Diesel cars are not typically thought to be as fast as their petrol counterparts. However, a team of students from Boise State University in Idaho are trying to get their biodiesel-powered S-10 to hit 215 miles per hour.
In November 2011, according to Slashgear, a team of students from Boise State University in Idaho descended upon the El Mirage lake bed in Southern California to set a Southern California Timing Association record for the fastest diesel-powered pickup.
The previous record was 98 miles per hour, but this group of spud state undergrads humiliated the previous record holder, as the student’s modified Chevrolet S-10 pickup blasted to 139 miles per hour. Not satisfied with that result, according to the Idaho Statesman, they set a new record the next day at 155 miles per hour.
The team, which calls itself Greenspeed, is gearing up for another run, according to USA Today, at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where the team has the goal of burying the old record by hitting 215 miles per hour. The team’s truck runs on a slightly different fuel: vegetable oil.
Dirty old restaurant oil
Greenspeed uses a 1998 Chevy S-10, which has been modified to fit a tuned 5.9-liter Cummins V-8 diesel from a 1993 Dodge Ram truck. Using recycled waste vegetable oil from restaurants to make biodiesel, Greenspeed is able to get the pickup to put out 708 horsepower and 1,099 foot-pounds of torque, power output that is normally reserved for supercars.
The team believes it can break the 200 miles-per-hour barrier because Bonneville Salt Flats has longer straightaways than El Mirage.
The trouble with biofuels
Greenspeed has pulled off a fantastic technical achievement, but it doesn’t necessarily herald the dawning of a new age of fuel sources. Biodiesel, according to Popular Mechanics, is not compatible with many newer model diesel cars because Environmental Protection Agency standards mandated a change in how diesel engines operate in order to decrease emissions. Unfortunately, that meant diesel engines could not tolerate biodiesel, which is denser than traditional diesel.
If the distillation is not done correctly, or if inferior waste oil is used, the resulting product can be very low-quality and can easily damage an engine or other components. Home diesel-making kits can be expensive and the chemicals involved in the process, like methanol, are toxic and combustible. Also, as USA Today points out, vegetable oil, if purchased new, is more expensive per gallon than regular fuel, and oil has to be distilled into diesel. On Walmart.com, one gallon of Great Value canola oil is $6.78; almost 1.5 times the cost of a gallon of diesel.
Popular Mechanics: http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/alternative-fuel/biofuels/4311498