Wednesday, August 13, 2008

High School Biodiesel Project Nears Destination

A group of Rhode Island students, under the guidance of science teacher Ross McCurdy, have undertaken a cross country journey called the Coast to Coast Biodiesel Pickup Project. Inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic, the Ponaganset High School Alternative Energy Team chose a westward route, driving the entire way to California without refueling, using only the biodiesel they could carry on board their pickup.

Frequently wearing AMSOIL hats and shirts, McCurdy and students Zane Lewis, Wylie Smith, and Seth Keighley are within striking distance of their destination, fifty miles east of Los Angeles. In addition to AMSOIL Ea oil and air filters, the vehicle is lubricated with AMSOIL 15W-40 Synthetic Diesel & Marine Oil, AMSOIL ATF universal automatic transmission fluid and AMSOIL Severe Gear for the differentials.

When McCurdy first contacted AMSOIL for assistance he wrote, "We are doing this to promote biodiesel and other renewable energy by driving an American vehicle capable of safely and reliably making the trip. Our diesel pickup is similar to the majority of personal diesel vehicles used in the United States; it will be great to have more of these vehicles using American made biodiesel."

He added, "I've been using AMSOIL in my own car since new in 2002 and it runs great. Getting the best fuel economy and miles between oil changes are very important for our trip, which is why we want to run AMSOIL in our biodiesel pickup. Brandon Irons at AMSOIL was a big help today in recommending AMSOIL in the transmission and differentials, as well as the motor, to get the best mileage."

According to the Ponaganset Alternative Energy Team’s website, “Biodiesel is typically produced from plant oils such as corn, soybean, canola etc. and can be produced from fresh plant oils or from used cooking oils from restaurants such as fast food, Chinese, etc. Using the magic of chemistry, the oils undergo a chemical change called transesterification that removes the glycerin and thins it out so it has a lower viscosity and flows pretty much like regular petroleum diesel. There are a few big words here but it isn’t rocket science. The basic chemicals needed to make biodiesel are Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH, aka Drano) or Potassium Hydroxide, and methanol, which is used as go-kart fuel. It isn’t unusual for people to make home brewed biodiesel in their garage. A heads-up warning, KOH and NaOH are both caustic, which means they will burn things like skin and eyeballs (that is how Drano unclogs drains) and methanol is flammable and poisonous. Methanol is a different type of alcohol than the Ethanol found in beer, wine, and used in flex fuel vehicles. If ingested methanol can cause permanent blindness and death, so don’t drink it and don’t smoke while making biodiesel or working with any type of fuel. It is also good advice to not smoke at all ever, since it is really bad for the health all by itself.”

The Biodiesel Pickup they are driving is a 1997 GMC K3500 fuel injected, automatic transmission, 6.5L turbo-diesel with a six passenger, four door crew cab, an 8 foot pickup bed, and four wheel drive. The journey began this past Friday at 9:30 a.m. with fanfare from friends and family, plus media coverage. The final destination is Surfrider State Beach on Pacific Coast Highway 1 in Malibu.

Other sponsors of the project besides AMSOIL INC. included the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, Con Edison Solutions, Delta Consolidated, AAA Southern New England, TH Malloy, Newport Biodiesel, Tanury PVD, Chemart, Sgambato Service Inc, Hall’s Garage, Greeneville Collision RRF, among others.

PHOTO CAPTION: Ponaganset High School Alternative Energy Team takes advantage of photo op in front of an American landmark. Click to enlarge.

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