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  • auto enthusaists hack Toyota Prius, get 250 MPG

    anyone else see this wire piece? it was slashdotted earlier, so i'd imagine some people already know about it. pretty impressive, i'd say...

    Experimental Hybrid Cars Get Up to 250 Mpg
    "CORTE MADERA, Calif — Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage. It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret — a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel. Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car. ... He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up to 250 mpg."

    the article goes on to compare hybrid modders with the hot rod enthusaists of the past, whose experimentation and innovation led to new designs in production cars.

    personally, i'd like to see a hybrid that has more room and a bit more ability to handle itself in rugged terrain (i think there is a Ford Escape hybrid... anybody have a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on that model?) before i trade in something like my Yukon... but i wouldn't mind having one as a daily driver if it were affordable to have a second car.
    "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
    - Trent Reznor

  • #2
    Before I get into this - none of this is meant as a personal attack on you; the article was actually sort of interesting. I just hate, loathe, and detest hybrids.

    Originally posted by Deviant Ollam
    anyone else see this wire piece? it was slashdotted earlier, so i'd imagine some people already know about it. pretty impressive, i'd say...
    Bah. Hybrids are, at best, a poor idea and should not be given any special status in the marketplace. Here're some of the less-impacting reasons why:

    1) Drivetrain complexity. You now have two separate drivetrains requiring a controller to tie them together. This additional complexity means more potential points of failure and greater difficulty in getting the vehicle serviced anywhere other than a dealership.

    2) Weight. Batteries weigh a lot; this makes them heavier than comparably-sized vehicles. It also means that the drivetrain has to be scaled to cope accordingly, which impacts on overall efficiency.

    3) Batteries again, this time the recycling aspect that comes up when they need to be replaced. There's currently no good answer on how to accomplish that on the scale that hybrid manufacturers want to ramp production up to.

    More...

    Experimental Hybrid Cars Get Up to 250 Mpg
    "CORTE MADERA, Calif — Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.
    Ron's an idiot. Hybrids don't do a damn thing to 'free us from foreign oil' since, as most of these people fail to notice, you still have to fill the damned tank with gasoline.

    It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret — a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.
    More batteries, more weight, bigger recycling problem.

    Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car. ... He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up to 250 mpg."
    What he probably isn't mentioning is that it's possible to switch the Prius to a fully-electric mode at any time with a small hack to the controller. This wasn't made available in the US for reasons unknown, but Toyota sure as hell will void your warranty if you do enable it. Of course, the downside to having a plug-in hybrid: you've just moved emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack on the powerstation charging the damn thing. That power has to come from somewhere, and having several million hybrids or EVs (which is essentially what they're turning these into) plugged into the grid would be a Bad Thing. And that isn't even touching on the fact that the vehicle's usefulness has just been cut down by reducing cargo space... Brilliant. I'd also be interested to see how that 250mpg figure is being obtained - if you're running fully-electric, mpg becomes irrelevant as you can't measure consumption at times when there is none.

    the article goes on to compare hybrid modders with the hot rod enthusaists of the past, whose experimentation and innovation led to new designs in production cars.
    Disagreed. They're blinded, much like the people who bought into the marketing hype and purchased one, to some basic tenets of automotive engineering. The only people who are truly benefitting from hybrids are the auto manufacturers: more hype means more cars sold, which means bigger government tax breaks for marketing them. It all comes down to money in the end - and for some reasons, consumers are willing to spend inordiantely more over the cost of a comparable non-hybrid vehicle for the promise of better gas mileage. Of course, nobody ever mentions that on a typical average mileage it'll take an average of FIVE YEARS to break even on the higher purchase price vs. fuel savings.

    personally, i'd like to see a hybrid that has more room and a bit more ability to handle itself in rugged terrain (i think there is a Ford Escape hybrid... anybody have a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on that model?) before i trade in something like my Yukon... but i wouldn't mind having one as a daily driver if it were affordable to have a second car.
    Personally, I wouldn't go for the Escape for anything other than strict pavement use, hybrid or otherwise - it's just not built for trails. Look at the rear suspension setup to see what I mean; those arms are going to either get beaten to hell or hung up on something, and the whole CRV-style exposed halfshafts is just asking for damage. I hear you on the gas mileage, though. I'm driving a Jeep Cherokee that's averaging around 15mpg at $2.80/gallon, which is about double the cost fuel was a year and a half ago when I first bought a Jeep.

    Anyhow, lest this look like a crazed rant against hybrids... Here's some background on why I dislike them so much, and what I feel we should be doing to address the issue.

    Hybrid development began, for the most part, in the late '70s and early '80s. It progressed fairly well up to the late '80s / early '90s, at which point it was more or less cut dead. You can thank the California legislature for this: it was around then that they passed a law requiring that 10% of all vehicles sold in the state be fully-electric (actually zero-emissions, but we're splitting hairs) by 2002. This was an unrealistic goal given the state of development of electric vehicles, and is a key reason why the law was later rescinded. The fact that zero-emissions vehicles were actually remote-emissions vehicles also played something of a part - moving the emissions from the tailpipe to the power station in a state that routinely has rolling blackouts due to electrical demand outstripping supply would've been catastrophic.

    However, the legislature, in its infinite lack of wisdom and understanding of automotive engineering, decided that if the ZEV law was to go off the books, something mandating better fuel economy had to replace it. This led to manufacturers dusting off their old hybrid designs and updating them for commercial sale. Toyota forced the issue with the legislature somewhat by having the Prius on sale in Japan in 1997; by demonstrating a vehicle that met most of the ZEV requirements but without needing to be plugged-in it seemed like a reasonable compromise. Three years later it was on sale in the US, along with the laughably-designed Honda Insight.

    What this means is that the first generation of hybrids were essentially 1980s designs - one reason why they never made it to market before 2000 was that technology hadn't advanced to the point whereby the complex controls necessary to manage and shift between two disparate drivetrains were available in a cost-effective form. The past few years have improved hybrid technology, but courtesy of all eyes being on ZEVs through the 1990s the development's still a good decade behind where it should be.

    Back to the early '90s, and the California legislature has decided to demonise one particular engine technology: diesel. By refusing to certify new-generation diesels for sale in the state, failing repeatedly to mandate low-sulphur diesel fuel, and taxing the hell out of it (diesel's currently around $3.20/gallon here, vs. $2.80 for regular), diesel more or less remained confined to Europe as a common automotive fuel.

    Now for my bias in all of this: screw hybrids, go diesel. Preferably biodiesel, or even vegetable oil if you're adventurous. Here's why:

    Diesel technology has progressed to a point whereby most modern catalysed diesels are as clean as if not cleaner than their gasoline-powered counterparts. Fuel economy is vastly improved over gas engines, production and maintenance costs are lower than for hybrids, and it's a proven, reliable technology. Coupling it with advanced engines such as the Axial Vector Engine would significantly improve efficiency and emissions to a point whereby hybrids would more or less be redundant.

    How does this cut reliance on foreign oil? Consider this: right now, hybrids are just as dependent on foreign oil as a regular car since every drop of gasoline they use comes from a hole in the ground somewhere in the Middle East. However, by taking the farmers that we're currently paying to not grow food and have them grow vegetable crops for fuel use, it gets them off the government welfare payroll and gives us a fuel that can be blended with diesel. Even a 20% biodiesel blend is 20% less foreign oil that needs to be purchased.

    Moving on from that... We need to tell OPEC to go fuck themselves. Strike a deal with Nigeria (themselves an OPEC member) to take 100% of their export oil capacity and watch how fast they leave that particular cabal. Let Europe and China (themselves expected to mobilise another 50 million cars over the next 10 years, with an unknown impact on pollution and oil prices) deal with OPEC's bullshit; as a backup to Nigeria, we actively pursue working with the Russians on tapping and pipelining the Siberian reserves.

    Oh, and before I step down off the soapbox... For anyone who really wants to make an environmentally-friendly choice in purchasing a vehicle: buy a used car. Consider for a moment the sheer amount of resources and energy used in the construction of one vehicle that can never be reclaimed; tailpipe emissions over the lifetime of the vehicle pale by comparison.
    Last edited by skroo; August 15, 2005, 10:56.

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    • #3
      Nice article and response.

      Originally posted by skroo
      Now for my bias in all of this: screw hybrids, go diesel. Preferably biodiesel, or even vegetable oil if you're adventurous.
      What about Hydrogen Powered Vehicles?
      The biggest problems I see ATM for these are:
      * Lack of refueling station
      * Compressed Hydroigen canister with compressed Oxygen canisters could prove to be explosive under the right conditions. (e.g. gasoline ICE collides with HPV, and gasoline car catches fire, to heat oxygen and hydrogen tanks in HPV car)
      * The most likely source for Hydrogen/Oxygen seems to be water, but energy is required to split the bonds, which is similar to the "rechargin station" issues, but unlike true electrical charging systems, Hydrogen/Oxygen bottling can take place near hydroelectric plants, and fuel can be shipped.
      * It is not widely available now, so mechanics are not widely available in servicing these.
      * With enough cars producing water as the "exhaust" will roads ever stay wet? What about in cold climates, where freezing of water is a risk?

      So, what about HPV? (Hydrogen Powered Vehicles)
      Last edited by TheCotMan; August 15, 2005, 13:06.

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      • #4
        skroo: You didn't do any research for that reply, did you? ;)

        Seriously though, that was a well-thought and well-reasoned response to the green-craze that these people are trying to start.

        The big point that you mentioned that really sticks out:

        Of course, the downside to having a plug-in hybrid: you've just moved emissions from the tailpipe to the smokestack on the powerstation charging the damn thing. That power has to come from somewhere, and having several million hybrids or EVs (which is essentially what they're turning these into) plugged into the grid would be a Bad Thing.
        Why is it that no one ever mentions this? Because it is the dirty (pun intended) little secret of the electric car.
        "\x74\x68\x65\x70\x72\x65\x7a\x39\x38";

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        • #5
          i have often been inclined to learn more about biodiesel solutions. out of curiousity... is it possible to convert an engine (or to run certain stock engines) on biodiesel of some sort but retain the vehicle's ability to fuel up with standard diesel at a local filling station? when i move to a spot with more land i'd love to setup my own mini biodiesel or greasel operation as a hobby since it's always interested me... but i'd like to be be able to do that with whatever truck i eventually end up buying next as opposed to having an extra vehicle just to play with the alternative fuel. if, however, my daily drive vehicle is biodiesel / greasel enabled i don't want to be restricted to driving within a few hundred miles of my home and my bio fuel reservoir. what type of alternative diesel would be the best option to learn more about if i'm interested in a multi-fuel vehicle?
          "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
          - Trent Reznor

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          • #6
            Thanks for the replies, folks :)

            Originally posted by TheCotMan
            What about Hydrogen Powered Vehicles?
            The biggest problems I see ATM for these are:
            * Lack of refueling station
            This is the biggest problem, really - it doesn't fit into an existing fuelling infrastructure. I agree with you on your other points, and think hydrogen would make an excellent automotive fuel if we could get around this and the other points you brought up. While I'm definitely a biodiesel bigot, I'll get behind anything that's a) well thought-out, b) provides the same or better motive force as gasoline, and c) isn't ludicrously expensive or suffering from blind environmentalism.

            Originally posted by theprez98
            Why is it that no one ever mentions this? Because it is the dirty (pun intended) little secret of the electric car.
            Exactly. I see a few electric RAV4s around here from time to time, and the drivers have this smug look of superiority on their faces that makes me want to walk over and punch them square in the face while shouting, 'YOU'RE THE REASON I CAN'T RUN MY AIR CONDITIONER AT THREE IN THE AFTERNOON IN AUGUST!'

            Originally posted by Deviant Ollam
            i have often been inclined to learn more about biodiesel solutions. out of curiousity... is it possible to convert an engine (or to run certain stock engines) on biodiesel of some sort but retain the vehicle's ability to fuel up with standard diesel at a local filling station?
            In most cases, yes. Before I answer this, let me clarify the difference between biodiesel- and vegetable oil-powered vehicles; this is where most confusion on the issue comes in. Essentially, both types of vehicle use the same vegetable oil as a base fuel - it's how the fuel is processed that determines the requirements.

            Vegetable oil: using either filtered waste oil (the ubiquitous Chinese takeaway grease) or straight vegetable oil (i.e., grown and processed specifically for the purpose), a secondary tank is plumbed into the fuel system as close to the intake side of the injection pump as possible. Due to the low gelling point of vegetable oil (about 70degF), the VO tank has to be kept heated to around 170degF in order to keep the fuel liquid enough to be pumped through the lines. Compression ignition of the fuel is the same as for regular diesel, so no internal changes are required to the engine. Note that all of this typically runs off of a secondary tank, and there's a good reason for this: to prevent fuel gelling in the lines and injection pump after you switch off and the VO tank / lines / injection pump cool, you need to run regular or biodiesel through the system for about a minute before shutting down. It also means that the fuel needs time to get warm before you can switch over to it once you start driving, so running a single tank of vegetable oil for non-experimental use isn't really practical.

            Biodiesel: biodiesel is typically a blend of vegetable oil and regular diesel, represented as a percentage - B5, B20, B50, etc. The number after the B refers to the amount of vegetable oil in the diesel, so B20 would be 20% vegetable oil, 80% regular diesel. To get around the room-temperature gelling problem, chemical compounds are introduced to the VO before it's blended with the diesel. These are compatible with regular cold-climate diesel fuelling antigel additives, so if you live in, say, Alaska, your biodiesel-powered car will still work. Biodiesel doesn't require a secondary tank or modification to the fuelling or ignition system either.

            The lack of understanding of the difference between the two has given rise to the myth that biodiesel is edible. This is completely wrong, since you'd basically be drinking diesel with a Wesson oil depth charge in it. Conceivably you could consume the untreated fuel from a VO-powered car, but why you'd want to unless you're not putting enough skidmarks on your underwear is beyond me.

            Anyway, getting back to the question: most vehicles can run biodiesel without any modification. Some older diesels will require replacement of various rubber parts in the fuel delivery system: vegetable oil and biodiesel do have comparatively higher lubricity than regular diesel, so they may leak past seals that weren't designed for anything other than older fuels. Other than that, you really shouldn't need to modify the internals of the engine at all - being able to run a diesel on vegetable oil has been known for close to a century now, it's only just relatively recently that people have started to take notice of the benefits of doing so.

            Originally posted by Deviant Ollam
            when i move to a spot with more land i'd love to setup my own mini biodiesel or greasel operation as a hobby since it's always interested me... but i'd like to be be able to do that with whatever truck i eventually end up buying next as opposed to having an extra vehicle just to play with the alternative fuel. if, however, my daily drive vehicle is biodiesel / greasel enabled i don't want to be restricted to driving within a few hundred miles of my home and my bio fuel reservoir. what type of alternative diesel would be the best option to learn more about if i'm interested in a multi-fuel vehicle?
            Welp, biodiesel's a no-brainer since that's a zero-conversion option and leaves the ability to still run regular diesel; a good place to locate biodiesel filling stations is the Alternative Fuels Data Center, which covers way more types than just biodiesel. For vegetable oil, I'd personally go with a twin-tank setup and the ability to switch back to regular/biodiesel as necessary. People have done single-tank VO conversions, but I'd rather not be reliant on the kindness and understanding of strangers in letting me suck out their grease trap if I'm low on fuel :)

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            • #7
              Incidentally, one thing woth keeping an eye out for: every Wednesday at 10pm, the Discovery Channel is showing Top Gear, the BBC's motoring programme (the companion magazine's website can be found here). Apart from being a really good show, they did an interesting double-blind test on hybrids and fuel economy a while back.

              Basically, what they did was give one journalist a Prius, with another journalist taking a similarly-sized diesel car. At the end of a week, they swapped cars and each drove the other for another week. What they didn't tell the journalists until after the test was over was that this was a fuel economy comparison. Interestingly, at the end of the test period the Prius had averaged somewhere in the region of 42mpg (IIRC); the diesel car closer to 50mpg.

              I don't know if that particular segment will be aired or not - I've noticed that some of the content has been Americanised, so we aren't getting road tests on Europe-only models that aren't available here, for example - but it did make a damned interesting comparison.

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              • #8
                Wow Skroo... I was gonna go off on the diesel trip but there's not a lot left to say. You rock.

                There is one thing I would like to add that tipped the balance into diesel's favour for me - MORE POWER! ARGH ARGH ARGH!!!

                The wimpy little hybrids not only suck for fuel economy, they're also hideously underpowered. In my diesel beetle, I was getting around 45mpg in the city and had enough low-end torque to put most ricers in their place. It wasn't terribly responsive when I was already flying at 80mph, but from the line (where it really counts), that baby would move. It got me up to speed and onto the highway without having a stream of hormonal soccer moms in H2's piling up behind me like the hybrids get. OOOHHHHHH YYYEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHH

                I'm totally sold on diesels after that one. Power AND economy. Yes, you can have it all.
                the fresh princess of 1338

                What did I do to make you think I give a shit?

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                • #9
                  I am surprised at all the huge pickup trucks doing 80mph on the roads... is the extreme cost of gas only imaginary?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by astcell
                    I am surprised at all the huge pickup trucks doing 80mph on the roads... is the extreme cost of gas only imaginary?
                    No, but an informed and conscientious public is.
                    - Programmer -

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                    • #11
                      Well, it is true that diesel engines do have quite a few advantages, as mentioned in earlier posts, and you can even add easier maintenance and durability.

                      However, despite having lower carbon dioxide emissions, diesel produces more nitrogen oxide, which is one of the causes of acid raid. Hmm ... greenhouse effect or acid rain?

                      But what I personally find most frustrating about diesel engines is the annoyingly narrow power band. Fair enough, this could be the boy in me speaking, but I do like the ability to overtake. Shift down, short burst of speed (the term is used very loosely), lose steam, shift up, and wait, wait, wait ... Oh, bollocks, too late to overtake.

                      This may not be much of a problem in the long straight roads you guys have across the pond, but here in Britain it is.

                      Maybe turbodiesels are better in that respect, but I've never had the opportunity to drive one.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by octalpus
                        Wow Skroo... I was gonna go off on the diesel trip but there's not a lot left to say. You rock.
                        Thank you, next show's at ten :) Incidentally, I heard that VWOA just OK'd biodiesel up to B20 for the TDi-engined vehicles without invalidating your warranty. I don't really know specifics on it, but it may be something to look into.

                        Originally posted by astcell
                        I am surprised at all the huge pickup trucks doing 80mph on the roads... is the extreme cost of gas only imaginary?
                        Not necessarily - those vehicles may be geared to get their best fuel economy at around that speed. My Jeep's getting about 27-28mpg on the freeway at around 72mph; my car returns 35mpg at 83mph. Going slower doesn't necessarily equate to better fuel economy; overall gearing can play a huge part in determining fuel economy.

                        Besides, we're in Southern California. Everyone on the road's a hyperaggresive prick - if you're not, you get eaten alive.

                        Originally posted by theCount
                        However, despite having lower carbon dioxide emissions, diesel produces more nitrogen oxide, which is one of the causes of acid raid. Hmm ... greenhouse effect or acid rain?
                        Consider for a moment that the nitrogen oxides are now taken care of (in modern diesels) through a catalytic system that effectively reduces them to levels at or below gasoline-engined norms. Also, if you're concerned about acid rain or greenhouse gases (still an unproven effect, btw), look to industrial pollution as the major producer of both, particularly in third world nations where industrial emissions run mostly-uncheckd.

                        But what I personally find most frustrating about diesel engines is the annoyingly narrow power band. Fair enough, this could be the boy in me speaking, but I do like the ability to overtake. Shift down, short burst of speed (the term is used very loosely), lose steam, shift up, and wait, wait, wait ... Oh, bollocks, too late to overtake.
                        There is a rather different method of driving a diesel in this situation - basically, the trick is to keep it on the boil depending on the type of manoeuvres you're undertaking. I really don't see it as being much different than driving a gas-engined vehicle with a narrow power band; the only difference is in how you access that band.

                        Originally posted by theCount
                        This may not be much of a problem in the long straight roads you guys have across the pond, but here in Britain it is.
                        I invite you to drive here and reiterate that statement after experiencing the joy of the Los Angeles freeway system :)

                        Maybe turbodiesels are better in that respect, but I've never had the opportunity to drive one.
                        Much better than their naturally-aspirated counterparts. The last turbodiesel I drove was in a Hummer H1 Alpha; the improvement of the 6.6-litre turbo unit over the older 6.5-litre nat-asp engine was unbelieveable, particularly in an 8000lb. vehicle - it actually had car-like acceleration. For a more real-world comparison, I'd recommend taking Peugeot's turbodiesels and comparing them against the non-turbo models. The difference is like night and day.
                        Last edited by skroo; August 16, 2005, 00:50.

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                        • #13
                          Skroo,

                          You say when. I owe you lunch and a beer.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by astcell
                            I am surprised at all the huge pickup trucks doing 80mph on the roads... is the extreme cost of gas only imaginary?
                            As much as the cost of gasoline has gone up, I don't think it is at the point where it has made a huge impact on people's budgets. As it is, gasoline compromises a fairly small percentage of our budget, even with my 15 mpg Jeep. Instead of 40 bucks a tank, its $45 or $50. Even if I fill up once a week, that's still only $20-40 more per month.
                            "\x74\x68\x65\x70\x72\x65\x7a\x39\x38";

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by skroo
                              Anyway, getting back to the question: most vehicles can run biodiesel without any modification. Some older diesels will require replacement of various rubber parts in the fuel delivery system: vegetable oil and biodiesel do have comparatively higher lubricity than regular diesel, so they may leak past seals that weren't designed for anything other than older fuels. Other than that, you really shouldn't need to modify the internals of the engine at all - being able to run a diesel on vegetable oil has been known for close to a century now, it's only just relatively recently that people have started to take notice of the benefits of doing so.

                              I'm guessing you probably already know this, but I felt I'd point it out for others. The diesel engine has been known to run on vegetable oil for its entire existence. Rudolf Diesel actually designed the engine with the specific purpose of having it run on bio oils. The original ran on peanut oil in fact. Interestingly there are conspiracy theories that claim Diesel was killed by the oil companies for just this reason.

                              -zac
                              %54%68%69%73%20%69%73%20%6E%6F%74%20%68%65%78

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