Monday, August 6, 2012

The Real Cost of Free Fuel

 As the saying goes, “nothing is free”, with our efforts in running our vehicles on grease/waste vegetable oil (WVO) it’s simply cheaper and less bad for the planet. 

To all of the “nay-sayers” as to whether or not using grease/WVO as a fuel source is damaging to your engine, we are not debating that.  We have owned several vehicles over the last six years that have run off of grease/WVO and have not had any problems because of this system conversion.  With this post we simply hope to offer insight and information about the process.

Our primary vehicle is a turbo diesel sedan (VW Passat); see the post (click here) for how we filter our grease/WVO at home with a centrifuge setup.  This system has worked great and saved us thousands of dollars over the years.  

We have spent four weeks in a diesel motor home with a grease car conversion kit in it on a road trip to Alaska and back. 

While on this road trip the grease/WVO was free, but there were still costs involved in running the system.

-Rubber gloves and paper towels

-Bag filters to run the grease/WVO thru to catch larger particulate before poring into the heated fuel tank

-Fuel filters in the engine to catch the finer particulate from entering the engine.

We collected about 600 gallons of free grease/WVO over the course of our trip.  It is important to note that two things drastically affect your bottom line.  1- Grease/WVO quality and 2- fuel filter choice. 
On a trip like that, where you were trying to acquire 100 gallons of fuel at a time, your instinct says take as much of whatever you can get.  While that may seem like a good idea at the time, ultimately it could be the demise of your fuel filters causing them to clog and need to be replaced more often.  We normally get our fuel filters from AutoZone, which are both cheaper and last longer.  On this trip we were forced to get our fuel filters from Napa Auto Parts, which did not last nearly as long and were more expensive.   We found that using the Napa fuel filters in conjunction with the bag filters (rather than a centrifuge) we were getting drastically fewer miles out of the fuel filters.*

Simple numbers break down:
Cost of diesel fuel about $4.30/gal
The motor home we drove gets about 10mpg diesel or grease/WVO
If we had driven 7,000 miles on diesel fuel alone our cost would have been about 43 cents per mile (total of $3,010).
Our actual end result in the motor home, with having to change the Napa fuel filters more often, as well as running on diesel more often because we didn’t have enough fuel filters with us, was about 20 cents per mile (total $1400).   

This process is not for the fast gas and go traveler.  This process can be slow and arduous in both collecting and filtering the grease/WVO.  There has to be a deeper desire to either “save” the planet or save money in your pocketbook. If you are considering using grease/WVO as a fuel source for your diesel vehicle, go for it!  You are sure to be and meet an eclectic group of people both in your town and in your travels while hunting for fuel for your vehicle.

*The oil we collected was free of both water and fine particulates and still it was clogging the filter much sooner than what would be normal.  We can only assume that the micron of the Napa filter was significantly finer than the micron of the bag filters allowing particulate to go thru and clog the fuel filter sooner.  Even still, we had cut our fuel costs in half from what it would have been to burn diesel for 6,000 miles.

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