Friday, September 14, 2007
San Francisco Grease
I am working in the Flowershop collective just South of Bernal Hill in SF. Veggie oil pro and all around great guy, Aaron, is helping me convert the bus to run on waste vegetable oil. After more than a week of planning, we have decided to redesign the back portion of the bus. Since the front of the bus will be where the microscope lab is going to be, I want there to be a bed and an office in the back of the bus. To the right is a sketch of what it will look like.
I like this design for a few reasons - 1) the bed area can be partitioned off from the workspace so that students can come back into the workspace without being in my bedroom, 2) it consolidates the bed and office space more than before and 3) it allows us to put the grease tanks above the back axle and mostly centered. One interesting feature of the design is that you have to step over the back driver's side wheel well to get into the back. The wheel well comes up about 2 feet - I think that this will make the rear compartment of the bus feel like a cozy little nook, although I suppose that depends on how tall you are.
Why veggie oil? Lynn and I found that the bus gets about 6mpg, and driving from Beresford, South Dakota to San Francisco cost about $700 in diesel fuel. The veggie conversion should cost around $4000 including everything, which, at $3 per gallon of diesel, will pay for itself after around 10,000 miles. So, from a purely economic stand point, the conversion will pay for itself very quickly.
We've hired this great guy, Brian, to fabricate the oil tanks out of aluminum. He lives in the East Bay, about 3 blocks from Aaron! I am really glad we found him - it is great to be able to customize everything and to be able to see the tanks as they're being built, and he is doing both tanks for about $1000. The tanks should be done by the end of next week.
While Brian is working on the tanks we have plenty to do. For instance, Daniel, an awesome metal and wood worker here at Flowershop, built a metal bracket on which he mounted the 'clean' veggie oil fuel filter (it is the tall white thing hanging on the two horizontal arms):
A second filter like this one will sit between the 'dirty' and 'clean' tanks shown in the diagram above. It will be accessible from the hallway as you walk towards the back of the bus. I will have to figure out a way to keep from splattering oil everywhere in the hallway when I change that first filter, which needs to happen roughly every 500 miles. The paper filter replacements (about $8 a piece) are easy to change out, but I think I will be happy that this is not happening just under my bed! I mean, I love the smell of french fries and all, but...
In the coming days, Aaron and I will get all the fuel lines, pumps, filters, valves, and switches in place. Today we installed the wiring for the switches and gauges that will sit on the driver's left hand dash. This will allow the driver to switch between diesel and veggie, backflush diesel into the veggie tanks, and control the flow of oil from the dirty to clean tank. There will also be fuel gauges for the two oil tanks - a step forward from the diesel tank, which has only one gauge right next to where you fill it, and that does not even work!!
In spite of no diesel fuel gauge, Lynn and I managed to NOT run out of diesel on our trip. OK, well there was this one time where we got pretty close - my eyes popped out when I pumped 42 gallons into the tank. I think the tank is 50 gallons, but no one REALLY knows. Throughout the trip we were having really erratic fuel efficiency readings, which made predicting when to fuel even more difficult. Oh, and did I mention that there is no Odometer? HAHAH Fortunately, someone installed one on the rear axel. Once we figured this out, Lynn didn't have to add up the mileage from the map anymore!
Enough for now - when I have time I will put up some retroactive posts chronicling the journey out to SF! For now, here I leave you with a picture, "BioStar in the Badlands"