The Vegfalia lives on in Canada!

9 02 2016

Martin Gauthier, owner of Cabaret du Roy and Auberge du Dragon Rouge, incredible pirate and medieval themed restaurants in Montreal, has taken over the vessel to run off the waste vegetable oil they make!  Thanks, Martin, for giving her a good home.

The Ultimate Green Machine, The Vegfalia is For Sale!

16 07 2012

Here’s the ad:

Get more smiles and thumbs-ups than you ever did before!

The Vegfalia is a 1987 Vanagon GL Syncro with a newly rebuilt (1000 miles) 1.9L VW Turbo Diesel engine and a Greasecar two-tank vegetable oil kit installed.  It is officially registered as diesel by the CA DMV, with no smog requirement.  The vehicle starts and stops on diesel, biodiesel, or blend fuels, with a 15 gallon VO tank that can be filled with anything from filtered vegetable oil, to used motor oil, to regular diesel.  With the included filtration system and solar panel, this is the ultimate green “Mad Max” machine.  Asking $30,000, leave a comment if you’re interested!



Newly rebuilt 1.9L Turbo Diesel engine (1000 miles)

Greasecar SVO kit with 15 gallon tank and computer controller

GoWesty 16” alloy rims

South African Big Brake Kit

4WD Decoupler with rear differential lock

Van-Café Big Bumpers

Rear rack from Gary Lee with ladder and fold-down shelf for bike carriers

Old Man Emu Shocks

GoWesty steel coolant lines


60 Watt Solar Panel over Luggage Rack

SunForce Charge Controller with dual Optima 50 Amp-Hour deep cycle batteries

1500 watt 110V inverter

GoWesty Auxiliary Battery relay

High-Intensity Headlight Upgrade from GoWesty

LED bulbs in stock interior lights

Audi dome light with LED bulb

Sony xPlod Bluetooth enabled stereo/speakerphone

Ram-Mount Universal PDA mount with Griffin iPhone speakerphone cable/charger

Pioneer speaker system

Auxiliary 12V jack

110V trickle-charger – charges aux batteries when van is plugged in.


California Oak hardwood floors

Yakima roof rack

Thule rooftop box

3-way fridge fully functional, added GoWesty priming pump upgrade

Shady Boy Awning

Rear shower (had to remove Helton Heat Exchanger due to coolant system problems)

First Alert CO2/fire alarm

3 point rear seat belts

Jump Seat with 3 point seat belt

Front window and skylight curtains

Original front and rear tables

Front floor mat

Rubber rear floor mat

Tool box with metric wrenches and spare hoses/lights/fuses

Original jack and tire iron

Anti-Road Rage Dashboard Buddha

Vegetable oil filtration rig:

Redline 110v VO industrial-grade pump (filters waste VO fast!)

Aluminum bag-filter housing with 0.5 micron filter bags

Intake and output hoses and nozzle

All in custom box that sits on hitch-mounted platform with 3-4 x 5 gallon carboys.

I will go through all systems and procedures with buyer, I have spent many hours making this as simple and streamlined as possible.  I will also include Vegfalia graphics files and the website if desired.

With the proper licensing, a Square card reader, a small trailer, and a 300 gallon fuel tote, this setup can be an instant alternative fuel business, complete with office and fuel pickup, processing, and sales system.

The bad:  The original owner sideswiped the vehicle, with a minimal amount of front end damage that is only noticeable if you take off the front grill.  The sliding door and rear quarter panel have been repaired and paint-matched with a small amount of bubbling at the rear passenger seam and some of the repair work on the door.  Despite this, the body is overall in good to very good condition.

The Vegfalia Gets Solar Power!

9 06 2011

I finally had a chance to install the solar system on the Vegfalia.  It consists of a 60 Watt solar panel that is mounted over the rarely-used luggage rack on a homemade, tiltable rack.  Running the cable through the roof, under the headliner, down the wall and behind the stove/wall panel, I mounted the Sunforce charge controller on the outside of the hanging closet.  This worked well to charge the dual Optima 50 amp-hour batteries that are in an enclosure in the closet.  On it’s inaugural voyage for two nights of fossil-fuel free camping in Big Basin State Park North of Santa Cruz, we traveled 397 miles on veggie oil and biodiesel, had plenty of power for our lights, phone charging, and the iPad.  We were also able to spend a few hours introducing Orion to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Vegfalia in Big Sur

27 03 2009

The Vegfalia just got back from Sacramento where she got some new glowplugs, new fuel injectors, and a turbo rebuild and we’re heading up to Santa Cruz this weekend for a little getaway with Laura’s BFF Christine and her guy Jeremy.  I’m excited to get out of town for a night of camping – between school, work, Orion’s Sustainable Nursery Project, and other household projects, we’ve been moving full steam ahead, so getting in the Westy is a great way to relax.  This shot was overlooking the Pacific a bit South of Big Sur.Big Sur Vegfalia

Fossil Fuel Free Concert Series: Ben Harper and Jack Johnson Shows in Santa Barbara

15 09 2008

Laura and I were fortunate enough to make it to see two of our favorite artists, Ben Harper at the Santa Barbara Bowl on August 22nd, and Jack Johnson at UC Santa Barbara on August 27th. Each of these trips are about a 220 mile round trip and to save money and relieve our eco-guilt, we of course drove our biodiesel vehicles in another installment of Fossil Fuel Free roadtrips. For the Ben Harper show it was just me and Laura, so we took the 2003 Jetta TDI wagon which gets 37+ miles/gallon on our homemade biodiesel. The show was fantastic, Santa Barbara Bowl is a fantastic venue, and it’s always a treat to see Harper rock out on his slide guitar and mesmerize you with his ridiculous face-melting solos.

For the Jack Johnson show, we carpooled with some friends and took the Vegfalia for some straight used vegetable oil transport. The Jack show was fantastic as always and as a bonus, he has the “All At Once” initiative in full swing. His mellow musical stylings always get the crowd swaying and bouncing to the beat, listening to his honest and heartfelt lyrics.  The show was a bit festival-like, with the All-At-Once tent and a circle of tents housing various environmental groups as well. Impressively, the entire concert tour is striving to be carbon neutral, through biodiesel-powered tourbuses and generators and CO2 offsets. Also, there were water stations to refill your reusable bottles, discouraging bottled water, there were recycling bins next to every trash can, the concert T-shirts were organic cotton, and if you collected enough stamps from refilling your bottle, carpooling, and visiting the environmental non-profits there, you were entered to win a JJ skateboard or to get up on stage with Jack.  Also, any donations to the non-profits were matched by the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation. Basically Jack Johnson is demonstrating by example that large events and tours can have minimal environmental impact and he it seems that he is successfully converting fans to be more mindful of their consumption.
Go Jack!

Fossil Fuel Free Road Trip #5: Yosemite in Winter

19 07 2008

For Valentine’s Day Laura and I took the Vegfalia to one of the most beautiful spots in the world: Yosemite Valley. We stayed at the yosemite lodge rather than camp out in the westy. It was 15 degrees or so and I haven’t figured out my plan for heating yet. Unfortunately we missed the good snow and our x-country ski excursion was suboptimal, we experienced one of the legendary Awahnee Prix Fixe menus for Valentine’s Day dinner. The hostess presented me with a rose while Laura was in the restroom so that I could look good by giving it to her – nice touch, unfortunately I didn’t think of it first.

If you haven’t been there, the grand dining room in the Awahnee is incredible – huge wooden beams the size of whole tree trunks frame stone walls and soaring windows, it is truly an architectural masterpiece.  The 5 course meal with wine pairings was fantastic, from the single giant smoked scallop, with a wisp of smoke trapped underneath the glass cover, dramatically pulled off by the waiter, to the grassfed veal cheek that melted in your mouth.  The whole meal was made as sustainably as possible in the highest country gourmet fashion.

We didn’t have any problems at all with the VO system in the cold, but we had an interesting revelation as we went to empty the food out of the Vegfalia to prevent bear attacks on the car.  Most of you have probably seen the classic Yosemite video of the bear ripping the top of the door off of a car with a nonchalant tug of it’s claw, like nothing more than a tuna can.  Well, I suddenly had a vision of this happening to our beloved Vanagon, with a whole familly of bears frantically digging through the doors and under the back seat to get at the vegetable oil tank.  Hmmm, it seems that it is now impossible to remove all of the “food” from our car, the VO is running through it’s veins!  We didn’t have any issues at the Lodge, but we’ll see how it goes in the summer time in the less populated camp sites.

Overall, a very successful and another fantastic Vegfalia roadtrip!

Winter Attempt at Fossil-Fuel Free Roadtrip #4

10 01 2008

For our 2nd “big” trip, we decided to take a holiday journey to Ft. Collins, CO, then Salt Lake City, UT to visit some of Laura’s famly. I scoured discussion forums and talked to whoever I could find that had insight on how to properly handle WVO and B100 in the winter. Of course, I received a plethora of possible solutions, but the default answer was always to mix in at least 50% petrol diesel to prevent gelling. There are various anti-gel solutions for biodiesel which seem to work well in most cases, but I opted to attempt a mechanical solution. I winterized the biodiesel system with a 110V fuel filter heater and a magnetic block heater in line with a timer – my plan was to heat everything up for an hour or so before trying to start on B99 in freezing temps. I plumbed up our Portable Filtration System to filter WVO on the fly using a Fill-Rite 1604 12V pump to push the oil through spun 20 micron then 5 micron home water type filters. I had also figured out an issue that might be missed with diesel conversions – I noticed that I has having a harder time starting this winter using B100. I thought it might by my fuel gelling, it was getting down to 35-40 degrees at night. However, it turned out to be the result of me not changing the battery after the gasoline to diesel conversion. It seems that starter batteries don’t work as well in the cold and have 2 Amperage ratings (the “oomph” that the battery can put out to start the car), a regular rating, and a cold cranking amps rating. The diesel engine needed 600 or more CCA (cold cranking amps) and this battery only had around 500 CCA. Luckily and surprisingly, they had the proper battery at Costco (and we could recycle the old one) and after a mediocre installation job (I didn’t have my tools with me, this will come up again later in the narrative), the Vegfalia fired right up! The next morning when I cold started the engine, it was obvious that this had been the problem. We also chose this trip as an excuse for GoWesty to install the manual 4WD decoupler, the straight shaft (taking out the viscous coupling), new Old Man Emu shocks, new Michelin Hydroedge M/S tires, a last minute steel coolant pipe upgrade (they found a small crack in the plastic one), and a last minute rear brake job (the e-brake lever snapped off 2 days before leaving). Ahhh, to have a 20 year old vehicle with 300K miles on the frame using an quasi-experimental fuel system heading into unpredictable weather.

So, after all of the preparation we headed out with 2 full tanks, an extra 30 gallons of filtered oil, and our filtration system to get used oil from restaurants. I had also made a list of local biodiesel retailers and those with filtered VO using Fillup4Free and the Mapquest alt fuel map. Our first problem was the new VO filter that I installed one week prior, clogged after about 300 miles. We ended up using our homebrew biodiesel and had to buy 6 gallons of straight petrol to make it to SLC. After a brief nap, we were able to fill up with B20 at Dal Soglio’s B20 pump, their # is 801-255-9221. Cardwell Distributing’s B100/B50 pumps are the only other retail ones we found, but were gelled up and not functioning at all. It seems that they mix the fuel at the pump, and don’t have a filter heater or line heater to winterize it, so once the B100 side gelled, the filter clogged and you can’t pump a thing. A similar thing happened to our portable filtration system, the 12V Fill-Rite pump could pull the thicker oil through the filters.

In troubleshooting the problem with our filter clogging, it may have been because I had used still-hot used oil filtered through my still-being-tested portable filtering system; if so, it is either due to suspended water in the oil, larger particles making it through the filters while hot. The fuel temp was reaching 150 and higher, but I had the vegtherm in-line after the VO filter, before the fuel pump, so the temperature could be dropping low in the filter itself, causing potential clogging as well. We ran B20 to Ft. Collins, needing to use 5 more gallons of petrol on the way, since there were no stations in the interim, and we hadn’t had a chance to find any filters to get the VO system up again (I had forgotten to order more filters before we left – drat!!!).

We had a great time in Ft. Collins (See the New Belgium Brewing Company tour review), changed the VO filter (and got 5 extra), and I tried to use our roadside filter to re-filter the oil that was left in the VO tank when it had clogged the last filter. It had a hard time filtering even VO mixed with B20 at 20 degrees, but got through it. At this point, we had no VO filter for used oil, but we were able to find a B20 pump in town and filled both tanks and a few extras to make it back to SLC. As we drove across I-80 in Wyoming, we were barraged with 60mph winds, spindrift snow blowing across the road and subzero temperatures. We were able to navigate the gale-force gusts in our anti-aerodynamic rolling toaster/breadbox/boxcar/etc, but around 9pm the headlights started to go dim. Then we started losing power. Then the car stalled as I pulled it to the side of the road in against the unrelenting wind. Crap. After a little cursing and fiddling with the ignition and switches, the dread in the pit of my stomach passed quickly as my frantically troubleshooting brain recalled the shoddy installation job I had done with the battery. I dove into the tool tote and after tightening the battery leads, the Vegfalia was once again purring like a kitten. Lesson learned – if you don’t want to have to start looking for new shorts after breaking down in the middle of some of the worst weather imaginable, don’t half-ass your repairs. So, lessons thus far: Do it right the first time, always bring extra filters, and that oil doesn’t like cold weather and now I’ll have to figure out a way to heat my portable filtering system. Once we made it to Salt Lake we had a few days visiting with Laura’s dad and stepfamily, we went snowshoeing (and introduced our dog, Marley, to the snow), ate holiday breads, and made it up for a day of skiing/boarding at Solitude. The Syncro drove like a champ in the deep snow up Mill Creek ravine where we hiked and we never had an issue starting on the B20, even without using the block and filter heaters. Before heading home, we hit up Costco for a little $4.25/gallon virgin soy oil and filled up both tanks with B20 at Dal Soglio’s. We made one more Costco run in Vegas for some more expensive new oil and made it home. Although I know that using VVO is suboptimal and is wasteful of a food product, it still has less carbon emissions than petrol, I’m trying to choose the least harmful fuel from the options available in a geographic region.

This is a huge argument for regionalizing fuel and consolidation of waste streams. Each community should have community-run biodiesel and ethanol plants that collect used oil from restaurants in the area for biodiesel and use local agricultural and green waste for cellulosic ethanol. It could be powered by methane from the local landfill, fuel produced can be used in local governmental vehicles and some could be sold to local citizens for a reduced price, with any proceeds going back into the county’s alternative energy program. San Luis Obispo county is the perfect region for this type of community choice energy production. Owned by the people, sustainable, it pays for itself many times over (especially once oil is above $200/barrel), and is a responsible way to provide local jobs and a reliable future fuel source.

All in all, it went well, we had a great time, and learned a bit about using VO in the cold. Onward to ironing out the bugs and planning the next Fossil-Fuel Free roadtrip!

The VolksVegan, Another Veggie-Powered Vanagon!

1 12 2007

Sweet Camping Spot

Originally uploaded by meganpru

In planning our upcoming fossil-fuel-free roadtrip to Ft. Collins, CO and Salt Lake City, I’ve been scouring the web for help with finding vegetable oil while on the road and have come across not only another “Vegfalia” blog at, but their site pointed me to, a growing database of VO coops, restaurants with WVO available, people and businesses with filtered WVO available, and others just using VO in their vehicles. It’s a fantastic resources for people trying to travel on vegetable oil.
Megan and Seneca, the VolksVegan folks have some incredible photos and some fantastic posts about their travels on vegetable oil. It’s great to see others dedicating themselves towards sustainability.
Nice work guys!

Vegfalia Hits 300,000 Miles, Last 3,000 Without Petrol

12 11 2007

We’ve just passed a fantastic milestone in any vehicle – the 300,000 mile mark.  Although the Vegfalia has only run 1% of these miles on biodiesel and veggie oil thus far, we’re hoping for many more miles out of her. In today’s disposable society, conservation is still the easiest and best way to protect our resources, and taking care of and preserving an older vehicle can still be more eco-friendly than getting a new one when you factor in the energy and materials required to build it. Granted, driving around a poorly-tuned 1975 smoke belcher isn’t what we’re talking about and at that point you could probably upgrade to something more efficient. Don’t forget, if you have a favorite vintage frame that you’re still in love with keeping alive, you can always consider converting it to electric.

How To Make Your Own Vegfalia

11 10 2007


Originally uploaded by theseep

Some people have asked, “How can I get one of those?”, or, “Can I buy your Vanagon?” I suppose we could sell it for $50,000 (I know it’s steep, but we’d need to finance building another!), but most Vanagon people don’t mind another project. If you want the incredible versatility, durability, and unique driving experience of a Vanagon and want to use alternative fuels and decrease your CO2 footprint, this is the way to go.
In order to run biodiesel and/or straight vegetable oil (SVO), you need to have a diesel Vanagon. I think that the only U.S. diesel Vanagons were in 1982 and 83, with a somewhat underpowered 1.6 Liter non-turbo engine. If you can find one in good shape and you don’t mind a top speed of 55-60mph and some slow uphills, these are the easiest and quickest way to start running on biodiesel. These are also the easiest to upgrade to a better engine – you can drop a 1.6L or a 1.9L Turbo Diesel engine in fairly easily. If you’re in for a little more money and complication but better performance, you can put a computer controlled 1.9L TDI engine as well. These are VW engines similar to those used in older diesel Jettas and Golfs, with the TDIs in the newer models. They are classified as AAZ type engines and can be found new, used, and rebuilt. The more complicated route is to convert a gasoline Vanagon to a diesel one. We opted for the even more complicated route – convert a gasoline Syncro (4WD) Vanagon to a diesel one. To convert either, you need to find diesel Vanagon engine support bars, mounts, a diesel bellhousing, diesel oilpan, and a few other odds and ends depending on how complete your engine is. For the Syncro conversion, you need to find a diesel Syncro fuel tank as well (the starter is in a different spot in the Syncro and requires a different tank). We got our engine and all of the parts to convert our Syncro from Thomas at Quality German Auto Parts in Montclair, CA north of L.A. – he also sells kits and parts on ebay as do a few other shops.  Finding someone to perform the transplant is another issue, we had Jeff at Autostadt West in Sacramento do ours, but I think that since ours was quite a project, he might need a break before doing another. I also recently found that The Green Car Company near Seattle is doing gas to diesel Vanagon conversions as well and provides engines and all parts necessary. I’d find someone with experience doing this, as there is some fabrication and some problems can crop up during the conversion.
Once you get a diesel vanagon, you can run it on any concentration of biodiesel or regular diesel as well. We opted for the greenest version by adding in a Greasecar SVO kit which is basically a 15 gallon tank that fits under the rear seat that taps into your coolant system to heat the veggie oil to 160 degrees with a computer controlled solenoid system that changes your fuel back and forth from diesel/biodiesel to SVO. You need to start and stop the car on diesel/biodiesel and you can switch over to SVO once the oil is hot enough. We also added a Vegtherm 12V heater to boost the temp and decrease our switchover times.
The last option is to find a European or Canadian diesel vanagon and have it imported (Autostadt West is working on this as well) – they made diesel Vanagons for years in Europe and I think are still making diesel Eurovans.
We’ve been really happy with it so far – around 3000 miles and running strong!

Quick, easy, expensive, and completely worth it: Contact Lucas at GoWesty in Los Osos, CA, the premier Vanagon restoration center. You can get “GoWesty Certified” Vanagons that are meticulously gone over and are essentially new, starting around $30K for 2WD Westys, and $50K for Syncros. I’m pretty sure that they will sell you one without an engine and can arrange shipping to GreenCarCo in Seattle, where for an additional 10-15K, you can have a 1.9L TD or TDI installed with a vegetable oil system as well (I haven’t used them so I cannot vouch for their service yet). It may sound expensive, but I dare you to find a vehicle this versatile and fun that runs on alternative fuel for less than $50,000.

Good Luck!