Rally Report: Vegetable Oil Fueled Motorhome

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April 18, 2009

By Bob Difley

The RVs rolled in to Albuquerque this week for the 2009 version of The Rally. RVers packed the seminar rooms curious to see what’s new and to find out about places they have yet to visit. They took bus tours of the many attractions surrounding Albuquerque, toured dozens of new motorhomes, trailers, and fifth wheels, and scoured the trade booths for the latest goodies and gadgets. And, of course, for the latest ways to green their RVs, reduce fuel costs, and restrict their use of non-renewable natural resosurces. I was hoping so, anyway.

But one RVer did more than just think about ways of going green. Max Snider of Vincennes, Indiana drove his 38-foot Country Coach all the way from Indiana to The Rally on recycled vegetable oil. He retrofitted his coach in late 2007, utilizing such items as recycled lines and fittings from an old truck and salvaged copper tubing, to transport the veggie oil from its own tank to the engine at the throw of a switch on the dash.

Max starts his diesel engine and lets it warm up (he can run on all diesel if he can’t find vegetable oil), then throws the switch sending the recycled veggie oil to the engine in place of diesel fuel, then returns the engine to diesel just before shutting down so it will start again. Max also points out that the cost of his veggie oil is about $.50/gallon, which “includes labor, pick-up, processing, filters, etc.” He only used $30 worth of diesel fuel  for the trip to The Rally.

As for veggie oil’s green credentials, it is made from crops grown by American farmers, it has drastically reduced his use of foreign oil, reduced his CO2 emissions from burning less fossil fuels, is biodegradable, low sulhur, and he has seen no drop in fuel mileage. And he points out that vegetable oil is safer than diesel fuel with a flash point of 480 degrees compared to 165 degrees for diesel.

You can see Max’s Country coach at The Rally in the Balloon Park’s Main Street Lot in Row A, Site 30. And bring your used vegetable oil.

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  3. mike miller

    I am waiting for, or hoping for a retrofit hybrid system. Maybe replace the drive shaft with a motor/generator that would be acctived when braking and when accelerating or when excess of electric, maybe interacting with coach power and solar panels. Just dreamin out loud.


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  5. Gerry Shea – I’m sure we would all like to keep up to date on your conversion, and how it works out. Keep us posted. It sure sounds like a great idea. Any anything that helps to reduce our foreign oil imports is a plus. Thanks for the update. Bob

  6. G Shea

    Veggie oil works great in unmodified diesel engines, as proved on Mythbusters fuel myths episode. Drawback is we cannot grow enough to replace diesel. I bet we could grow enough of a high yeild bio crop to not replace, but dramaticaly reduce traditional diesel. I have run pure cooking oil in my unaltered 2005 dodge. Works fine with no heaters or plumbing. It did fine, but I am going further and converting to CNG. The US has tons of the stuff, and it runs large diesel engines well. Cost is under 1.00 per gallon, better for the enviroment and will become more available as the demand increases. Many bus fleets have made the switch to CNG including the one I work for. They made the switch 12 years ago, and have enjoyed the benifits since. I wonder when our new “free thinking” leaders will get us off foreign oil (as promised). The answers are available now, but we have been promised to be “freed from foreign oil” by every president since Carter, and none have delivered. CNG won’t solve all our needs forever, but we sure can move toward freedom from foreign oil, a better enviroment, and a massive reduction in fuel expenses. I am not waiting for our leaders anymore, soon my truck will run on CNG and I will report on the progress when it is done. G Shea

  7. John Shelton

    TXBrad, I must have not made the point clear in my note above that for the fuel to be untaxed it MUST be manufactured/processed by the user in quantities that only the use uses. There can be NO MONEY CHANGE HANDS in my understanding of this allowance You speak of some instances of buying cheaper fuel and not of making your own fuel. This “make your own” exemption is out the window when one substitutes a cheaper fuel to avoid the highway tax.

    I would also point out that the “make your own” fuel must meet certain specifications to be used as highway motor fuel regardless of origin. Un- processed vegetable oil does not meet these specifications. It must be processed to remove the glycerin before meeting specifications for highway fuel.

  8. Tom

    takes quite a bit of effort / $ to convert a vehicle to run filtered veggie oil. Heaters for cold climes, extra lines, tanks, etc… Another option is to treat the veggie oil so it is more stable and doesn’t require the diesel starter – i.e., complete replacement. Of course, the costs go up for processing (again) and the end fuel is double the author’s cost.

    As others have said, we do not have enough crops in the nation to replace auto fuels. We need higher efficiency energy storage, solar panels, motors, etc., before we can economically begin to replace the IC engine.

  9. TXBrad

    John: It would take 1 stroke of Oboma’s pen to get a tax; todays Beltway bandits will tax anything. Talking about taxing Cow Poop !

    Back in the day, we used to start our Model A ford on gasoline, get it hot & switch to home heating oil. Smoked & not much power, but less than $.19/gallon.

    Along came diesel cars: Again a little pump and Dad’s heating oil. NO Tax.
    Govt. requires a section of clear fuel line , Heating oil & taxed diesel different colors. Farm tractor diesel is colored. Tax Tax !
    Wonder when processing French Fry grease , if food coloring would work ???
    If Govt. outlaws trans-fats which looks like they will, then what ? TX Brad

  10. John Shelton

    I do not remember where I read/heard this, and cannot find any verification of it at the moment…….but! My brain picked up from somewhere that if “experimental motor fuel” (I cannot quote an exact definition) is neither bought nor sold, there is no tax levied against the manufacturing/processing or use of this fuel whether for highway use or not. In other words, you can make/process your own fuel for your own private use, but when you sell a few gallons to your neighbor, you become an “oil company”. This policy would be intended to encourage individual experimentation with alternate fuels. I, and surely other readers, would appreciate if someone can authoritatively verify or disprove this.

  11. John Holveck

    I hope that he is paying his “road tax”. There was a guy in Dallas that was running one of the little Japanese diesel pickups on used potato grease and the news reporters got wind of it and had him on TV bragging about it and the next thing he knew the feds were after him for the road tax plus penalties, etc. Sort of like forgetting to pay your income tax or burning tractor diesel in your truck or motorhome. Our government takes a dim view of not paying your taxes.

  12. Sid B

    using Veg Oil does not eliminate C02 as C02 is a by product of combustion whether using Veg Oil or regular Diesel Oil.

  13. Mario – No, it will not work with gasoline engines. Gas engines can work with ethanol, which is an alcohol based fuel, and currently can run on 10% ethanol. The new flex-fuel cars that are being produced an run on up to 85% ethanol. But veggie oil is a biodiesel fuel and can only be used in a diesel engine.

  14. mario

    Does this work for gas engines as well as far as being able to switch from gas to the veggie oil fuel then back to gas before shutting down?
    Either way this is great news for the Greenies!

  15. Fred

    Hi Bob, it’s good to read a little bit about how Mr. Snider did his retrofit. I like the way he used the diesel fuel for only the startup and shut down.

    Using his figures, my math shows he used 11 times less diesel fuel than veggie oil. This means he has reduced his consumption of a fossil fuel and CO2 by 89%. That is a very significant difference.

    He not only saved a lot of money for himself, but he also greatly reduced his part in polluting the planet. We all need to adapt Mr. Snider’s stewardship attitude.


  16. Thomas Becher

    I know people are doing this but I thought (read) the the modern engine was supposed to run a max of 5% biofuel? You do this with an out of warrenty engine right?

  17. John Shelton

    While burning “potato grease” is a popular topic as of late, this is a practical thing for only a small population. The processing of this oil requires a few thousand dollars investment in procurement equipment (pick-up and hauling home), processing equipment, and storage. It also requires a certain amount of operator time in each of the processing steps. (This time may be relatively insignificant to someone with “time on their hands”, but to most would be like adding duties to an already busy schedule.) Kinda reminds me of the wood heater fad of several years ago. It was legitimately a good source of heat for a select few (and still is), but proved to be impractical for the masses. Likewise, “potato grease” is a legitimate motor fuel for a select few, but just would not work for the masses. Use of this fuel would seem to be self-limiting by the time and equipment required for processing, and due to the limited supply of the used oil. If “everybody was doing it” there would not be an adequate supply of raw material (used oil). Being familiar with the Vincennes/Evansville/Terre Haute area, I suspect Mr Snider was able to utilize certain resources that he already had to facilitate his endeavor. I wish him well and wish I had the necessary facilities to make this practical for me.

    Having said all the above, I also do applaud Mr. Snider and others like him for doing what they can to pioneer a new era of transportation into the US landscape. I certainly wish you well, Mr. Snider.