May 18, 2005 at 7:55 PM CDT - Updated June 29 at 6:05 PM
Greasel Helps You Fill-Up for Free By Amy Jacquin
Cape GIrardeau, MO - How would you like to fill up your truck for free? People with Greasel conversions can. The system runs on used cooking oil, which many restaurants are anxious to give away.
It doesn't cost Charlie Anderson a dime to fill-up his Ford Excursion. All he does is back-up to a restaurant's used-oil bin and recycle his fuel, with their permission, of course. In this case, it's Pagoda Gardens in Cape Girardeau.
"I can tell just by looking at it drop," says Anderson. "Just look at how clean it looks. And there's a lot of it here."
He pumps the used cooking oil into huge holding tanks he'll haul back home to Springfield, Missouri. That's where his business is based.
"That's what we call liquid gold!" he laughs.
Anderson started Greasel Conversions about five years ago, and he credits his childhood. Growing up in Alaska with Grandfathers who fished and ranched taught him ingenuity.
"You couldn't just go to the store and buy whatever you needed," he explains. "You had to fabricate what you needed, or take something else and make it work."
That tenacity led him to develop a diesel conversion kit, that turned an old pick-up into veggie oil burning machine!
"I'm not an engineer," Anderson admits. "I've never been to college. Japan is about as intense as it got. My senior year I was an exchange student in Japan."
So Japan was the first international market for Greasel Conversions. Now you can add France, Canada, and parts of South America. Plus, people from all over this country travel to Springfield to get their deasel vehicles converted. For a car, like a Jetta or Mercedes, expect to pay about $1,800. A 1-ton dually truck runs about $3,000. A Mack truck costs around $4,500. And yes, he's actually converted 18-wheelers! Plus, if you're mechanically minded, you can have the kit delivered and save about a thousand dollars.
"In every instance that we've had a Dyno test done, we've had slight increases in horsepower," claims Anderson. "Don't expect to get in your truck and get whiplash! Because for the most part, you can not tell the difference."
Greasel also claims cleaner emissions and slightly improved mileage per gallon. Over-the-road truckers notice the biggest improvement.
"They're reporting about 2/10 a mile per gallon better on vegetable oil than diesel," he says.
At that point he shuts his pump off. "We just collected about 440 dollars in fuel in about 20 minutes."
But you don't have to haul huge tanks around. Greasel systems can be self contained. For example, pick-ups get a bigger tank in the bed that carries extra fuel. Cars can carry a smaller tank in the trunk. Either way, you just have to make sure the oil is filtered before filling the actual tank.
"That can be done through a simple sock filter like this," he holds up a foot-long filter. "The oil runs through here and when it comes out the other side, it's ready to go in your vehicle."
Anderson heads down the street to China Town Grill. Owners curiously allow him to empty their holding tank, too. Strangely enough, your emissions smell like the food that was cooked in your fuel! Anderson prefers Chinese or ethnic restaurants and fish houses, saying stronger-flavored foods require more frequent oil changes, and therefore it's easier to filter.
"What I like about this is it can be grass roots," he adds. "We don't need a huge centralized distribution system or processing center. It can be done on a community basis."
Restaurants usually pay a renderer to pick-up their used vegetable oil. And rural restaurants often have trouble even hiring a service. So Anderson says many are open to striking up a deal with an individual, allowing them to be the exclusive pick-up.
"When people call us they ask, will I be able to find oil?" he says of the concerns. "How am I going to find oil? We let them know some of the techniques, and how to ask. And they go, and within about twelve hours, they call and say they've got more oil than they can handle."
It's estimated the U.S. generates more than four billion gallons of waste vegetable oil every year. If that's ever all used, Anderson says, of course new oil will work. Which opens up another market for farmers.
"Right now ethanol and bio diesel are so much more expensive than standard petroleum," he explains. "Whereas we got the key in our hand to really help the farmer."
So what's the catch? The National Bio diesel Board says straight vegetable oil may clog fuel injectors and damage engine valves... two things Anderson promises they've never had problems with. He says oil actually lubricates an engine better than diesel fuel.
And be warned, converting to Greasel may void all or parts of your vehicle's warranty, though Anderson puts a positive spin on that possibility.
"It's been our experience that, unless it's something wrong with the fuel delivery system, they're not going to bat an eyelash," he states. "For example, if the transmission goes out, it has nothing to do with the fuel system."
"A lot of people will call me up or e mail me and ask, okay, what's the catch?" he continues. "Your horsepower doesn't suffer. You get it from your local fish-fry place for free. The emissions are cleaner. so what's the catch? Well, you might have to get your hands dirty."
Nothing a little leg-work and some soap won't cure.
The diesel creator, Rudolph Diesel, actually envisioned farmers growing their own fuel. But then the process evolved toward petroleum. So Anderson says he's just getting back to the original intent.