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Running a diesel vehicle on straight vegetable oil (SVO)

While biodiesel is a great alternative fuel with lower emissions and the ease of use in an unmodified engine, the real economic and ecological savings come when running on Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO).

Believe it or not, the original diesel engines were designed to run on peanut oil! Today's engines are designed with petro-diesel in mind and therefore require a fuel with similar physical properties. Vegetable oil will burn in a diesel engine but only if its viscosity (how thick a liquid is) can be brought down to a level similar to petro-diesel.

To do this you can mix it with another fuel such as kerosene or petro-diesel, but you can also do it by heating it to about 160 °F. This option can allow you to run on pure vegetable oil, including waste vegetable oil.

At Dancing Rabbit we've modified one of our cars to have a heated fuel tank which allows us to run on vegetable oil during the summer and also allows us to run on biodiesel during the winter (which would otherwise be gelled). The vehicle is started on biodiesel and then the tank is heated with hot coolant from the engine. After a few miles the fuel is ready to go and then you can run on vegetable oil. For details of this conversion see our article on Biodiesel Winterization. This system is based on plans described in From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank, by Joshua Tickell.

For more information on using SVO see our resources page and check out the Discussion Board board which includes a forum on SVO.