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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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Friday — April 16, 2004


They drive by grease

Bio-diesel car wows community

First, the grease has to be heated, then filtered to eliminate bits of chicken and French fries left over from its original use

Express Staff Writer

Under the guidance of teacher Scott Runkel, a group of Community School middle school students turned a pretty sorry looking 1981 VW Rabbit into a bio-diesel car.

Students from The Community School explain how their veggie car works to a group of Hemingway Elementary students. From left front are Wiley Chubb, Sophia Schwartz, Kinglsey Murphy and Riley Berman in the back. Behind the car are Alisa Durkheimer and Taylor Straley. Express photo by Willy Cook

This past week they visited Hemingway Elementary showing different classes what they’d accomplished. That sorry looking car is now decorated with lively slogans and paint, as well as numerous bumper stickers that say, "Drive Vegetarian."

Using a kit from Greasecar.com, they placed into the car a Vegetable Oil Conversion System, which allows diesel vehicles to run on vegetable oil.

Gathered around the car with Terry Thode’s fourth grade tech class, Kingsley Murphy and his classmates showed small vials of unfiltered grease. First, he explained, the grease has to be heated, then filtered to eliminate bits of chicken and French fries left over from its original fryer use at Atkinsons’ Market in Ketchum. Then it’s poured into the heated aluminum fuel cell in the trunk of the car.

Once warmed, a switch is turned and pre-heated vegetable oil is burned in the engine. By using waste vegetable oils as fuel, the car will reduce toxic emissions, recycle an over-abundant waste product, and dramatically reduce fuel costs.

Recently three eighth-graders and Runkel drove the car to Boise for an Environmental Conference. All went well until they realized that despite the car getting between 30 to 40 miles per gallon, they didn’t have enough for the drive home. "We had to improvise," Runkel said.

Taylor Straley and Alisa Durkheimer picked up the story: The hotel janitor where they were staying, (name withheld to protect the janitor) heard their story, took pity and told them about a few restaurants that keep used veggie oil outside in the alleys in huge barrels. The team scooped some into cardboard boxes from behind Addie’s, a downtown restaurant on Main Street.

Then they went to an Albertson’s store to ask the deli people about large coffee filters, which were given to them after the tale of woe was related. The cardboard boxes of grease were decanted into 5-gallon buckets and then into small trashcans.

"It smelled so bad," the girls said, together. The trashcans were then placed into a bathtub full of hot water and the oil was filtered and decanted again into the fuel drum.

"We were creative about it," Taylor said.

Kinglsey, Alisa and Taylor are now working on receiving a grant from the Christopher Columbus Foundation. Awarded annually, eight teams of middle school students, from around the country, who have qualified for the championships in Disney World, demonstrate projects. The winning team receives a $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant that helps the team turn its concept into a feasible solution to a community problem.

"The main obstacle is the car itself," Taylor and Alisa said. It has problems totally un- related to the new fuel system. They may need a newer model to use for the demonstration. If they win the competition in June, The Community School students intend for the money to go towards outfitting school buses with the same Greasecar kits.


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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.