Thursday, 20 December 2007

Using Vegetable Oil as a Substitute for Diesel

Veg oil fuel is a big subject, there is a lot of information out on the websites and in the book 'From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank: The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative’ by Joshua Tickell, However most people still haven’t heard about it yet, so there can be unexpected difficulties.

Alternative Choices, you can get a diesel vehicle to run on veg oil by:
1. Converting the car to a one tank Elsbett system. It’s expensive and they say you can’t use used oil (some say you can).
2. Converting the car to a two tank ATG or similar as I've done.
3. Convert vegetablr oil to biodiesel by adding methanol (dangerous chemical and a fossil fuel) or buy biodiesel. It will become more available soon but is hard to find now. Try, it lists places to buy biodiesel. I recommend an Oxford based biodiesel producer. You can also make it yourself from waste oil or new oil, there are some dodgy internet recipies but LILI run a good course, see

I prefer used oil sourced from restaurants that would otherwise be discarded. I avoid that which comes from countries like Indonesia where the rainforest is cut down to grow more cash fuel crops, killing of many animals including the Orangutang. See

The two-tank system means you start up on diesel, then when its warm you switch over to veg oil. When you stop you must remember to switch over to diesel, or you will have trouble starting. Some people use a blowtorch or light fires under the engine. I also have an alarm that goes off if I forget to switch fuels, and a purge pump that pumps diesel for 30 seconds, so I don’t have to drive around for 5 minutes to put diesel in the fuel lines.

I now drive a Toyota Yaris that gets 65mpg, one of the least polluting and most efficient cars, and run it on 70% biodiesel purchased from goldenfuels, the remaining 30% is diesel.

I’ve been using vegoil since 2003 so I know it works. My previous car was a Skoda Felicia that got nearly 50 mpg on Diesel and about the same on Pure Vegoil. I try and drive economically. I converted my car with for £950 in Sep 2003. I get vegoil from supermarkets. Skodas have a Lucas pump, so I am careful to use new oil, or well filtered used oil. It ran for 3 1/2 years with no problems, probably the furthest driven on Vegoul with a lucas pump, 65,000 miles. Before it was written off I’d saved nearly £600 so it was well on the way to having paid for itself. I will reuse the kit on another car.

In June 2007 people using less than 2,500 litres per annum no longer need to pay duty.
I got vegoil from supermarkets at 54 pence a litre at LIDL/Sainsburies etc (its now more). After including duty at 27.1 ppl I paid 81ppl, compared to around 95 at the pump.

See below for info on different systems, using waste oil and registering with customs and excise. Its your risk if you dont do it, they can confiscate your car.

Car manufacturers differ on how their cars perform on veg oil or biodiesel, the channel 4 biodiesel compatibility 4 cars is unfortunately no longer online, but I can have a copy. VW and the other Germans manufacturers are the best, so I bought a Skoda (VW engine) also a Bosch pump is good (mine is a Lucas and may have problems). Peugeot is also good.

Other useful websites
The company in Wolverhampton that converts cars to run on veg oil (I recommend them) is in Wales is quite well known. Good database on cars converted, including mine. is comprehensive Oxford based biodiesel producer also does conversions

LILI: how to make biodiesel - Dan Carter, Jon Halle, Dave Darby, Phillip Hunt
This book grew out of a residential weekend course, covering the chemistry and practice of biodiesel production; supply of used cooking oil and other chemicals; plant construction; vehicle considerations; Environment Agency and Customs & Excise. Produce your own cheap, carbon-neutral diesel – no need for alterations to your engine. price: £8.95
’it's absolutely fantastic. Its' full of information about UK-specific resources and regulations, but is a great introduction even for those outside the UK. I think that as a general introduction, this book is a perfect replacement for "From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank"- it's got about the same ratio of 'general overview information' to homebrew information (ie the homebrew chapter is relatively short compared to the rest of the book)- but the info in the Low IMpact Living INitiative book is much more accurate and well-presented than Tickell's book was. My only gripe is that they included a 'link' to the flawed Aleks Kac webpage on acid-base biodiesel, but that's a fairly minor complaint considering how good the rest of the informaiton is (the listing for Aleks' Journeytoforever page is in the appendices anyway).
Buy this book to explain your biodiesel obsession to your friends- this is a fairly small, concise book, and thus it's an easy read for people who are just starting to become interested in the topic.
It may be a better general introduction for your 'mildly curious' friends than even Greg Pahl's biodiesel industry history book "Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy" (which I also strongly recommend but which is a longer read).’

Getting veg oil. If you are collecting used oil from restaurants you will need a waste collection license, so they can prove they weren’t dumping it. They normally have to pay to have it collected, so should let you have it for nothing. Be careful to filter it of particles, water and other chemicals. Apparently if you use oil from a fish and chip shop your car smells of chips. Buying fresh oil from supermarkets can get you a funny look; in 2003 it was a big story that people were buying oil from Tesco in Wales and using it illegally. I’ve been asked what I was doing in supermarkets and twice by customs. I say that I pay duty on it with customs and excise, and explain how it works.

We must become more sustainable, using 'waste' as a source of fuel would be a good start. When the authorities stop insisting on defining useful substances as waste that will be a good sign.

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