How to Run an Autocross Using Fuel You Made in Your Apartment for Less Than $100

Mike Solowiow
by Mike Solowiow

Wesson veggie oil, lye, high quality methanol, an old margarita mixer, and some patience; thats all you need to create your own batch of pure biodiesel, suitable for use in your average two-year old, raceworthy Jetta TDI. Sure, it looked more like something you would dip your bread in at Olive Garden, but I was not only going to be driving like a hooligan at the local SCCA event, I was saving the planet (I should sell some carbon credits)! Using directions I found on-line, I planned to whip up a five-gallon batch of biodiesel (to see if I could) in the 11th-floor confines of my apartment. Not knowing what to expect, I ended up with a huge mess, a ruined margarita mixer, and about three gallons of biodiesel of dubious quality (it was supposed to be nearly translucent). Turbidity issues aside, I put a single gallon in the tank of my Jetta, along with five gallons of regular diesel, and ran around town. No issues, so the weekend's race was on! The other two gallons were then thrown in, and the race commenced. One hundred bhp aside, the Jetta performed admirably with mild body lean, communicative steering, decent brakes, monster torque, and laughable grip. The oppressive Oklahoma heat erased all perception of driving a commuter sedan; no, I was piloting the Audi R10 TDI down the Mulsanne straight in the Le Mans! But unlike Audi, I couldn't claim victory, as I was the only one in my racing class. But my adventure in going green shall not end there. Stay tuned as I attempt to make ethanol for my Porsche!

Mike Solowiow
Mike Solowiow

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  • R H R H on Aug 25, 2008

    I am a big diesel fan myself, however there are basically no diesel choices here except vw, and trucks. I'd love to have a non-vw diesel at 50+mpg. In the meanwhile, I stick $6/week in the motorcycle that I already had before prices went up. My last fillup with 40% city, 60% highway was ~ 41.5 $6 barely buys a takeout sandwich here.

  • Chuckgoolsbee Chuckgoolsbee on Aug 25, 2008

    eggsalad: Making BioDiesel in small quantities is expensive. Especially if you use SVO as your feedstock. Start churning out 20+ gallons a week from WVO and bulk materials and you are paying 1998 prices for your fuel. --chuck

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Aug 25, 2008

    Be careful with the homemade ethanol. there likely is a limit below which you can make your own without 50 permits from 25 different government agencies including the BATF (don't want to mess with those guys). Second, it is physically/chemically impossible distill a water/ethanol mixture to any more than 97% or 98% ethanol, the remainder being water. You will need to add a third chemical to the mix for it to even be possible to produce 100% ethanol. Typically, a small amount of benzene is used, but it's been so long since I had my class in mass transfer operations that I can't remember the specifics.

  • Student.Driver Student.Driver on Aug 27, 2008

    1. Unless you're heading to a pivot (or AZ clump as some contend here) that isn't "mild body lean" at all. 2. If you're running Stock or Street Touring class, well from page 28 in the 2008 Solo Rules (3.6.A): Stock and Street Touring Class vehicles will use service station pump fuel only. Pump fuel is defined as that which is “Federally approved for use on public highways.” This includes the pump fuel known as “E85, but does not allow racing-type fuels which are available at service station pumps. So, is it street modified? :-)