These days, there’s a greater trend than ever before towards trying to find new and eco-friendly ways to power vehicles. Now that we know the dangers gasoline poses to the environment it’s no wonder that the idea of running engines on vegetable oil has raised its head.
So, why could vegetable oil be the way forward when it comes to creating fuel efficient vehicles?
Biodiesel And Vegetable Oil, Is There A Difference?
There is a link between biodiesel fuel and vegetable oil since biodiesel can be made using vegetable fat. However, the process to turn vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel requires some chemical reactions to be carried out. These can be achieved by anyone with a little understanding of chemistry, however it isn’t actually a good idea to try to run your car on straight vegetable oil.
The first thing to know is that if you gave a gasoline powered car, you can’t run your car on vegetable oil. On the other hand, if you have a diesel powered model you could convert your vehicle. Gasoline is a lot more volatile and light than diesel, so the spark ignition would struggle to make the oil burn. Also, the fuel pump and fuel lines wouldn’t be able to cope with the difference between the two substances. The result could be serious engine damage.
How Is Vegetable Oil Different To Diesel?
If you have a diesel engine, you might be wondering how different vegetable oil is from diesel. The main difference really lies in its viscosity. The properties of vegetable oil make it much more thick and viscous than diesel. This means that it could cause some problems in your engine.
As vegetable oil has a thicker consistency than diesel, it will change the way in which the fuel injectors will spray fuel into the vehicle’s combustion chamber. As fuel injectors have been designed so that diesel fuel is atomized and burns in the most efficient way they won’t be able to achieve that effect using a fuel that is more viscous and thick. While the fuel injectors will work, the spray will not be as fine and that means that more fuel will be only partially burned or not burned at all. The result will be higher emissions as well as lower mileage. There will be greater build up of deposits in the combustion areas of the engine while the fuel pump and injectors will also wear out more rapidly since they’ll have to work much harder.
What About Post-Consumer Vegetable Oil?
There’s another problem with using vegetable oil to power a diesel vehicle. This is that of fuel filtration. Usually, the vegetable oil used will be post-consumer oil like fry grease. Part of the eco-friendly nature of using vegetable oil is to recycle a waste product, after all. However, if you’re going to use this type of pre-used oil you’ll need to ensure that it is well filtered as otherwise the fuel filters will be clogged even more rapidly because of the contents of the used oil. Not only that, but the chances of increased engine damage are higher since waste oil has a higher acidic content. Even filtering won’t be able to get rid of the damaging particulates and acid content so the result can be serious for your engine’s health.
In fact, even those who are fans of straight vegetable oil (known as SVO in the community) won’t recommend its use directly in the engine. Modifications are always recommended first. Lots of SVO enthusiasts say that you should use a kit to change the vehicle’s injectors and add some parallel fuel filters. Also, they recommend the use of a dual tank system, one tank to house the SVO while the other houses the standard diesel fuel. This would heat the SVO before it was used, and would also allow your car to start and be shut down using standard diesel – a similar process to that used in hybrid vehicles.
That’s all pretty complex stuff, but there’s a simpler alternative. Simply mix the vegetable oil with kerosene, 20% gasoline or even regular diesel. While that isn’t as good as using oil on its own, it’s going to help the environment more than simply using the fuel in its original form. It’ll also be more fuel efficient than regular diesel, and if that’s the goal you’re aiming for, you should find it a good alternative.