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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2003


Car retooled
to run clean

‘Would you like fries with that?’

Express Staff Writer

Inspired by a Banff Mountain Film Festival short last year, "French Fries to Go," about a car that runs on fry oil, Community School teacher Scott Runkel decided his Middle School Enrichment Class would convert a regular diesel car into a bio-diesel car.

Hannah Carr, Taylor Benz and Kingsley Murphy check out a new rewired bio diesel engine Express photo by David N Seelig

The class of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders comprises Lucas Vorsteveld, Sophia Schwartz, Kingsley Murphy, Taylor Benz, Hannah Carr, Caroline Fairchild, Alisa Durkheimer, Mac Whittington, and Connor Brown. The class meets in the barn on the Sagewillow campus in Elkhorn. Cynthia Carr is Runkel’s parent-assistant.

Using a kit from Greasecar.com, they have placed the Vegetable Oil Conversion System—an auxiliary fuel modification system that allows diesel vehicles to run on vegetable oil—into an 1981 VW Rabbit.

The kit comes with a hand crafted, aluminum, heated fuel cell, quick-flush switching and 10-micron filter.

The system utilizes waste heat produced by the engine in the form of coolant water to heat the auxiliary fuel circuit. Currently, this requires the engine to be started with diesel fuel (or bio-diesel) until the vegetable oil tank, which is in the trunk of the car, has reached operational temperature. Once warmed, a switch is turned and pre-heated vegetable oil is burned in the engine. When the engine is to be shut down for the day, the switch is turned again and the engine is run on diesel fuel for a short period to flush the engine of cooling vegetable oils.

By using waste vegetable oils as fuel, the car will reduce toxic emissions, recycle an over-abundant waste product, and dramatically reduce fuel costs, Runkel said.

"The point is how bad using fossil fuel is for the environment," Caroline Fairchild said.

Alisa Durkheimer agreed. "Oil is shipped all over and there are lots of oil spills. There were something like 300 in the last ten years."

Atkinsons’ Market is donating the majority of the vegetable oil from their fry machines to the project. Other fiscal donors include the Environmental Resource Center, Johnny G’s Sub Shack and Desperados. Business logos will be placed on the car, which is being painted by Connor Brown from a design by former Community School student Katie Seville.

Once completed, Fairchild, Sophie Schwartz and Hannah Carr will be taking the car and a PowerPoint presentation to schools to educate the valley’s other students about alternative fuel sources and the impact of oil consumption on the environment.

Chilled but involved while working in the Community School’s drafty barn, several of the students were adamant on one point, "Scott is the best teacher ever."

Well, in that case, long may he run.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.