Can This Unusual Substance Be a Solution to Fuel Your Vehicle

The idea of all-electric vehicles was considered fringe technology in the not-so-distant past. Now, EV technology is fast becoming the dominant new tech in the automotive world. Governments across the globe are not only encouraging EV tech, but they are now considering mandates that would eliminate gas-driven vehicles altogether in the decades to come.

However, the resistance to EV has permeated cultures across the globe. The anxiety around the lack of charging stations will need to be addressed before global adoption happens. Until then, alternative fuels are gaining popularity as emissions standards tighten due to global warming. Let’s look at one such technology that is gaining traction among EV detractors.

Can a vehicle run on vegetable oil as a fuel source?

Many cars driving on a car possibly using various fuel sources.
Cars driving on the road | Getty Images

The idea of converting a diesel engine to run on vegetable oil may seem absurd, but the process is much easier than you think. The conversion kits can be purchased and installed as a DIY project or by a mechanic. According to CNN, Patrick Kuhn, who converted one of four trucks at his company, Charlotte Moving Truck Rentals, to run on vegetable oil earlier this year, says that the process is straightforward and has saved him money.

Kuhn states that converting one of his trucks to vegetable power costs $3,500 and can be done on any diesel engine. This entails installing a fuel tank in the back with a heating element inside because the oil must be kept hot to facilitate the burn. Fuel lines to the engine, a filter, a valve set, and toggle switches must also be installed so the driver can select between operating on vegetable oil or standard diesel fuel. 

Is it economical?

One of the best things about this solution is that the oil can come from restaurants as used cooking oil. Most restaurants have to pay to have the oil disposed of. So if they can give it away for free to those who need it for fuel, it’s a win-win for everyone. With gas prices on the rise again, this could be a very enticing prospect not only for the environmentally conscious but also for those trying to save some money.

However, with most new technologies in their infancy, there are a few downsides. For instance, the oil will need to be filtered to remove food waste if the oil is procured from a restaurant. Another downside is that the conversion will void any warranty the vehicle has. Vegetable oil can also impact the engine’s performance if the conversion kit is installed incorrectly.

Which fuel source is better, EV or veggie power?

When comparing EV to veggie oil conversions, it’s important to understand that the two work in very different ways. One relies on a converted combustion engine, and the other is powered by stored electrical power. When considering the environmental impact of either, it’s important to consider that vegetable oil is still dependent, to some extent, on gas-driven vehicles. For example, most corn crops in the US are still using gas or diesel-driven tractors to sow and harvest these large crops.

On the other hand, the electrical power used to fuel EVs comes from power plants that put CO2 into the atmosphere, which is also not good for the environment. There is also the production aspect. Lithium, cobalt, and manganese are required to create electric batteries. The mining and processing of these raw materials consume a lot of energy for manufacturers.

Time will tell which direction the automotive industry will go when it comes to ending fossil fuel dependence. For the moment, it looks like the scales are leaning toward EVs. However, this could change, and vegetable oil-driven vehicles might be a viable alternative to EVs.

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