March 21, 2006
Author: MIKE CASON News staff writer
Section: LOCAL NEWS
ASHVILLE A Samford University professor says
he's found a way to lower the cost of his daily commute
while making a small-scale contribution to conservation.
Brad ______, 35, bought an information kit over the
Internet to convert used vegetable oil into fuel for his
diesel-powered 1985 Mercedes. He said he's used the
fuel almost exclusively for six months with few problems and
at a cost of about 50 cents a gallon to produce.
''I wanted to reduce my dependence on fossil fuel,''
he said. ''When the gas prices went up, that gave me
another reason to look into alternatives.''
The kit costs about $40, including a bottle of additive
that's required to make the process work. Then it cost
another $200 for two pumps, three filters, about 10 feet of
hose and a few other items readily available at most home
Brad gets the used vegetable oil from a restaurant.
There's no charge for that because the restaurant was paying
to dispose of it before.
Brad keeps his fuel-making rig in a small shed under
his carport. He can whip up a 30-gallon batch in a few
The science is not new, says Andrew K., 39, one of
the founders of Diesel Secret Energy of Sunset, La., the
company from which he bought the kit.
He said his father, German-born Richard K.,
learned about it working at a Mercedes plant near Stuttgart
in the late 1940s. Fuel shortages were a problem in
post-World War II Germany, inspiring creative
minds to find alternate sources.
Richard K. moved to the United States in the 1950s,
still working for Mercedes. But he largely forgot about the
vegetable oil formula during decades of affordable diesel
''He just happened to have this knowledge and never
really had a use for it in America,'' he said.
When gas and diesel prices climbed sharply about two
years ago, Richard K. remembered the old formula. After
a little tinkering, they perfected it enough to try
it in their own cars.
''The original idea was to do it to save fuel costs for
ourselves,'' Andrew K. said.
About six months ago, they began selling their knowledge
and the additive over the Internet. Andrew K. said they
have sold to about 10,000 customers worldwide, as far away
as Australia and Singapore. Andrew believes they will
eventually reach 100,000 customers, as long as diesel prices
stay well above $2 per gallon.
''For people who are willing to get their hands a little
bit dirty and willing to do some legwork and set up
something in their garage, they can save hundreds and
thousands of dollars,'' Andrew K. said.
Brad has encountered a few problems. The fuel becomes
thicker in cold weather and his car hesitates, although he
said it's never stopped running. He also had to change his
car's two fuel filters because of the switch to vegetable
oil, but does not expect that to be a recurring problem. His
gas mileage has de-creased slightly, he said.
Brad said he looked at other ideas for making
alternative fuels. They were more costly or required the use
of dangerous chemicals such as methanol, he said.
After a short drive, Brad smiles as he bends over to
take of a whiff of the car's exhaust fumes, which smell like
a deep fryer.
The fact that his car is 21 years old with 300,000
miles on it offset somewhat the risk he felt like he was
taking with the alternative fuel. ''It's not going to be as
big a deal as if I was driving a $30,000 car,'' he said.
Still, Brad didn't feel comfortable telling his mechanic
until he was already using the fuel. ''He would have
probably told me I was crazy,'' he said.
On the Net
-- Diesel Secret Energy: dieselsecret.com
Copyright (c) 2006 Birmingham News
Record Number: MERLIN_3137263
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