Vegetable Oil As Fuel

In considering another alternative to increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuels, a question arises whether vegetable oil as fuel is a viable substitute.  Vegetable oil as fuel is different from biodiesel derived from vegetable sources (often soy).  Biodiesel is refined at facilities which are required to follow fuel regulations.  Diesel engines can run on biodiesel or a blend or petroleum and biodiesel fuel without much modification.

When we discuss using vegetable oil as fuel, we are talking about using vegetable oil bought at a supermarket and using it as an alternative fuel without any refining process.  It is not regulated nor does it follow any environmental laws.  Note that using vegetable oil in this manner might be unlawful because of the U.S. revenue agents that require special licenses for converted cars or motor fuel taxes.

Vegetable oil requires a car with a diesel engine.  With a diesel engine, you could use the vegetable oil by putting it straight into your fuel tank, but because this oil has a very high viscosity (thickness), it doesn’t totally burn up.  Over a short time, it results in unburned fuel and a clogged engine due to the oil not being totally atomized.

To fix this problem, the vegetable oil can be mixed with petroleum diesel, or a two-tank system can be implemented into your car to use petroleum diesel to start and shut the engine.  With a two-tank system, the vegetable oil is then flushed out of the engine before it is turned off.  These methods may still not provide a total solution.

To effectively use vegetable oil as fuel, significant modifications to your car’s engine are required.  New fuel injector nozzles with extensive filtering systems will ensure that only clean fuel is allowed into the combustion chamber.  Dirty cooking oil from restaurants must be run through several filters before poured into gas tanks. A 40 micron mesh filter will keep out contaminants that clog fuel lines.  New glow plugs designed specifically for use with vegetable oil will also improve performance.  Placing engine coolant lines in contact with fuel lines will heat up the oil for better performance as well.

There are companies that sell kits which include everything needed to make these changes.  They cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $3,000 which does not include installation. One company, the Elsbett Company produces engines that run on vegetable oil as well as provide engine conversions.

Conclusion:  Unless you are willing to invest time and money into converting your car so that it can utilize vegetable oil efficiently as fuel, don’t use vegetable oil as fuel because your vehicle engine will get clogged!