to run clean
‘Would you like fries with that?’
By DANA DUGAN
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
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.