       The current cost of fossil fuels does not take into account the environmental damage done.
Worldgineer, Apr 19 2005

       One thing, though, for fossil fuels--I think in the near future oil can be a key part of Mexico's campaign to modernize, develop its economy and move up in the world. Hopefully up here, though, the E85 trend will spread throughout the country.
disbomber, Apr 20 2005

       Putting filtered bio-fuel in your car may work for awhile, but how much crud will build up in your engine? I think you'd need to have a refining plant to get better process control. The base fuel could change, but you couldn't move to a "grow your own" without replacing engines every 5,000 miles.
sophocles, Apr 20 2005

       Awesome Ideas Guys! Keep Them Rolling!!   

       All the problems in this world come from greed, jealousy, bitterness, etc… The best environment for humans is a garden. Now that we have strayed from the garden, we have many problems to deal with. Many are caused by our abuse of our so called technological “progress”.   

       Our fuel problems are complex, the solution will also be complex. Some parts of the world are better suited to grow biomass, some to generate electricity via wind, some for solar power, others for geothermal, or tidal power. Biodiesel is only one chunk of the pie and it is true that it alone will not be able to cure our energy problems. It is a step in the right direction, especially when you are producing it from used cooking oil which would have otherwise been disposed of.   

       Cars should be built lighter weight… There is a “safety stand off” right now. People believe that they are safer in huge SUVs than in hybrid cars, which is partially true, but I would be more safe in an M1A4 than in your SUV, and this is obviously insane for energy purposes! If everyone started driving well built light weight cars, everyone would be just as safe as they are now, and indeed safer!   

       True achievable efficiency and ideal systems are quite different. Hybrids are not ideal by any means, but they can be used to obtain better MPG than similar ICE powered cars. This proves that the systems for energy conversion are not working as efficiently as possible.   

       For a hybrid why not use a turbine engine to power a generator and then use the electricity to power electric motors? The turbine could run at a near constant load, which it prefers. A turbine engine is much better suited to the generation of electricity than any form of piston engine. When the energy storage medium is almost charged, the fuel to the turbine could be shut off letting it spool down gently, the whole time producing more electricity. A turbine engine could be much lighter and smaller than an ICE while producing more electricity… The technology is not that much more advanced than a turbo, really… Multi fuel turbines are a possibility also…. The regenerative braking system should still be used.   

       I don’t believe that solar cell technology can not be improved, as the 100W/m^2 is no where near the actual amount of energy that the sun radiates onto a m^2 of earth…. On a bright, sunny day, the sun shines approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter of the planet's surface… How to capture and utilize the other wavelengths??? Solar power can also be produced by solar concentrators, such a power towers, trough, and dish collectors. This technology is available today!   

       As far as economics go, alternatives are great for the people of a country… They produce more jobs in the country (often in poor areas), less political friction with other nations, and keep money spent on energy in the country which has a multiplying effect on economy beyond the initial exchange. Alternatives are only uneconomical for corporations because they are ripping people off in this country and in other countries through EXTORTION!!! Why would we let them tell us what is economical? How is it that a TV or Radio tower is economical, but a wind turbine tower is not?   

       The veggie oil itself could also be used to preheat the fuel line through an external combustion process until the ICE could take over the job…   

fity, Apr 21 2005


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