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Biodiesel vs WVO in a 7.3 IDI  RSS feed

 
Wes Cooke
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Location: Central Coast, CA
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Hey everyone,

I've got a 1994 Ford E-350 Uhaul that I've converted into a rolling home. It's got the 7.3 IDI, originally selected because of the advantages when converting to WVO.

I've been second-guessing my WVO decision, for several reasons. I've had a few friends suggest biodiesel to me. My original motivation for WVO was that I didn't want to buy fuel. My motivation for biodiesel would be the same... I'd rather spend the time filtering/making my own biodiesel or WVO than spend the time sitting in an office to make the money to buy it for $5/gallon.

So, what are the pros and cons of WVO vs biodiesel, from an entirely DIY standpoint? My preliminary thoughts... there seems to be a fair amount of the preparation that is similar. Whatever is collected has to be filtered, heated, dewatered, etc. There are obviously some additional steps in making the biodiesel, so I can imagine that the process would be a bit more time consuming.

Financially, installing a conversion kit for WVO ranges $500-$1500, depending on how much of it I do/fabricate yourself. If the vehicle dies though, there will probably be some significant work in adapting/fabricating a system for the next vehicle. With the biodiesel apparatus, I buy one processor (which I've heard is at least 2x the price of the WVO setup) but the end result can be used in anything that runs diesel.

It seems like if there were multiple vehicles, the bio would make more sense because you can just have a store of fuel processed and fill anything. If you just had one, then the WVO saves the expense of the processor and the chemicals.

Can anyone else offer some thoughts/insight?
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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do you have two fuel tanks? I've got an '86 6.9 idi and two tanks. put biodiesel in one for warm up and cool down, and wvo in the other for the rest of the trip.

I would imagine you'll still need a fuel tank heater and additional filter for the wvo, but having two tanks simplifies things a lot.
 
Wes Cooke
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Location: Central Coast, CA
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Hey tel,

I was planning on two tanks if I go the WVO route. Plenty of room in the Uhaul for it, and it definitely looks to make things a lot easier.

Thanks
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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Hi Wes,

I've got a '97 E350 Powerstroke shortbus that I'm considering converting to WVO, once I've finished camperizing the inside so that I can move in.

I've also got a '93 Isuzu Elf with a 2.8L 4JB1 diesel in it, which is first in line for a conversion.

In both cases, I'm keen on a second fuel tank anyhow. The Elf needs a bit of weight in the back or it will spin the tires on flat gravel, and there is space below to add the tank. The E350 I just want unreasonably long range.

For me, I don't like the idea of dealing with the methanol and glycerin byproducts, and my engines should be happy on WVO, so those were factors.

The main things for now, though, are that I'm not doing this on land I own, and space and mess tolerance are limited; adding the biodiesel aspect would not be popular. My WVO source is fairly low volume; it took me a long time to find one at all, so I'm unwilling to invest heavily in gear at this point, and some used gear adequate for the Elf looks like a pretty cheap option; to do the powerstroke right looks a lot more pricy.

The final argument for WVO is that you can leave the existing fuel system essentially intact, so that you can revert to that at startup/shutdown, or if you have a problem with your WVO fuel system. If you have a problem with the vehicles fuel system while running biodiesel... well, best hope it's not serious, since it's the only fuel system you've got!

Once I move to a more permanent home, if I secure 2+ good sources, I might think about biodiesel again.


I'll be interested to hear what decision you reach; do you have a thread for your uhaul? Are the idi vans missing the tachometer like mine was? Bugged me, so I bought an AIC with RPM display on it.
 
tel jetson
steward
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Dillon Nichols wrote:For me, I don't like the idea of dealing with the methanol and glycerin byproducts


the methanol can be recovered with a simple still and reused for the next batch. I've heard mention of possibly using ethanol instead of methanol, too, but don't know how practical that is on a home scale.

and the glycerin makes pretty good soap with a couple more steps. smells a little funny, but cleans very well.

all of that is adding more work, of course, and methanol is pretty nasty stuff, so your objection is certainly valid.
 
Wes Cooke
Posts: 25
Location: Central Coast, CA
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Dillon Nichols wrote:
I'll be interested to hear what decision you reach; do you have a thread for your uhaul? Are the idi vans missing the tachometer like mine was? Bugged me, so I bought an AIC with RPM display on it.


I've got a thread over at expedition portal outlining the build, link: here

We're in pretty much the same position as you, we're living on a living farm right now tucked away in a corner, living in trailer while I get this build to a point that we can live in it. So we are also space/mess limited. And mine didn't have a tach! Mine's got the E40D automatic transmission, so I don't really see much need for the tach... why did you feel you needed one?

tel jetson wrote:the methanol can be recovered with a simple still and reused for the next batch. I've heard mention of possibly using ethanol instead of methanol, too, but don't know how practical that is on a home scale.

I've heard that using ethanol is a more involved process, and not recommended until you've mastered the methanol. I may have misheard though!
 
Bob Armantrout
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Wes Cooke wrote:So, what are the pros and cons of WVO vs biodiesel, from an entirely DIY standpoint? My preliminary thoughts... there seems to be a fair amount of the preparation that is similar. Whatever is collected has to be filtered, heated, dewatered, etc. There are obviously some additional steps in making the biodiesel, so I can imagine that the process would be a bit more time consuming.


Hi Wes,

I think you've summed things up pretty well.

Vegetable oil is more viscous than diesel so the fuel needs to be thinner in order to atomize properly on injection and reduce wear on the fuel pump.

Running SVO is modifying you vehicle - running biodiesel in modifying the oil. Both can and are being done successfully by many people worldwide. It really boils down to your personal preference and abilities. I really don't like wrenching on my car, and also am not overly fond of collecting and de-watering oil, so I prefer to buy commercially produced biodiesel from my local small-scale biodiesel plant. There's no right answer that fits every one - just what works for you.
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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Nice build; definitely stealthier than my shortbus!

The trailer tucked in a corner is exactly what I'm doing. My van is at the bare metal stage right now; I bought it with factory insulation and flooring intact... and then I had to gut it to deal with mold inside the walls, courtesy of leaks I didn't spot ahead of time. Also got to drill out ~140 5/16" bolts in order to remove the tie-down strips since they prevented removal of the floor which prevented removal of the walls... and now that the floor and all the inside panels are out anyhow, I'm dealing with any visible rust while it's still minor. Sooo... it's taking a hell of a lot longer than I'd hoped!


As far as the tach goes, I just like to see what's going on. Even though I do have an auto, I may want O/D off for hills or towing, or need to adjust my driving for optimal results... more data helps. Given that the sensors collecting this info are already there, it ticked me off that they omitted the gauge; I guess they figure most vans are work vehicles driven by employees who don't give a shit anyhow.

As a bonus the AIC will let me run a high idle to avoid wet-stacking, in case I need to idle for an extended period. I also added an Auber Instruments pyro, and Aeroforce multifunction gauge. If you need a pyro, the Auber is great. OTOH Aeroforce has been a nightmare, would never deal with them again.

Does yours have a turbo on it?
 
Wes Cooke
Posts: 25
Location: Central Coast, CA
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Ouch Dillon - sounds like a pain. That's the nature of these projects I'm learning though - always takes longer than you anticipate I'm basically ripping half the stuff I previously did out right now and making upgrades. I wanna make this thing bulletproof

I feel ya on the tach, I definitely wouldn't mind it. I'm just going by ear right now, which seems to be suiting me fine. Keeping me very attentive to my vehicle, maybe a little too attentive at times.

I don't think mine has an AIC, since it's the pre-powerstroke. If I pump the gas once before starting it goes into high idle until it gets warm, but that's about the only idle control I have. No turbo as of yet, although I'm strongly considering dropping the $$ for a Banks turbo, only for the gas mileage increase. The non-turbo is a dog up any steep hills, but I'm not in a hurry anyways... the 11 mpg is killing me though. I'll definitely look into that pyro if I add the turbo... first have to scrounge up $2,500 that I don't have.
 
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