Everyone knows using gasoline and diesel to power a car is horrible for the environment, but who knows how to use a vehicle without hurting the environment? Beth Nolte and her boyfriend try using vegetable oil to fuel their Mercedes, which by definition is a success. She believes using cooking oil will lower the cost of running her vehicle. The cost of converting a diesel engine to run on vegetable oil was $1,500.00 “He (the friend) created the dual tank system that we now have. The second tank used for vegetable oil was custom made to fit into the trunk, where the spare tired used to be.” (Page 5 of Chem Matters, April 2011 issue). $1,500.00 seems like too much money for an adult to spend on a “conversion” for a car. I agree, $1,500.00 is an outrageous price to be able to fuel your car. That amount is equivalent to 388 gallons at $3.87.
The author, Beth Nolte, lives in an apartment and like the average American, isn’t extremely wealthy. She describes the difference in atoms of hydrogen, carbon, and hydrocarbon. There is more, longer hydrocarbon molecules in diesel that there is in gasoline Diesel is more adhesive that gasoline. Vegetable oil contains fat molecules. “Fats can either be solid or liquid at room temperature…”fats” refer to fats that are solids at normal room temperature.” (Page 6 of Chem Matters, April 2011 issue) Vegetable oil, like gasoline and diesel is burned in an internal-combustion engine by reacting with oxygen from the air. Although the reason for this is the difference in chemical combustion. More heat is required to separate the diesel molecules that the gasoline molecules Another difference is that gasoline burns in a presence of a spark, while diesel burns without one. Vegetable oil can only work in a diesel engine, because of its long hydrocarbon molecules. Since vegetable oil is more viscous, it needs to be heated even more than diesel. When first started the car needs to be ran on diesel, before the engine is heated up enough to run on vegetable oil. “The car runs best when the engine temperature is at least 80F. Before I turn off the engine – especially if it is cold outside – I switch back to diesel to flush the vegetable oil out of the engine.” (Page 7 of Chem Matters, April 2011 issue) If you don’t remember to do this the vegetable oil will cool down and harden in the engine.
Many citizens are trying to find ways to save money efficiently, which using cooking oil could possibly do. However, if something goes wrong with your new converted engine, you may have to find a mechanic that is used to that type of conversion. Also, the more technical you get with your engine the more likely it will mess up and you won’t be able to Google search the cause. I just recently turned 16 and will hopefully be driving soon. Gas money could be a major problem if my parents don’t pay for it. Looking up ways to make vehicles more efficient could save money for college and other things that cost quite a bit. Spending $1,500 on a conversion for a car that may not even matter in a year or two is way to much money. Some vehicles now-a-days are hybrids and future cars may come up with a very sufficient way to run cars that will be easier to keep up than a conversion car. The chemical make-up of different fuels will determine if they can or can’t run a car. It will also help you decide if you need to use a diesel engine or a gasoline engine. Learning what chemical and chemical properties affect an engine can help our environment stay ‘clean’.
Nolte, Beth. “Tanking Up with Cooking Oil: The oil used to cook your dinner could run your car.” Chem Matters, April, 2011, 5-8