Wednesday, September 26, 2012

40 things you should know about vegetable oil cars

Curious about a true alternative to gasoline? HRGBRG and the D9 Art Collective's Mario Aguirre is here to show you how a straight vegetable oil powered car works. Here are 40 things to know about his converted diesel Volkswagen Jetta, which runs on used vegetable oil that he collects daily from local restaurants. Unlike our previous BS about our office, the following IS actually, absolutely, positively true. We swear.

  1. The vegetable oil tank is located in the trunk of the car.

  2. This unit in the trunk contains a 25-gallon vegetable oil tank, and it's also a heat exchange system.

  3. This hose channels fluid from the radiator. The fluid passes through a metal core, which in turn heats the oil.

  4. This is a pump...

  5. ...and going into this hose is the pickup.

  6. This is the return line, where excess oil is returned. (Vehicles originally constructed as diesel vehicles always pull more oil than they use, and they put the excess back.)

  7. The oil goes through this filter. (The brass-colored piece.) Just like your filter, it needs to be changed every 3,000 miles, which is easy to do.

  8. Behind the filter is an amp for the radio. It only plays good music.

  9. Let's go around to the front of the car to check out the valve.

  10. This is the valve. It controls the flow of oil...

  11. ...into the pump right here. This is a very high pressure belt-driven pump.

  12. In fact, that valve lets the car change easily between running on either vegetable oil or diesel. It's controlled by a very simple switch on the car's dashboard.

  13. The low fuel warning light is connected to the diesel tank, not the vegetable oil tank. The light has been on for months.

  14. The Triumphant Chicken is the name and mascot of this car. "My friend [and fellow D9 artist] Cain Motter saw this chicken once. He took it off an egg carton. I said, 'That's a triumphant chicken.’ I think it's his way of symbolizing somebody kicking down the constraints of what many people call the American Dream. A true chicken is not going to be confined by rules, you know - the oil companies that control the oil prices, and the wars, and all that. I think that's what he means by it. That's what I get from it. I'm always talking about triumphant chickens."

  15. The Chicken isn't Mario and D9 Art's only veggie car. Here's a 4Runner that was recently converted. Total cost to convert: Around $1000. Photos provided by Mario Aguirre.

  16. The Triumphant Chicken was already converted when Mario bought it for $3000. He’s its first owner to use vegetable oil regularly. To hear what the vegetable oil pump sounds like, press Play:

  17. These are containers of used vegetable oil.

  18. Local restaurants give the used oil to Mario. This is beneficial to them since now they do not have to pay for the oil to be stored and disposed.

  19. Mario visits the restaurants almost every morning to pick up the previous day's used oil.

  20. It's waiting for a new adventure.

  21. Sometimes the oil even comes to him.

  22. Mario constructed this shed at his home to filter and store the oil.

  23. Today, Mario is filling the bin with the many jugs of oil he's collected throughout the week.

  24. A large filter goes on top of a repurposed garbage can, where the oil will be stored. Over time, debris that won't have gotten filtered this time around can sink to the bottom.

  25. Mario pours and filters the oil.

  26. Whatever oil gets spilled is collected below. This container is periodically taken to a biodiesel refinery, which can handle the really tough gak.

  27. Every jug of used vegetable oil has a bit of food gunk in it, which is okay because it can be filtered. Water, however, isn’t okay. Water is very difficult to remove from the containers and the oil, and it can destroy the seals in the car.

  28. The leftover potato chips, doughnut crumbs, and whatnot tends to sink to the bottom of the jugs. Everything smells appetizing.

  29. Same goes for the filter. You can actually eat this oil. Imagine doughnuts frying in it.

  30. Occasionally, a jug may have too much food gunk in it to be used. This will go to the biodiesel refinery.

  31. It’s important to take note of any additives that may be in the oil because they may affect the car. Dimethylpolysiloxane is a common additive. It’s okay to use oil that has this ingredient. The warning “DO NOT REUSE”, on the other hand, is not important and can be completely ignored.

  32. Empty jugs can be reused or recycled.

  33. Empty boxes can be composted by the city and by the worms.

  34. "Worms don’t exchange money for their food. It doesn’t cost me anything to feed them. Same thing with the oil. I don’t exchange money for my oil. The restaurants don’t lose any money by giving it to me. In fact they save money because they save space in their kitchen. I live like a worm. Worms get free food, and nobody has to pay to give it to them."

  35. The oil container is now full. It’s a good time to pour a few pitchers of filtered oil and fill up the car.

  36. Pumps that are compatible with vegetable oil can be purchased for around $200. Or, you can use a pitcher, a hose and gravity for nearly nothing, all while saving money on gym fees.

  37. 25 gallons later, the tank is full.

  38. The Triumphant Chicken is ready to fly.

  39. Away it goes, smelling of doughnuts.

  40. Like any car, veggie or not, the Chicken has its quirks. Today, it leaves behind a bit of oil. “Is it harmful?” I ask. “No,” is the answer. “Well only if you slip on it.”

  41. More information on vegetable oil fuel and sustainable biodiesel possibilities:
    Wikipedia: Vegetable oil fuel
    The Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance


  1. I love this one! This is 100% true. The Triumphant Chicken rocks!!!

  2. Awesome!!! Thanks Diana & gang, don't forget that every gallon that goes into super chicken, is a gallon that does not get eaten by animals in their feed, and does not end up in landfills to poison our water system & the planet!!!

  3. Thanks for highlighting that, Annie! What a great point. People don't often think about all the behind-the-scenes pollution and waste that goes with so many types of fuel. I'm glad the Chicken and sustainable biodiesel offer real solutions to this, and I'm glad to share about these!

  4. What kind of mpg does it get?

    1. 30 mpg. Speaking of miles, Mario likes to tell this story: "I once drove all the way to Nogales, AZ and back [over 1000 miles] and spent about 20 dollars; almost entirely veggie oil."

  5. Who doesn’t like to power a car so as to smells like french fries? If we can prevail on a majority of cars on the road to run on vegetable grease fuel, so as to would tell somebody to me lone favorable, hungry environmentalist.


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