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Is Your Diesel Engine Vegetarian?

Is Your Diesel Engine Vegetarian?

Posted - Jun. 27, 2003 at 5:15 p.m.



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Ed Yeates ReportingNot all of the grease restaurants use in their kitchens ends up as waste. No, one California man is putting it in his car. In fact, he drove from San Francisco to Salt Lake and back again, fueling his Mercedes entirely with old vegetable oil.

Driving Shawn Sears' car is not much different than driving any car. The only difference is what's in the gas tank.

Shawn Sears has driven his old Mercedes diesel now 21,842 miles on vegetable oil. He simply gets the waste grease from restaurants, filters it, and puts it in the tank. Restaurants usually welcome his visit.

Shawn Sears: "And so when I come along and ask them for their oil, they're usually more than willing to save the money on disposal."

This week Shawn and his girlfriend, traveling at freeway speeds and averaging 25 miles per gallon, drove to Salt Lake to visit friends.

Shawn: "The cost for this trip for us, as far as fuel, is absolutely nothing."

As always, the car ran well. In fact, a Mercedes mechanic recently said the inside of the engine looked great!

Any vegetable oil will work. But one in particular...

Shawn Sears: "The vegetable oil that comes from a sushi restaurant or a Japanese or Chinese restaurant tends to be cleaner and requires less filtering than that say that comes from a greasy spoon restaurant or a neighborhood cafe."

The fuel tank is modified with a heating unit to keep the oil nice and thin. And this fuel filter has to be changed more often. But that's about it. The diesel engine remains unchanged.

A small amount of mixed fuel is used to start the car. After that it's all veggie. Following behind, motorists smell only a puff of vegetable oil.

In Salt Lake, environmental groups trying to form a partnership with school districts to get rid of diesel fuel in buses took a special interest in Shawn's car.

Shea Pickelner, Utah Society for Environmental Education: "The EPA just came out with a lot of funding for clean school buses, and we're hoping for a grant to do something to clean up those school buses."

Incidentally, at the ranch in California where Shawn works, he's also modified a 1995 Dodge Ram 3/4-ton pickup, a backhoe, a bulldozer and a regular tractor.

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