It's a '60s-type fantasy -- a foxy babe, a great-looking guy and a gallon of Wesson oil in the back of a Mercedes wagon. But for environmentalists Luke West and Megan Chanin, it's just the everyday, ho-hum routine of "grease car" maintenance.
With a $400 kit, the couple converted their 1982 diesel car to run on used cooking grease from restaurants. "The fuel is free and we get 20mpg," says West. "It takes about two minutes to pump 12 gallons of grease. It's a clean, easy, inexpensive grass-roots way to activate change."
According to West, the first diesel engine, introduced at the World's Fair in 1900, ran on peanut oil. The difficulty was maintaining consistent viscosity. This problem is solved by utilizing a two-tank system, starting the car in the primary tank, which holds petrol or bio-diesel fuel. When the engine heats up, the coolant fluid warms the auxiliary tank that holds the grease. When the grease warms, you simply switch to the auxiliary tank.
Running a car on vegetable oil means cleaner emissions, less grease dumped in sewers and landfills, and less dependence on foreign oil sources. West says the only drawback is that the heated oil smells like french fries or doughnuts and might make you hungry while driving.
-- story and photo by Jane McBee