Posts Tagged ‘biodiesel’

Should we all drive diesels?

December 4, 2008


I think so. Modern turbodiesels are 40% more efficient than an equivalent gasoline powered automobiles and they kick serious butt.  This simple change would go a long way toward our goal of getting rid of imported oil.  And I’m speaking from personal experience.  I have been driving my 1999 Volkswagen TDI for 10 years.  Currently, I have over 150,000 miles on it and I routinely get over 55 MPG when I drive a combination of 25% city and 75% highway.  I have had no major problems with the car and I’ve only had to do routine maintenance and replace the tires.


Diesel engines are available in two stroke or four stroke versions and can be used in anything from a lawn mower to a cruise ship. One of their original uses was as a more efficient replacement for steam engines. Since the early 1900s they have been used in submarines and ships. They are now widely used in locomotives, large trucks and electric generating plants. They have been used in automobiles since the 1930s. Currently in the USA (since the 1970s), diesel engines are mostly used in larger on-road and off-road vehicles. As of 2007, over half of all new car sales in Europe are diesel.



The Future of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

And what about the new Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles?  It looks to me like most of them for sale in the United States are going to be gasoline powered.  The Toyota Prius is currently rated at 45 highway and 48 city (see: This is why I would never consider the Toyota Prius.  What is even more disturbing is that the new Plug-in version of the Toyota Prius is also going to be gas powered. Although the fact that Volkswagen’s new concept is a diesel PHEV is quite encouraging.  See:

 Available NOW

This new breed of clean diesels is clean, quiet, more efficient, more reliable, and has better performance than anything that runs on gas.  Since all our jets, trains, trucks, ships, buses, and many electric generators essentially run on diesel, why do we have gasoline engines at all? And I’m not even counting all the military equipment that runs on diesel.  We even heat many houses with a fuel that is so close to diesel fuel that they have to dye it red so truckers and diesel car drivers don’t cheat to avoid paying road taxes.


The only other issue is price.  It costs more to order a diesel engine than it does to order a gas engine and diesel fuel has been more expensive for some reason after 2004. I paid about $650 more for the diesel version of my 1999 VW New Beetle simply because there are fewer diesels made in the United States.  Obviously this would not be a problem if all automobiles were powered by diesel engines.  That $650 was returned to me in less than a few years because diesel cost less per gallon (at one time over $1.00 per gallon less) and due to the great fuel economy.  Since diesel now costs more than gasoline your return on investment would take longer to recover. 

The price of diesel has increased because than number of refineries have been reduced and the remaining refineries have been optimized for gasoline production (even though diesel is generally simpler to refine from petroleum than gasoline).  So think about it; if there were no gasoline used in the United States, all refineries would be optimized for diesel and diesel would be cheap.

 Here’s a partial list of the advantages that diesel engines have over other internal combustion engines.

·         They burn less fuel than a gasoline engine performing the same work, due to the engine’s high efficiency and diesel fuel’s higher energy density than gasoline.

·         They have no high-tension electrical ignition system to attend to, resulting in high reliability and easy adaptation to damp environments.

·         They can deliver much more of their rated power on a continuous basis than a gasoline engine.

·         The life of a diesel engine is generally about twice as long as that of a gasoline engine due to the increased strength of parts used, also diesel fuel has better lubrication properties than gasoline.

·         Diesel fuel is considered safer than gasoline in many applications. Although diesel fuel will burn in open air using a wick, it will not explode and does not release a large amount of flammable vapor.

·         For any given partial load, the fuel efficiency (Kilograms burned per KWh produced) of a diesel engine remains nearly constant, as opposed to gasoline and turbine engines which vary depending on throttle position.


How about the fun factor?

Take a look at the new 2009 BMW 335D:


Popular mechanics likes it too. Take a look at the incredible things they say in their review of the 2009 BMW 335D


 “Diesel and high performance don’t normally sit in the same sentence, but take a look at the following figures: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. Compare those numbers with these: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Okay, so which one is the performance car? The first set of figures apply to the 335d, the second to its gasoline alternative. Away from the test track the turbodiesel’s midrange torque and flexibility would absolutely smoke (but not really, this is a “clean diesel”) its gasoline counterpart. And the 335d is not only the faster point-to-point car; it also gives you a 10 mpg (U.S.) boost over the gas one. The 335d returns an NEDC combined economy of 35.1 mpg against the 335i’s 25.6 mpg. In practice, the big diesel gives around 33 mpg in our mixed running, partly because the performance is just so intoxicating and almost impossible to resist.


Make no mistake, this is no pure economy car—it’s real-world fast. The mandatory six-speed automatic gearbox means you can’t be quite the hooligan you imagined, but it is perfectly possible to get the rear wheels of this nearly 2-ton car to break traction. And the iron block mill provides serious grunt all the way to the 5000 rpm redline, which makes passing slower vehicles contemptuously easy. This is an oil-burning hot rod.”


Alternative fuels

Current diesel engines can run on standard diesel, biodiesel (produced from vegetable oils) and synthetic diesel (produced from wood, hemp, straw, corn, garbage, food scraps, and sewage-sludge) or any combination of these fuels. Synthetic diesel can also be produced from natural gas or coal. Even when produced from natural gas or coal, synthetic diesel has 30% less particulate emissions than conventional diesel.


Energy independence

Therefore, if all vehicles were required to have diesel engines this would simplify refining, transportation and distribution processes and result in less oil usage in United States.  The gains in efficiency combined with the production of biodiesel and synthetic diesel could potentially eliminate the need for imported oil altogether. When this strategy is used with the many other great alternative energy sources, this would be a great way to transition the United States to a cleaner and more independent future.


What do you think?


Update to the 2010 VW super efficient diesel that gets over 200 MPG

October 30, 2008

I found some more new pictures of the Volkswagen super diesel production model on Motor Authority:(

 It’s still going to be a two seat tandem and it’s still going to get 235 MPG but now it’s going to be a hybrid diesel. They don’t expect to sell too many so they are only making 1000 of them.

Since they are handmade in the prototype shop they expect the price to be fairly high at $31,400 to $47,100. But I suppose when people are paying $20,000 to $30,000 for a Harley Davidson motorcycle I suppose this isn’t too far out of line. The vehicle is so small that some are concerned that the car may not pass the safety tests required for on-road use. But since the vehicle has tandem seating, a slight redesign could make it into a three wheeler. By putting a single wheel in the rear it would become a motorcycle and not be required to be held to the same safety standards as an automobile.

Bush Signs Amtrak Funding and Rail Safety Bill

October 27, 2008

Last week Bush finally signed the Amtrak funding and rail safety bill after the tragic September 12, 2008 collision that killed 25 people in Los Angeles.  Bush had opposed the bill because it gave funding to Amtrak. But this time around he signed the bill without question.  This provides Federal funding for many projects including high speed rail in the Midwest.  If we finally get our butts in gear we can get this project done.  Our politicians have been talking about it, arguing and dragging their feet for years and haven’t done a thing.  High speed rail from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and onto Minneapolis would give people the option they deserve.  The last time I tried to catch the train from Milwaukee to Chicago I couldn’t even get a ticket.  I had to drive down through all the construction and it was horrible.  I was scared to death half the time and I got lost on the way back.  When I can get a ticket on the train it’s wonderful.  I sit back and read and study and it worked done.  When I get off I feel refreshed.  We need a safer alternative to driving our cars everywhere.  This not only saves fuel but also wear and tear on our vehicles.

We need to get on our politicians and ride them until they get this thing done.

How much does oil really cost?

October 22, 2008

I just read this old but good article and the comments today at His math maybe a little off but the government sites are kinda screwy and numbers do not agree so I can see where he could go astray.  Check out these two:

Both sites claim the about the same month but the number are way different. The EIA site states that jet fuel is going at the rate of about 48 million barrels a month is July 2008. The airlines site states that they are going through 1.65 Billion gallons a month in August 2008? How can this be? It says gallons (bils for billions?) on top of the column. Even if they meant millions, 1.65 million and 47.76 million aren’t even close. Someone is screwing up here or am I reading something wrong?  According to what I can find on the government sites, they all seem to agree that we are pushing 21 million barrels a day into the US one way or another. To keep it simple let’s say we have a 30 day month. 21×30 is 630 and is fairly close to the monthly figures (a little high but I rounded up).

As for the article’s content, I agree that it would be a nightmare to be weaned off oil overnight but it needs to be done soon. Look at what Brazil did with ethanol-they are way ahead of us. And how about all those high MPG diesels that are all over Europe? They are made buy our automakers over there so why do they never send them to or make them in the US? My 99 VW Beetle TDI gets close to 60 MPG city and highway right now and all I do to get better than EPA is to keep my tire pressure up, time stoplights, do the speed limit and coast down hills. The new Toyota Prius gets only 48 city, 45 highway (right off their website) but they can’t even run ethanol. You have to buy a kit for a grand (see: There are US brand cars that can do better than that over in Europe but not in the good ol USA.

And then there’s the hybrids (all the rage). When I bought the diesel I was wondering why anyone would buy a stupid hybrid (with an unproven track record) that you can’t even plug in at home, charge it up and drive it for peanuts. If I could have plugged it in I might have bought one. But noooooooo you have to buy a conversion kit for big $$$$$$ to enjoy the “plug in privilege.” What the heck were they thinking? And why did GM kill the electric car right when they were way ahead of everyone? By now the Volt would have been on the market for years. Why did they let Toyota and Honda get the jump on them? Why is GM they closing plants for good and not retooling them for small new generation hi-tech cars like Honda and Toyota are? Diesel engines are about 30% more efficient than gas engines right out of the box. My car goes faster, hauls more and has tons of space in it (and it doesn’t have tons of batteries to replace only God knows when). The new diesels are so clean they can even be sold in California. And then there’s the question of why not a plug in diesel hybrid?

All I hear or read about is subsidies for cars by way of roads, interchanges, parking lots, gas, and oil wars. Lots of people I know get injured or killed in them every year. Big Airline interests get the next big wad of bills. Why is it that nothing goes to passenger rail systems anywhere except California (and they are going bankrupt over this financial mess). I read that California is putting in a 220 MPH rail run from SF to LA. Why can’t I jump on a train and go from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and then to Minneapolis? Have to go to Europe for any high tech transportation. The US is dead last. More cars on the road seems like a bad idea to me. Anyone ever think about that nasty mass transportation thing? Eeewww I might actually have to stand near other people. That would suck. I guess we should just stick to what we do best and spend our money blowin up stuff-cool!

Anyway this post- is interesting. I agree with the comments- this post needs to be freshened up a bit. I think I’ll just check all the facts and write a simplified version (heavy on the bullets points) and post it to my blog. This needs to be on peoples’ minds NOW!!!

Next I’ll attack McCain’s and Obama’s energy policies. I know “it’s the economy stupid” but in the long run oil (and deregulation) really got us into this mess in the first place. If we didn’t finance terrorists with our oil purchases we would probably have a lot more money to fight terror.


Is a wheel of fortune used to set fuel prices?

October 17, 2008

Well it could be yes and no.

John C. Eberhardt

John C. Eberhardt





I couldn’t really think of any good reason why diesel prices have been so much more than regular gasoline prices since diesel has always cost less than gas before 2004.  I did some research on this to see what was what and the government says it’s because worldwide demand is gone up.  However, worldwide demand for gasoline has gone up as well, hasn’t it? Do you think it may have been because many more people use gasoline and were crying and whining about the prices?  Diesel is primarily used for business purposes such as mass transportation and transportation of goods and services. Businesses can complain but are generally stuck paying the price however high it may go.  The result of higher diesel prices and lower gasoline prices was that people paid a little bit less at the pumps but paid more for their goods and services.  So in the long run everyone ended up paying for it in one way or another.

But according to our government the real reasons are explained in this nifty U.S. government approved brochure below:

“Why are diesel fuel prices higher than gasoline prices?

Historically, the average price of diesel fuel has been lower than the average price of gasoline. However, this is not always the case. In some winters where the demand for distillate heating oil is high, the price of diesel fuel has risen above the gasoline price. Since September 2004, the price of diesel fuel has been generally higher than the price of regular gasoline all year round for several reasons. Worldwide demand for diesel fuel and other distillate fuel oils has been increasing steadily, with strong demand in China, Europe, and the United States, putting more pressure on the tight global refining capacity.

In the United States, the transition to ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel has affected diesel fuel production and distribution costs. Also, the Federal excise tax on diesel fuel is 6 cents higher per gallon (24.4 cents per gallon) than the tax on gasoline.”



High speed rail in the Midwest

October 14, 2008
Amtrak Acela Express highspeed rail train

Amtrak Acela Express high speed rail train

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently published an article (1) about high speed rail in the Midwest. Because this is relevant to my interest in alternative energy and efficient mass transportation, it really piqued my interest. It is a little political but I was planning on posting an article about John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s energy policies any day now.

Here’s a quote from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s article:

“ Congress has shown that it’s wisely heeding the advice of a broad, bipartisan group of national transportation experts and officials, including state Secretary of Transportation Frank Busalacchi, who have spent the past few years examining the state of surface transportation in the United States at Congress’ direction.

Among their conclusions is that after a half-century of neglecting passenger rail in favor of roads and aviation, the federal government now must make a new, massive commitment to intercity rail travel.”

Just talking about high speed trains connecting the big cities in the Midwest is exciting. Currently the passenger rail trains and freight trains are the most efficient transportation method across land. They are also the least polluting. I have taken the train from Milwaukee to Chicago many times. The train station is located in a pretty questionable part of town. Parking your car is not easy and not safe. And once I arrived in Chicago I don’t know quite what to do once I get there. I walk to my destination, try to get on Chicago’s light rail system or hail a cab. The train itself doesn’t run that fast but it is a pleasure to sit back and read a book or work on my laptop. When I arrive in Chicago I feel rested and tranquil. These days however it is so busy you can’t even get a ticket.

Recently I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio and their guest was Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. He said the “in the past train routinely exceeded 100MPH”. And the new rail system will only be able to travel about 110 MPH. We haven’t really gone too far in 100 years. Why can’t we keep up with Spain or France or almost every other country overseas? How did we let our government allow big corporations (oil, automobiles, air, etc.) to destroy our rail infrastructure with lobbyist’s propaganda? It is no secret that automobiles are encouraged and subsidized with parking lots, federal and state road funds and until recently, cheap fuel. In addition, the airlines and automobile makers are given huge cheap loans, and breaks on almost everything. Now is the time to put it right.

You don’t have to go too far to find the culprits in Wikipedia. Take a look at “The Great American Streetcar Scandal”.


“The Great American Streetcar Scandal is a conspiracy theory according to which streetcar systems throughout the United States were dismantled and replaced with buses in the mid-20th century as a result of illegal actions by a number of prominent companies, including National City Lines (NCL), a holding company owned in part by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum.”

“On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals (constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants) were indicted in the Federal District Court of Southern California on two counts under the U.S. Sherman Antitrust Act. The charges, in summary, were conspiracy to acquire control of a number of transit companies to form a transportation monopoly, and conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by the City Lines.”

The result of the trial was a joke. In 1949, all the defendants were found guilty but only on the second count of “conspiring to monopolize the provision of parts and supplies to their subsidiary companies.” Here’s the punch line: “The companies were each fined $5,000, and the directors were each fined one dollar.” Wow I’ll bet that really hurt them. I’d never do it again if I were fined a whole dollar.

Wake up and smell the corruption. It’s been around for a long time.

Never write off any new propulsion technology and let’s get a little more creative while we’re at it. Who knows, maybe a high tech coal fired clean catalytic steam engine could make a comeback. While I agree this is farfetched, all options should be explored. Trains are simply more economical, safer and least polluting that anything currently out there. They can be powered by a wide variety of energy sources from electricity to clean diesel or biodiesel. Let’s get more right of ways back and lay more tracks. And while we’re at it, we should create more bike trails that actually could take us to work. How about an area for bikes on the train?

A while ago I had another idea that was a little strange but who knows. I was thinking about a special train car system that works similar to what a ferryboat uses. What if you drove your car up a ramp and drove right onto a train car and then rode it to another city? And when you got there you just drove down the ramp off the train car and continued to your destination just like a ferryboat.

John Eberhardt

“Crisis should not derail a great idea. High-speed Midwestern rail network makes eminent sense. Obama gets it; McCain doesn’t” By JERRY RESLER, Posted: Oct. 11, 2008,

The future of the diesel car

October 11, 2008


2010 VW super efficient diesel gets over 200 MPG

If you’re wondering why I began with diesels, it was the simple fact that I have a lot of experience with them.  After I had such good experience with my 1999 Volkswagen beetle, my wife and I purchased a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with an automatic and just recently we purchased a 1999 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with a standard transmission for my stepdaughter.

The second reason that I chose to speak about diesels first is because diesel engines are superior to gasoline engines in many ways. They have fewer moving parts and are much more efficient than gasoline engines. Diesel engines are also built with sturdier parts to withstand higher compression pistons that are used in the engine design. These facts enable the average diesel engine to last much longer than an average gasoline engine. Volkswagen’s diesel engine longevity is legendary.  Some members of the TDI club have over 500,000 miles on their engines.

According to Wikipedia “Diesel-powered cars generally have a better fuel economy than equivalent gasoline engines and produce less greenhouse gas emission. Their greater economy is due to the higher energy per-liter content of diesel fuel and the intrinsic efficiency of the diesel engine. While petrodiesel’s 15% higher density results in 15% higher greenhouse gas emissions per liter compared to gasoline,[6] the 20–40% better fuel economy achieved by modern diesel-engine automobiles offsets the higher-per-liter emissions of greenhouse gases, and produces 10-20 percent less GHG emissions than comparable gasoline vehicles. Biodiesel-powered diesel engines offer substantially improved emission reductions compared to petro-diesel or gasoline-powered engines, while retaining most of the fuel economy advantages over conventional gasoline-powered automobiles.”

In addition to greater efficiency, back in 2002, Volkswagen created an experimental car that got over 285 MPG. Volkswagen was shooting for the car to go 100 kilometers on one liter of diesel.   When tested however, it only took .89 liters to go 100 kilometers (or around 285 MPG).  Here’s the math:

3.78541178 liters is equal to one gallon, to go 100 kilometers and one kilometer equals 0.621371192 miles, 100KM would equal 62.1371192 miles (or 235.22 MPG).


VW concept 1 litre concept car exceeds 285 MPG

VW concept 1 litre concept car exceeds 285 MPG




Remember, this concept car was developed in way back in 2002 and it actually got better fuel economy, than anticipated scoring a sweet .89L/100km in VW testing or closer to 285 MPG. The production car due in 2010 is supposed to get more like the 235 MPG number.  I don’t know about you but I’d like to have one of those to go to works or just cruise around.


You can see details at:

and You can see pictures of the production model at: 2002 VW 1 litre concept car


Alternatives in transportation today and the future, Part 2

October 9, 2008
Bright Blue New Beetle TDI

Bright Blue New Beetle TDI

After evaluating what was out there in the late 1990’s, (gas and diesels as hybrids and electrics were not even a choice) what I ended up doing was to buy a brand new Volkswagen New Beetle TDI (diesel) in February of 1999. The car was EPA rated 43/49 MPG and at the time diesel cost less than gas. It was the best choice at the time because it beat anything out there. Since I live in the upper Midwest, I had to read up about “gelling” fuel in winter because the temperature had dropped to below -25 degrees F and that is WITHOUT the “wind-chill” factored in. But this problem seemed to be conquered by the winter fuel additives.

The bug has plenty of power, hauls four passengers comfortably and it was the cheapest car that I could find to operate. There was a cost “penalty” for buying the diesel version car and at the time was about $650 over the equivalent model powered by gas. I don’t know what the cost difference is today but they are cleaner (they even pass the extremely strict California standards), faster and there is a $1300 tax credit available if you buy one today.

As for my own personal experience in my stock New Beetle (no modifications), on the hottest day in summer going 85 MPH down the highway with the air on full the worst I ever got was 43MPG (EPA nailed it for once and then some). On the other end, once I began to stick to the posted speed limits (this is a really hard one for me) started to anticipate and slow down for stoplights, coast down hills in neutral shut, park in parking spots that I can drive straight out of (backing up is a waste of fuel) and turn off the engine at long stoplights railroad crossings, etc. (don’t even think about going through the drive through anywhere), I have consistently gotten over 55 MPG. My best tanks are usually around the 57-62MPG range. Keep a vigilant eye on your tire pressure as well.

After joining the local TDI club (yes there are most certainly local TDI clubs in your area) in Madison, Wisconsin, I learned the many tips out there like the overflow tank tip. There is also a tremendous website called Fred’s TDI Page and the TDI Club.

Here is one of the tips that I learned almost immediately: I you own a classic car or remember the old cars, on a hot day the gas would expand and they would frequently start leaking gas out on the cap. The auto makers came up with an elegant solution; they installed an overflow tank. In my car it is 2.2 gallons. There is a little button is depressed when you put the gas cap on. Diesel doesn’t expand as much as gas so if you hold the little button down with the fuel nozzle, you can get an extra 2.2 gallon in your tank (you fool it into thinking the gas overflowed into it. Using this practice I’ve been able to get around 800 miles to a tank. Think about it, you even save fuel because you don’t go to the gas station as often. I would go two to three times more often with the Subaru that the bug replaced.

I had planned to experiment with alternative fuels but could not do anything until the generous 10 year/ 100,000 mile warranty ran out. I hit the 100K mark in August, 2005 so the warranty was up. After this, I started to use biodiesel and biodiesel blends with no problems whatsoever. And by the way, this car will also burn straight vegetable oil (or SVO). Yes it’s true and any oil will do; you can use straight corn oil, soybean oil or get some right from the fryers of your local fast food giants (McDonalds, Burger King, etc.). I like the concept but I’d have to buy a heater tank kit (Google it on the internet) that would take up most of my baggage compartment but you need it to make sure the oil is liquid before it reaches the fuel filter. These tank conversion kits are readily available and expensive but I think they would pay for themselves fairly fast if the fuel prices stay up there. In any case (or at least in my case), these kits are better suited to a larger vehicle like a diesel truck or SUV because I just can’t sacrifice the space in my Beetle. You just can’t put it in when you want to and take it out when you need the space. I think that a clever engineer could make tons of money creating an easily removable tank unit (I’ll have to start working on it).

Another alternative is to cook your own biodiesel (kind of like your own meth lab) there are plenty of websites out there that will step you through the process or sell you a do it yourself kit. Just Google biodiesel or shoot me an email (or comment).

See ya later

See ya later

Alternatives in transportation today and the future, Part 1

October 9, 2008


Today, since we have all been hurting from the high fuel prices, let’s talk about fuel and the alternatives out there for transportation. I’ll talk about what I think and what I’ve done about it. That being said here are the alternatives that you can choose from (did I miss any?):

  • Gasoline powered vehicles
  • Diesel powered vehicles
  • Hybrid powered vehicles
  • Electric powered vehicles
  • Train
  • Bus
  • Walk
  • Bike (human powered vehicles)

Let’s just begin with the first few and see how far that I can get today.

Gasoline powered vehicles

  • Pros: roads are heavily subsidized, infrastructure already in place, can use alternate fuels, can use hypermiling,
  • Cons: dangerous, costly, inconvenient breakdowns (part failures, flat tires, bad fuel), inefficiency

Diesel powered vehicles

  • Pros: roads are heavily subsidized, infrastructure already in place, more efficiency, can use hypermiling, can use alternate fuels, more efficient that gasoline power, fewer moving parts
  • Cons: dangerous, costly (insurance, fuel parts), inconvenient breakdowns (part failures, flat tires, bad fuel), inefficiency, fewer stations carry diesel, may gel without additives in cold climates.