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Native Renewables

Providing for an environmentally sustainable future


212 Pine Lake Drive

Cumming, Georgia 30040

(404) 395-6165



Recipe for transportation savings: Diesel fuel and clean restaurant oil


By Kim Ash


Cumming resident Alex McKinney – a 29-year-old electrical engineer – has figured out a way to save gasoline – and money.

            He said he now runs his 1996 Volkswagen Passat diesel-fueled engine on vegetable oil and gets 50 miles to the gallon.

            “I used to spend so much on gasoline when I drove my Ford F-150, but I bought this car two months ago because it’s got a diesel engine,” he said.  “It’s also a help to the environment, and it makes us not so dependent on foreign oil.”

            He said his work on starting a renewable energy business using wind-powered systems included research which led him to the book, “From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank,” by Joshua and Kaia Tickell.

            “The book…discusses how diesel engines can be run on vegetable oils and other oils,” he said.  “I ordered a conversion kit from and can now run the car on vegetable oil.”

            McKinney purchased the $500 kit in August and, according to a press release, “within a week [of purchasing it], the car was veggie powered.”

            The kit allows diesel fuel to be heated up in the car’s original tank and vegetable oil in a separate tank he installed.  When McKinney flips a switch he also installed, the car is free to run on vegetable oil.  A few minutes before turning off his engine, he switches the car back to the regular fuel, he said.

            “I get my oil from local restaurants that will give me clean waste oil,” he said.

            He said he spends a little time each weeks hunting for the oil, and then filters it in a cast-off soap barrel at this home.

            Dr. David Brani, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, agrees it’s certainly possible to run the car on vegetable oil.

            “It’s possible,” he said.  “But like anything, it has its pros and cons.  It can’t be perfect,” he said.

            “It is something that has been done in the past,” he said.  “The military messed around with it a little bit.  But, obviously, it would have still been around if it worked perfectly.

            “One has to consider that the vegetable oil must have the same properties as regular diesel fuel,” he said.  “Diesel and vegetable oil must ignite the same way.

            “The difference in diesel and vegetable oil is the thickness,” he said.  “Diesel fuel is like water and vegetable oil is like maple syrup.  Once the vegetable oil is heated up, it is ready to use.

            “It’s possible, but I don’t know how good the longterm effects would be,” he said.

            McKinney said he may be the only local resident to come up with the idea of running a vehicle on vegetable oil.

            “ I think I’m the only one in Cumming,” he said.  “It’s a completely renewable resource.

            “When using the vegetable oil, you’re not putting carbon dioxide in the air.  It’s better for the environment.”



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Last updated June 7, 2004