From diesel to vegetable oil: Car conversion leads way for economically minded

Gerri Young
Defense Commissary Agency Europe Public Affairs

***image1***Heino Traudt’s a big consumer of rapeseed oil, but he doesn’t buy it for cooking.
This senior financial operations analyst in Defense Commissary Agency Europe’s Operations Division is one of a few brave and economy-minded Germans who operates his car on it in place of diesel fuel.
Mr. Traudt made the decision to convert to rape oil based mostly on economics, but also in concern for the environment.
“When I first got the car, diesel fuel was 92.5 EUR cents a liter. Rape oil in Germany has a fixed price of 70 Euro cents for the next several years and maybe as long as 2009,” said Mr. Traudt. “Now that I’ve converted the car, diesel is 1.09 Euro a liter. I get about the same performance on rape oil as I did on diesel, but the cost difference makes it worthwhile. The only real performance difference I can tell is that it takes a bit longer to warm up the car when first starting up.”
He was the first in the area to have his car converted — a three-hour process costing 1,500 EUR (about $1,875). Twenty more people have since signed up for the change.
“The conversion meant the car needed a fuel heating system and cables because the fuel must be heated to run the engine correctly,” said Mr. Traudt. “Prior to the conversion, I ran the car on diesel, and, even now, I can easily switch back and forth between the rape oil and diesel. I just have to make sure the tank is only 10 percent full before I put in the opposite fuel. Since rape oil stations are not on every corner, this is a good thing.”
The car’s fuel tank holds 50 liters and he can drive about 1,000 kilometers before refueling.
Since converting to cooking oil, Mr. Traudt’s trips to the “gas station” are a real adventure.
“I have to go out in the country, down a dirt road and into a farm with chickens scattered about,” said Mr. Traudt. “But this is not just a little farm operation. The son of the farmer owns a rape oil company and has plans to build a mill to serve the whole district for processing the seed into cooking oil and fuel on a much larger scale.”
The oil Heino puts in his car is exactly the same oil currently bottled by the company for use as a cooking and salad oil.