Tired of diesel fuel costs and environmental impact? Go grease
By G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE -- Operating a diesel vehicle on used vegetable oil might sound like wishful thinking in an age looking for green fuel solutions, but Justin Carven s groundbreaking technology made it a reality 10 years ago.
Now with an expanded facility in Holyoke, Carven s company has changed owning a greasecar from being something for the adventurous few to an affordable option for many diesel drivers.
Located in a former automotive facility at 933 Main St., Greasecar -- Carven s company -- now offers installations of his vegetable oil technology on existing diesels as well as service on conventional diesel engines, sales of greasecars ready for the road and the fuel itself, priced about $1 less a gallon than diesel.
Carven s technology modifies a diesel vehicle so that it can run on recycled vegetable oil. The vehicle starts with conventional diesel fuel and switches over to the oil once it is warm enough to be pumped. Carven said that for drivers who either have long commutes or who use their vehicles -- such as pick-up trucks -- for work, this technology could pay for itself within a year.
There are about 6,000 greasecars on the road nationally and about 500 in the region, Carven said.
Carven moved his company from a location in Easthampton in August after renovating the building. A Holyoke resident, he wanted to have his business in the same city as his home and take the company to the next level.
That next level was to take his business from selling kits to people wishing to convert their cars to run on vegetable oil to offering a full-service greasecar center. He hopes to build his local business with his new operation and is even instituting a Greasecar membership card program offering discounts on fuel and services.
Although Carven admitted his business took a hit with the economic downturn, he was very busy during last year when diesel prices went over $4 a gallon. He hopes his change in his business model will encourage more people to turn to this alternative fuel source.
A major obstacle for many people is obtaining and processing the oil itself. Although many restaurants have been willing to give the waste oil away -- as it costs them money for disposal -- Carven noted consumers had to clean and filter the oil themselves and hope there wasn t any water in it.
It s a bit of a chore, he said.
Carven obtains his oil from a Pennsylvania company that collects and processes 10,000 gallons a month.
It s very clean and has no contaminants, he said.
It is also convenient as people simply pull their greasecars to the rear of Carven s building and can fill their car up. He noted that used vegetable oil is an ideal alternative fuel as it has been already been used for a primary purpose and doesn t require removing land from the production of food. It produces less greenhouse gases than petroleum products and contains no sulphur.
The cost to convert a diesel car runs between $1,000 and $2,000, depending upon whether an owner wants to do the work him or herself or have Carven s staff do it. A truck conversion runs between $1,500 and $3,000.
Carven is now buying late model diesel cars at auction and converting them. He expects to sell the cars in the price range of $5,000 to $10,000.
For more information, log onto www.greasecar.com.