Saturday, September 29, 2007
Well well well well
I am writing to you from on top of the rear-left wheel well. Today we added a step leading upwards towards the rear of the bus, leading to a 2-1/2 foot wide raised platform directly on top of the fiberglass wheel well. There are four wheel wells, third-of-a-bagel shaped fiberglass domes interrupting the wood-grain of the bus-floor, one at each of the four corners of the bus.
The two rear wheel wells house two wheels each, for a total of four wheels on the rear axel. The back end of the bus is so sturdy in order to support the weight of the enormous, eight cylinder diesel engine that drives the rear wheels, turns two alternators, and pumps coolant and pressurized air throughout the bus. The bus was built to carry 53 passengers and 1 driver on its route across the Golden Gate Bridge. Not it will carry 180 gallons (715 liters), almost 1600 lbs. (720 kg) of vegetable oil in place of some of those people. The bus has a maximum capacity of over 34,000 lbs, but weighed in under the previous owners at 22,000 lbs. This much veggie oil will give us a 1000 mile range on veggie oil alone before refueling.
Well, hear I am, perched above this mountain of metal with a topping of wood. If you walk towards the back of the bus, you step down onto a landing that cuts at an angle to the right, forming a step to the left while provided an enclosure for a heater pump and three coolant lines that lie on the floor here. The coolant lines circulate coolant throughout the bus, heating up air in vents that run along the sides of the bus while providing heat for the driver as well as for defrosting the front windshield.
Stepping down to the left, you are in an open space, surrounded by windows in 3 directions and a skylight above. To your right towards the center back of the bus is the engine, currently visible through an open access hatch. Four shiny black hoses sprout from the engine compartment, running to the far side of the bus (the starboard side), along the floor, over the second rear wheel, and continuing along the wall for four feet until they reach the clean vegetable oil tank. Two of the hoses contain fuel and two contain coolant. When the engine is hot, the coolant reaches a steady 180ºF (82ºC). Coolant cools the engine by absorbing heat from the engine and then dispersing that heat to the surrounding, cooler air. Some of that heated up coolant water flows in pipes and hoses around the bus, providing heat for the cabin while also cooling the air compressor, which gets mighty hot pumping three different air tanks up to 120 psi. We can also use that coolant to heat up veggie oil as the coolant sheds heat to colder, viscous vegetable oil. As the engine temperature rises, hot coolant flows faster and faster, and the vegetable oil heats up and becomes runny enough to easily flow into the engine.
As you stand at the back of the bus and look forward, the big dirty oil tank sits centered over the rear axel. The clean tank is to the starboard side and fills space up to the wall just where the newly uncovered oval windows are. Right now there is a wooden structure resembling a play-pen for a gigantic baby. On top of the wooden structure will be the bed - perhaps by tomorrow night. All that is left to make for the bed are two crossing support bars and place the bed top, a task that will take Gloria and me all of an hour. We've gotten to be quite the team.
Tomorrow Aaron hooks up the fuel lines, we backflush some diesel into the veggie system, and we see if we can run off of the diesel in the veggie system. If that test comes up positive, we then test if we can run off of veggie oil in the veggie system. If that test comes up positive, we can definitely drink a beer.
The only major task left after that is to figure out how to collect grease. Daniel is building a floor where the old air conditioner compartment was, and we will store a big pump and a bunch of hosing in there. The pump will be mobile up to 50 feet away from the bus, connected to the bus via a fuel line and a power cord. The sucking of the pump will pull grease out of waste containers through a strainer and push the grease back down the tube and into the bottom port of the dirty tank. Ed and I both need to get worksuits for handling the grease - it is inevitably a messy task. But I would rather be doing this than having our army fight wars over fossil fuels. There is enough waste oil in this country to power 1% of the cars on the road today (according to Wikipedia, that is).
I missed Savitri and Billy at the film festival opening. They have an early interview, as usual. They are such amazing, hard-working people, and i am really lucky to be part of their community. But Aaron and I had to get the engine hooked back up for diesel in order to get the bus out tomorrow morning for the Love Parade. The movie was at seven, but we didn't get done until about 9. The sad thing is that, in the end, someone else's bus can't move, so I don't need to move my bus in the morning after all!
Noel, one of Elan's old friends from out here, is coming to talk about painting the bus tomorrow. I don't know if there is enough time left for much painting, but at least we can brainstorm and see what we come up with.