Monday, December 9, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 5, Researching Ethanol

Ethanol or Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel consisting of FAME
(fatty-acid methyl ester). It is produced from vegetable
oil or rendered animal fat.

Option 1

Cooking With Crisco! Some diesel engines can be converted to be able to run off of the power of ethanol. My professor who lives in Mt Pleasant had some local nuns ask him to convert their Volkswagen Rabbit to be able to burn off old cooking oil. After the conversion they would giddily collect the used french fry cooking oil from a local franchise in town. This plan seemed flawless and it made their emissions smell like french fries. This was in the summer… seven months later my professor heard that the nuns had to scrap the rabbit because the engine seized. The problem these nuns ran into is that cooking oil is a saturated fat once it cools down thus it would seize their engine from the gunky build up.

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit

In 2007/2008 my Under graduate research group for UVU’s Automotive Technology department  decided to run some tests on our own to learn more about the efficiency in investing in a bio diesel vehicle. Our Programs Initial objectives:

  • Become proficient at producing industry grade biodiesel
  • Test the biodiesel for gas emission comparisons
  • Test the biodiesel for horsepower comparisons
  • Test the biodiesel for MPG comparisons
  • Accomplish the above objectives with the aid of UVU students
  • Use the information gained for the development of Alternative Fuels curriculum
UCUR presentation: results for biodiesel 

Our overall analysis of biodiesel verses regular diesel was poor. You loose horsepower, and your mpg does not improve significantly better.

Overall pros:

  • Sligthly better for the ozone then regular diesel is
  • As long as you have a supplier it could be more cost effective than gas
  • 10% less carbon and sulfur in it verses regular diesel,
Overall Cons:

  • 12% less horsepower than diesel
  • Raises Nox in emissions
  • Natural solvent that clogs 
  • Ethically it's wrong, we’re burning food
Natural solvent that clogs
We're burning food

So back to my two original questions: Is biodiesel better for the environment?  Yes, it does have less toxic emissions that can hurt the ozone compared to diesel. Is it more cost effective? No, most diesel engines are not meant to run off of used oil based products you would either have to modify your engine to accept that type of fuel and still risk the possibility of gumming up your engine and once again the maintenance is not worth cost in savings on diesel.  Chevrolet is now offering a flex fuel model of truck which burns a small percentage of ethanol in its diesel fuel but how are you saving money on that?

John one of my old bosses for ECO MOTORS was actually considering starting his own franchise in opening a gas station locally that mainly offered alternative fuels including ethanol at prices per gallon that would be competitive to gasoline and diesel. After going through all the red tape with the local government plus all the other hefty expenses in starting a risky business in that form was unwise because he would never be able to sell any of his alternative fuels cheap enough that would be a sufficient competition to gasoline and still turn a profit to get him out of the red zone from debt.  Many other visionary inventors I met with also discovered that problem and that my friends is the main reason why we can’t shake our addiction to gasoline.

Do you think it is ethically wrong to burn food for fuel instead of gasoline?

1 comment:

  1. Food is fuel no matter what, either for your body or your car's body. I guess the question should be: Are people more important than machines?