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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Motor fuel usage

Trash day is when I take stock on how much motor fuel the van used during the week. Why trash day? That's when I crush up all the 4.5 gallon jugs that contained waste vegetable oil. Most folks think of fuel usage by the amount of money they spend. When your vehicle runs on free waste vegetable oil it is measured in empty jugs.

Part of me hates to throw out all that plastic. On the other hand, they can't be recycled as they contained oil and they are too weak to reuse very often. Most of the time vegetable oil jugs are used once then thrown away. At least these are used twice. The restaurants that give me the oil pour their used veggie back in the original containers.

On trash day it's clear how many of those jugs were poured into the van. This week I threw away 10 empty jugs. That's 45 gallons of veggie fuel usage, plus a couple gallons of diesel. The van's 7.3 turbo diesel is a hungry beast. I would never have that monster if most of my fuel wasn't free and if I didn't use the full capabilities of a one ton van.

It's a good camping vehicle. Most of the camping stuff -the bed, and tables, the 12 volt cooler, water, and other camping things are easily removed. Then it's a big box useful for hauling things. This week it's made a number of trips to move furniture out of a storage unit. Firewood, generators, plumbing, construction materials, were also hauled around. It does the work that my old truck used to do.

True, some of my weekly travel could have been done more efficiently with a small car. The van has to warm up before It can be switched from diesel to veggie. Short trips hardly make the switch over practical. My lovely wife has an old small four cylinder car, but I've been unable to get it running since coming back home. I've finally admitted it's beyond my skills and home tools so the car will be towed to the garage. The car is most efficient for trips around 5 miles, like to the village center.

So let's see. That's 10 jugs of veggie at 4.5 gallons or 45 gallons of veggie fuel. Diesel is running about $4.25 a gallon here. Had I used diesel my fuel bill would have been $191.25. People who have big vehicles that work for a living are not surprised by $200/week fuel bills.

One of the big problems with rural life is the long distances most of us drive. Another is that we tend to haul around a lot of heavy stuff requiring a something more hefty than a Prius. By running vehicles on waste veggie, I've solved my rural transport problem. Over the years tens of thousands of dollars have been saved, helping me live a middle class life on a lower class income.

I keep expecting the free ride to come to an end. The fact that I can still get free WVO in my area is unusual. In most places that's no longer the case. As conventional fuel sources dry up, WVO is in demand for biodiesel. Eventually I'll have to make other arrangements, but I'm not sure what they'll be. Most likely it won't be something that directly replaces my big vehicle with another big vehicle that runs a different free fuel. How often does that happen? (that doesn't mean I'm not looking)

Most likely it'll be a mix of conservation, relocalization, bike travel, and just plain doing without. Of course, I could just move on a sailboat full time and not worry at all about land transportation.



  1. There's always a scooter with a bike trailer. Maybe you could cabbage one of those small diesel lawnmower engines and do a little backwoods engineering!

    1. Backwoods engineering is what we do out here in the backwoods.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm not all that fond of horses. Those things have minds of their own. Besides, don't have the land to feed one.

  3. Move on a sail boat and all you will need extra is a dingy and bicycle.

    1. The inflatable kayak makes a good dinghy and I've got a bicycle. I'm set.