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!

Fossil Fuel Free Roadtrips #2 and #3

4 10 2007

Originally uploaded by neuphoto57

Over 8 days we managed to take 2 separate veggie oil trips to the southern part of Big Sur, California. Since we live in San Luis Obispo, we can make it to Kirk Creek, Limekiln, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns campgrounds within 2 hours straight up the incredibly scenic and legendary Route 1. It’s approximately a 190 mile round trip, and as we drive through Cayucos where we got married, the minimally existent Harmony, quaint Cambria, and up along the cliffs and hills overlooking the edge of the Pacific. The first overnighter was just Laura and myself, reminiscing on the early days of our relationship. We watched the sunset, played guitar, and talked until we drifted off to sleep on the relatively comfortable upper bunk. The next day we hiked a bit and headed home.
This past weekend, we headed back up Rt 1 with our cousins Cindy and Thomas. We decided to go “Westy only” for camping, with Laura and I in the top bunk and Cindy and Thomas in the lower. We brought sandwiches from Gus’s and shared a local bottle of wine to a nearly full moon lighting up cloud animals and topiary-like shrubs. The front seats held the laptop for an evening showing of Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny to top it off (luckily the viewing angle was decent from both bunks).

In the morning, we hiked part of the trail to Vincente flats across from our campground and used the shower I installed in the back of the Vegfalia to wash the poison oak (always bring your Technu to Big Sur!) and dirt off from the knees down.  We made a quick stop for a few photos of Elephant seals and made it to a few wineries for tasting in Paso Robles before heading home.

This may sound a little strange, but it was fantastic to spend good time with family and not feel guilty about using fossil fuels – Thomas even refilled the same water bottle the entire trip! We’re still working out the bugs in the Vegfalia, though. I had to take out the heat exchanger water heater because the coolant hose blew again that is teed off to the Greasecar kit. Hopefully that issue is settled for now. This week I’m trying to tackle fixing some of the electrical issues with the power locks and repair the broken heater flap cables under the dash.

Fossil Fuel Free Roadtrip #1: San Luis Obispo, CA to Hood River, OR

30 08 2007

Our maiden voyage of the Vegfalia was a success! We travelled almost 2000 miles from SLO, CA to Bend then to Hood River, Oregon then returned home through Portland and Santa Cruz on only biodiesel and vegetable oil.

Because there isn’t an adequate infrastructure for retail biodiesel or filtered WVO (waste vegetable oil), we carried an extra 15 gallons of WVO and 5 gallons of biodiesel to start. We picked up 4 4.7 gallon cubes of virgin veggie oil at Costco for around $3.75/gallon in Sacramento which got us through Bend and up to Portland. There we filled up the 20 gallon main tank and the 15 gallon VO tank plus 4 cubes with biodiesel at one of the multiple stations there. Dissapointingly, there was no b99 available all the way up Rt 5, only 2 locations in the Bay Area, and 2 locations in Santa Cruz. We’re planning an on-the-fly filtration system, possibly modeled after The Organic Mechanic’s Greasebeast or the RoadTote Filtration system from VegPower so we can stop at restaurants on the way rather than using virgin VO as well as to save more money.

I’ll be adding photos and more on the trip soon!


Greasecar Kit Installed, the Vegfalia is Alive!

30 08 2007

8-20-07:  Maybe I jumped the gun a little when I ordered my Greasecar kit back in January without actually having the diesel engine installed in the van yet.  I get excited about these things.  Now that we have it back, it took me about 5 hours to get the kit installed. 

Overall, the process was fairly painless – the Greasecar instructions were generic and with only a few diagrams, but it was well-written and complete enough for a DIY install.  The kit cost around $1200 which included the new computerized controller, custom 15 gallon heated tank for under the rear seat, 2 3-way fuel solenoid switches, plenty of coolant and fuel hose, clamps, temp sensors for both coolant temp and fuel temp.

I’ll post more on the installation soon with photos

1.9L TD Engine Installation Complete, Westy Back From Sacramento!

30 08 2007

1.9L TD engine8-17-07: Jeff at Autostadt West was able to deliver our Westy after 6 months in the shop for a full transmission rebuild and the installation of a 1.9 Liter Turbo Diesel engine. It was a long time coming, but we’re excited to have her back. The first night I filled up the rest of the tank with our homebrew biodiesel so it is now officially running on clean fuel!