Saturday, April 17, 1999

Man converts car to run on used oil from french fries.

Tony Giovinazzo shows off his biodiesel powered Golf Diesel
Tony Giovinazzo shows off the converted engine of his biodiesel burning Golf.

copyright 1999 Mark Bellis

WATERLOO, APRIL 17, 1999 - A Waterloo man hopes that running his car on oil derived from the cannabis plant and other vegetable oil is more than a pipe dream.

"Hemp's the best vegetable oil" for running his car, says Tony Giovinazzo, self described "Environmental Mechanic" who shows off his 1986 VW Golf Diesel at hemp, alternative energy and environmental festivals around Southwest Ontario.

The Golf is powered by jugs of vegetable oil that came straight off the store shelf and sit on the floor boards on the passenger side with a siphon tube running out of them and into the fuel line. All that Giovinazzo had to do to convert was install a diverter on his fuel line that he salvaged from a used truck for $ 50 and drill some holes. The engine must be started and allowed to run down before stopping on regular diesel fuel since the vegetable oil will clog the injectors if the engine is cold.

Although retail vegetable oil is several times more expensive than diesel fuel, Giovinazzo says that if he can find oil that restaurants have used and are throwing out, he can ride for free. Some vegetable oil used commercially has dimethyl polysolaxane, an antifoaming agent used to prevent spillovers when cold wet food is added to hot oil, and Giovinazzo avoids this type of vegetable oil because some sources say it can foul the engine, but he has also heard from other sources that this is not a critical problem. He has yet to experiment with dimethyl polysolaxane added oil.

Vegetable oil can be refined into 'biodiesel' by removing the glycerides, which cause cold starting problems, from the oil, which can be done at home by adding lye and methanol to heated oil. The glycerides separate out and can be used in soap making. Giovinazzo says he has made and used 5 litres of biodiesel using a recipe he downloaded from the internet. Biodiesel is available commercially in Europe and Japan and in limited amounts in North America. In March, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy announced they had developed a more efficient method of producing a higher grade of biodiesel from vegetable oil.

Joshua and Kaia Tickell, a U.S. couple, have been touring the US in a biodiesel powered Winnebago that had its own mobile refinery for making biodiesel from used oil donated from restaurants.

Giovinazzo got the idea from an article from High Times, a magazine for those interested in recreational and commercial uses of marijuana, that was given him by Joe Stroebl, an Ontario hemp grower. Commercial growing of hemp, a term used to describe varieties cannabis too low in THC to get anyone high, was legalized in Canada last year. It is primarily being grown to produce fibre, but the seeds also produce oil.

Giovinazzo says his best mileage on the highway on canola oil is 24 km/l. He has driven about 720 km on vegetable oil and biodiesel.

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