Biobot: Make Breakfast, Generate Biodiesel, Refuel Car

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There are many facets to green motoring, but for some the prospect of buying a new hybrid or electric car is neither realistic nor desirable.

For these people, biofuels may be an option, particularly those recycled from other products.

Biodiesel made from used cooking oils is one such fuel, and is becoming a popular option for those with access to large quantities of cooking oil. On a large scale, it even powers large portions of McDonalds' delivery trucks.

With the right tools though, you can make it in your garage. Biobot, a UK company, sells just such a tool for converting waste oil into usable biodiesel.

The Biobot 20 retails for around $655, says Gizmag, but a typical 15-liter yield of biodiesel could cost as little as $1 per gallon in necessary methanol and sodium hydroxide--while the raw cooking oil itself is, in theory, completely free.

Making the biodiesel is quite simple, if time-consuming.

Used oil is poured into the reaction chamber, which is then heated while you agitate the mixture manually with the handle. A little sodium hydroxide is added to four liters of methanol, and this solution is fed into the oil.

Over 12-24 hours this separates glycerin from the biodiesel, which is then pumped through with water to clean it. Another heating period removes residual traces of water.

If you have the time to set aside to a little mixing and adding ingredients, it could prove a very cheap way of running a diesel vehicle--and as a recycled fuel, a fairly green way at that.

But if you do a lot of miles, or spend a lot of time away from home, you might not be able to make it quick enough to have a continual supply.

You might also see some side-effects from all that deep-fried food...


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Comments (12)
  1. It's kind of like one of those odd Christmas gifts you get, spend all day reading the manual, you use it once or twice, and then give it away to a thrift shop.

  2. Is this not just a glorified bucket?

  3. I suspect there's a little more to it than that, but I do love that description!

  4. Where are all those diesel enthusiast comments?
    Guess they aren't interested in making their own.

  5. VW voids warranties if you put homemade diesel in your car. Biodiesel requires a revamping of the entire fuel system to accommodate using non-petroleum derived fuel. That is why most diesel enthusiasts won't be interested in making their own until Armageddon.

  6. Hey Randall - I've actually driven 15,000 miles now on biodiesel in my unmodified 2004 VW Passat TDI. I get the same mpg, it runs quieter, smells great - all with no revamp at all. There is an issue with oil dilution with the DPF/post-injection system in 2009+ VW TDIs, and biodiesel blends above B20 are not recommended. But in any model year earlier than 2009 biodiesel runs great!

    And by law, VW is not actually allowed to void your warranty due to your fuel choice. Biodiesel is a road-legal, taxed, advanced fuel. If you brew your own then you have to look into the regulations in your state - some states will require that you pay tax.

    I would encourage any and all diesel enthusiasts to try out biodiesel!

  7. @Morgan: The problem is that in common usage, "biodiesel" is used to refer to everything from the SAE-defined fuel to strained used deep-fryer grease from your local Chinese food palace.

    Those are all quite different liquids, and while the injection systems of 1980s and 1990s diesels can usually handle them (once warmup is achieved on regular diesel), newer systems may not be able to.

    What are you running that you call "biodiesel"?

  8. "I've actually driven 15,000 miles now on biodiesel in my unmodified 2004 VW Passat TDI."

    You can do that with older diesel engines. Using more than 5% biodiesel in clean diesel engines voids the manufacturer's warranty. It says so in the owner's manual.

  9. Here's a response directly from VW:

    "Dear Randall,
    Thank you for contacting Volkswagen!
    Volkswagen has studied and approved the use of a maximum of B5 Biodiesel (5% soybean fuel) in our Clean Diesels in the North American market. Volkswagen is currently researching the suitability of higher percentage biodiesel blends; however, no conclusive decision has been reached at this time. Using blends of biodiesel higher than 5% will invalidate our warranty until a future decision is reached. If you wish to locate B5 biodiesel locations, please click on the following link: If you have any further questions or concerns, our Volkswagen Customer Care is at your disposal, Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm, local time."

  10. I would love to be able to make my own biodiesel, but the manual for my vehicle states that I may not put in more than 5% of it in my tank. On a 55L tank, that is 2.75L, not exactly enough to drive anywhere far.

    Next issue with biodiesel is, where would I get the chemicals in the video?

    What would I do with the Glycerin? How would I dispose of it properly, without polluting the environment?

    How would I properly dispose of the drained water, without polluting the environment?

    How much would the electric energy to produce 55L of biodiesel cost me?

  11. Wouldn't it be nice if gas stations just sold biodiesel?

  12. Yep, that would be great. And what would be even better is engine designs which do not void warranty for running on 100% biodiesel.

    I would even gladly pay more for biodiesel that what current diesel costs.

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