Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Source Fuels?

Although many of us may be oblivious to it, there exists a large community of diesel-fueled car owners that enjoy using alternative fuels. Reasons for this change in fuel use range from simple economics to a sense of exploration, DIY, and the self-satisfaction that comes from using last night's cooking oil as fuel. The attention to detail and sense of community remind me of another community with certain similarities: the open source software community. These people strive to make something without dependence on big companies.

There are multiple types of biodiesel blends that can be used as fuels. Most come from animal fat or vegetable oil, which makes a big point for many people who want to experiment with using alternative fuels. Using waste vegetable oil and some processing, people are able to obtain fuel for their cars. In addition, this fuel can be mixed to different degrees with conventional diesel in order to reduce the changes in viscosity due to temperature that create problems for biodiesels.

In the case of waste vegetable oil (wvo), people that have tried to use it have had mixed results. Some have great success, while others damage their engines or worse. The New York Times published an article that talks about new diesel technology and how using home-brewed fuels could have an adverse effect. The article mentions that using high grades of biodiesel may void the warranty, and how policy such as the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act may intervene. It would be interesting to see if there is enough support to develop policy that could coerce automakers in broadening their cars' fuel-usage capabilities.

In any case, it is positive to see there is a growing community of people who want to push the boundaries on biodiesel use. Their innovations today may help advance the technologies for tomorrow, just as open source software has been doing lately.


1 comment:

David Wogan said...

I love the idea of open source fuel. I drive a diesel car and love the thought of making my own fuel. I haven't actually done it because the process is a little messy. I don't really have a problem getting my hands on any waste grease, but actually preparing the biodiesel takes a little more time than I've been willing to give it lately.

I have run biodiesel in my car (up to 99.9%) without regard for the factory warranty. I used biodiesel because the car ran more smoothly on it and was sold at Eco Wise downtown. I thought it was neat to support a local business with my fuel purchases. But then I realized that soy-derived biodiesel wasn't all that great.

As much as I love the idea of making my own fuel, I know it will never amount to more than a cult following, but how cool is it to make your own fuel??

Very cool!!