Innovating upon the ways we use natural resources is one of the key ambitions of today’s society. We are aware our resources are limited, and that is why scientists, automotive service technicians and environmentalists have put their minds together to determine a more environmentally sound method of fueling vehicles. Diesel engines are versatile in the type of fuel they use, therefore diesel is at the forefront of eco-friendly car usage. Diesel technicians are responsible for the maintenance and potential adaptation of diesel engines, which includes knowledge of engines that use alternate fuel sources. While vegetable oil has always been known as a potential energy source, it is only in recent years that we have invented ways to adapt vegetable oil for a diesel engine.
Benefits of Vegetable Oil as Fuel
- Vegetable oils are CO2-neutral, non-toxic and sulphur free.
- Oil is cheap and widely available.
- Efficiency—you get more mileage off vegetable oil than normal diesel fuel.
- Restaurant fryer oil is usually free and can be easily filtered for automobile use.
Preparing Vegetable Oil for Engine Use
It must be noted that vegetable oil is generally too viscous to be poured straight into the engine. There are several solutions to this problem, one being to cut the vegetable oil with other fuel types such as diesel, kerosene or gasoline. Blending, as this is called, has sometimes been known to cause damage to the engine. To avoid the risk of engine damage, a better solution is to install a two-tank system in your vehicle, which causes less damage by using normal diesel or biodiesel fuel to start up and shut down the system. The installation of a two-tank system is unfortunately known to be costly. There are also doubts about using frying oil from a kitchen, because used oil contains more free fatty acids which can damage the engine of a vehicle.
Eco-friendly but not Necessarily Cheaper
If you’re trying to save money by using vegetable oil in a diesel vehicle, you may be surprised to find yourself paying more. A two-tank engine is expensive to install, although it is comforting to know that thousands of vehicles have already been converted. Also, while for now oil can be retrieved from restaurants for little to no cost, the distant future could have restaurants trying to profit from the demand for their oil waste.
Responsibility of Vegetable Oil Demand
In the meantime, we must consider the repercussions of making vegetable oils as big of an industry as fuel. Crop demand can cause food shortages, or over-farming of the land. Increased consumption also risks exploitation of farm workers, especially those in developing countries.
Using vegetable oil as diesel fuel is still very much an individual car-owner’s pursuit, as vegetable oil is not necessarily more cost-efficient for car users at the present time. Those attending auto mechanic schools may find it in their interest to train and study in diesel engines, in order to invent a more efficient and cost-effective way to use eco-friendly resources like vegetable oil as fuel.