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can my vw bug be converted to biodiesel?

Posts: 23
Location: NW Nebraska
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Hello Bob
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us.
I drive a VW diesel Beatle Bug it gets about 50 miles to the gallon now on regular diesel. I'm interested in converting it to biodiesel. Do you feel that would be a viable option? I live in NW Nebraska so diesel gelling up here is an issue in the winter is that issue the same with biodiesel?
Posts: 1435
Location: Victoria BC
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Hi Heather,

Bob I ain't, hopefully he'll be along soon to elaborate.

I can tell you that biodiesel generally begins to cloud and gel at higher temperatures than dino diesel. It depends on what the biodiesel was made from.

Winter diesel is supposed to be good down to between -4F to -20F, depending on the blend.

Meanwhile, this link has a chart for biodiesel made from a few different things; the pour point varies fairly wildly from 15F down to -9F for Canola based biodiesel.

As far as running your vehicle on biodiesel goes, knowing what year it is would help. Generally though, there is no 'conversion' required for biodiesel, unlike a WVO/SVO powered vehicle. With biodiesel, it should just work, with two main catches. One is the temperature issue you've already inquired about; in cold climates like yours a fuel heating system may needed to prevent fuel from gelling.

The other is seals and hoses; (often older) fuel systems using nitrite/natural rubber parts are likely to have these eaten by the biodiesel, so these parts would need to be replaced with something like Viton before running on biodiesel.
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Heather Ahrens wrote:
I drive a VW diesel Beetle Bug it gets about 50 miles to the gallon now on regular diesel. I'm interested in converting it to biodiesel. Do you feel that would be a viable option? I live in NW Nebraska so diesel gelling up here is an issue in the winter is that issue the same with biodiesel?

Hi Heather,

I owned a 2001 VW New Beetle when I lived on Maui. I ran it on B100 (100% biodiesel) without issues for four years (~50k miles) until I moved - it then became part of my friends rental car fleet at Bio-Beetle ECO Rental Cars until it was sold to a customer in Los Angeles. I never saw fuel economy better than about 38mpg with manual transmission - still not bad.

There's no conversion required to run your Beetle on biodiesel - my friend here in central North Carolina is running her 2013 New Beetle on B99.9 without issue. We do blend down to B80 (80% biodiesel - 20% petroleum diesel) from November 1 to April 1 to avoid gelling issues. Blending in your tank is fine, and I would use a lower percentage of biodiesel as the weather gets colder, perhaps running straight diesel in the depths of winter to be on the safe side.

To my knowledge, there is no antigel that works well with biodiesel. Many suppliers claim their product will reduce the gel point of biodiesel, but my testing (and others) don't support the notion. Blending with petroleum diesel works well.
Posts: 323
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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Yes you can. With a little more research. My town has many grease cars running around. You don't need biodiesel, just clean oil. Are you living in the bus? Can it spare some room? The best option in cold climates is to have 2 tanks. One to start with petro, and one with oil once warmed up. You should also 'flush' your lines with petro, before shutting off, so veg oil doesnt gunk up while sitting in the cold. You can even heat and filter dirty grease right in the bus directly from the source, with the right system.


Wednesday, 09 July 2014 00:00  |  Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry

"Biodiesel Versus WVO
I run waste vegetable oil, which is different than biodiesel. Biodiesel is a vegetable-oil or animal-fat-based fuel that can be run in any diesel engine without modification (yes, right now in any diesel engine). The benefits of biodiesel are that it reduces emissions by 80% compared to gasoline and can be purchased at the pump in many large and small cities. (It is especially common in middle America, where farmers have been running biodiesel for decades.) However, it is a highly refined fuel—often processed from virgin oils or fats—that utilizes highly toxic chemicals such as methanol (not to mention electricity) in its production, and costs anywhere between $2.30 to $3.80 per gallon.

WVO is literally just used kitchen grease. The processing of it involves nothing more than hand-filtering to remove the deep-fryer floaters (water and microscopic food particulate). Like biodiesel, WVO reduces emissions by 80%. But WVO has these added advantages:

It does not require chemicals or electricity in its processingIt is absolutely freeIt keeps a massive byproduct of our fast-food industry from being dumped into the ground water or used in our body soaps and cosmetics (yum...).

The drawbacks of WVO are (if you consider them drawbacks): you won't be hanging out at gas stations anymore and, indeed, a little Do-It-Yourself effort will earn you the right to offer under-the-hood public interviews.

Conversion Basics
Now, although the Black Mistress of 1893 could handle the most gelatinous of greases, modern diesel fuel-injection systems have been engineered to run on low-viscosity diesel fuel. They can handle thick grease only if the viscosity is reduced first. This can be accomplished in one of two ways: chemically (transforming the oil into biodiesel) or thermally. By heating the oil to 160-180 degrees, the viscosity is reduced to that of diesel fuel and voila! Rudolph's dream is realized.

So the conversion process is not an engine conversion at all, but add-on hardware that heats and filters the WVO before it gets to the engine. On my car, a hot little 2001 TDI VW Jetta, the add-ons begin at the main tank, which holds 15 gallons and is now used for waste vegetable oil. Two electric heating pads (drawing seven amps each) are installed underneath the main tank. They start heating the grease as soon as your key turns in the ignition. 

From the heated main tank, a new fuel line is run to a custom 10-micron veggie fuel filter in the engine. The new fuel line is "wrapped" in two lines of coolant borrowed from the radiator, assuring that when the engine reaches running temperature, the already heated main-tank veggie fuel will maintain its 190-degree temperature all the way to the fuel filter, which is wrapped in another seven-amp heating pad. At this point, the veggie fuel—filtered and fluid—is ready to go!

My personal conversion includes one additional add-on to accommodate the compulsive gypsy lifestyle I lead. You see, I can't tell you where I will be next week, let alone next winter, so I chose to install a two-tank system on my car. The two-tank system equips my WVO machine with a small five-gallon auxiliary tank (mine sits in the trunk around the spare tire) that is filled with biodiesel or diesel for cold-weather start-up and shutdown.  When temperatures fall below 50 degrees, my Jetta prefers a two-block biodiesel transition. Mercedes, BMWs, trucks, semis and tractors will obviously have preferences of their own. It is fair to say that every installation is a custom conversion."

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