California Autos Examiner

Friday, November 30, 2007

You Want Fries With That Bus?

Recently a veggie oil powered bus dropped by our local Whole Foods on an educational mission about eco-friendly lifestyles and products. The bus in question is a 1984 Van Hool tour coach. Mechanics swapped the Van Hool’s old motor for a new, cleaner burning 5.9L Cummins. The bus starts on traditional diesel and after the bus' engine has heated up to 180 degrees (usually about five miles), the driver flips a switch and starts using fry oil. The bus must be warmed up first because they use the waste heat of the engine to warm and thin the oil as it goes through 30 micron and 10 micron filters (if you look at the slide show, you can see the coils wrapped around the filter housings). Before shutting down the bus, the motor is once again switched over to diesel fuel. On average the bus gets just under 10 miles to the gallon. The containers of canola oil that you see in the slide show are used to prime the system.

The bus can clean and prep its own oil, so all the crew has to do is inspect the oil and then pump it onboard. The fry oil the bus uses has to be non hydrogenated and cannot contain any animal fats. According to the crew driving the bus, their best source of oil are small mom and pop Chinese restaurants that would normally have to pay a fee to dispose of their used fry oil. Usually about eight out of ten restaurants approached agree to participate. Since the restaurant saves disposal fees and the bus gets free fuel, it's a win/win for everybody.

The tour started in March of this year and will wrap up in March of ’08. Chances are that another tour will launch after that. You can find out more about the Conscious Goods Alliance program by visiting their website. If you a fan of old buses, you can visit this Wikipedia page about Van Hool.

You can catch the tour at a Whole Foods near you. Here are the tour's dates through the end of the year:

San Francisco, CA (SoMa) December 2, 2007
San Mateo, CA December 3, 2007
Monterey, CA December 4, 2007
Fresno, CA December 7, 2007
Chandler, AZ December 12, 2007
Albuquerque, NM December 15, 2007
Santa Fe, NM December 16, 2007
Plano, TX December 18, 2007
Richardson, TX December 19, 2007
Arlington, TX December 20, 2007
Arlington, TX December 20, 2007
Dallas, TX (Greenville) December 22, 2007
Dallas, TX (Forest) December 23, 2007

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