experiences, problems, and successes in making renewable fuel in our backyard
This all started in the fall of 2005 when my eco-inspiration started a big upwards swing. I started researching biodiesel and its production on the web and serendipitously came across a seminar in Atascadero at Four Elements Farms by Girl Mark, the mother of the "appleseed processor". After the 2-Day seminar I built a home processor and we started our "biodiesel experiment." Laura and I figured that at the worst, we'd be down $1000 and will have learned a lot about biofuel production. We found an '84 Mercedes turbodiesel wagon on Craig's List and drove it up from L.A. for a little restoration work. Filling up the tank on the way home was the 2nd to last tank of fossil fuel that we've put in it since. We've now made and used over 200 gallons of biodiesel and driven over 3000 miles.
Driving the car:
The '84 Mercedes drives very well on our homebrew B100, leaving the sweet smell of burning grease behind us! I haven't been able to calculate fuel economy, since we don't have a meter on our fuel pump and I haven't taken the time to actually measure out how much I'm putting in the tank at any one time, but I think that we get around 22 mpg, close to what is expected from this car. We find ourselves feeling guilty when we drive the other cars (despite our Terrapass CO2 offsets), and you really start to think about what trips are really necessary when you're making your own fuel.
So far this has been a successful experiment to say the least. The hassle and time it takes to make the fuel is not prohibitive in any way and it really feels good to be driving on a renewable, homemade fuel for about $1.50/gallon. We're planning on trading in the "Bitty Wagon" (BD wagon) for a Golf TDI sometime in the next year to improve our fuel economy and hopefully find some cheaper local methanol to bring our costs down even more.
Feel free to email me with any questions or comments.