A while back on the TCF podcast we interviewed GreenSpeed, a Boise State University student group aimed at one task: making cars go very fast using vegetable oil. A lot of the fans that are into this kind of green technology emailed and Tweeted in their questions and we managed to get Dave to answer some of them. Along with Dave Schenker comes Jozey Mitcham, Adrian Rothenbühler, Patrick Johnson, Seth Feuerborn, and Adam Spiegelman. (Credit of Greenspeed.me)

1. “After listening to the show about the college group GreenSpeed
making the vegetable-oil powered car, I was wondering how hard this
would be to implement this into racing today. Would it be possible to
modify an engine, or would a new one need to be purchased? What are some
sort of things needed to be done to engine to keep the performance?
– George L., NY

1. Well, you have to start with a diesel, so with the exception of Audi and Puegeot (spelling?), you’d need a new engine. Once you have a diesel, you do need some tuning because on the best day, vegetable oil will have about 95% the energy of dino fuel. There really isn’t anything particular that is needed to run the veg oil though. Nobody has pushed the limits of power with it like we will be, but we aren’t expecting any issues (knocking on wood…). I am looking forward to seeing how it performs at our target power levels.

As far as running straight veg oil as a fuel, it’s really not a long term thing at the moment. There are issues that show up usually at the ~50,000 mi mark (gumming, coking, etc). I think that if people spent some brain power looking into tuning an engine for it, it could be a little more viable. For now though, we just want to show that it actually does work, and is an excellent source of bottom line energy. It will make a great base material for refinement that we will someday be able to produce in large quantities, with little more than solar input. Kind of like an oil well, but without having to spend a bunch of money getting to it, drilling it, and maintaining it. Humans have been harvesting plant matter for a lot longer than drilling for fluids. 

2. “When racing with vegetable oil, do you get better MPG’s and also
get better performance? Have you been able to find the sweet spot or
know of one?
– Sabrina P., Florida

2.Ask me that in a couple months!! (Referring to that they do not have enough data to figure that out yet)


3. “Why vegetable oil and not a hybrid?
– James C., New Hampshire

3. Our goal is to go to the absolute outside of what is thought possible. We would like to help people realize that plant based fuels are completely viable and a good interim choice in the process of getting to a zero emission solution. Also, hybrids are very complex machines. Maybe next year?

4. “How easy is it to find the veggy-oil for your car?
– Samuel F., New Jersey

4. We are regulated to using new oil by the rules. The governing body (SCTA) is very strict with fuel to make sure everyone is on a level playing field. We will be able to use the used oil from the campus cafeteria for testing though. 


5.  “What kind of technical tidbits did you have to change to get the
performance you want, such as compression ratio, etc… Also, if using
turbos, what PSI?
– Henessy C., Florida

5. Good question. If I tell you, I’ll probably end bleeding in an alley somewhere… But really, yes, lower compression, stronger rods, custom pistons, cam, compound turbos running about 110psi, quick-change rear end to get the gearing low enough to reach our speed with a target rpm of about 3800. Challenging to get it all stuffed into our package. Stay tuned for more info. We will be documenting the build and if you look closely at pictures, you should be able to pick up on some stuff. 


Mission Statement:

The purpose of this club is to provide students with the opportunity to gain real life experience working in an interdisciplinary environment while designing, building and racing a vegetable oil powered vehicle. Club members will learn to interface, communicate, and collaborate effectively with students and professionals from various disciplines such as engineering, business, and design to accomplish tasks ranging from advertising and fundraising to drawing and machining parts.

Club Bio:

The student club Greenspeed from Boise State University was formed by Dave Schenker. He spent two years finding the right people up for the job of getting the club off the ground. The idea was brought up in countless conversations with other students to no avail. He kept trying until he found Jozey Mitcham. While studying together, the conversation turned to cars. It turns out that Jozey’s family has a very long racing history at Bonneville Salt Flats. This experience, combined with Dave’s mechanical background is a vicious combo. After recruiting a few of their fellow students, and many grueling months to make the club official, they are well on their way to racing the world’s fastest truck to run on vegetable oil.

The club currently consists of seven engineering students and one recently graduated engineer: Dave Schenker (Mechanical), Jozey Mitcham (Mechanical), Adrian Rothenbühler (Electrical), Seth Feuerborn (Mechanical), Noah Morris (Mechanical), Adam Spiegelman (Mechanical), and John Pasley (Mechanical). They all joined the club for different reasons. Some wanted to learn more about motors and how to go FAST, some wanted to apply their new found engineering knowledge to real life issues, others wanted to learn more about alternative fuels, and some joined the club to make more engineering friends (and the inevitable glory). The main attraction was to do something that hasn’t been done before at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

There is one other university, partnered with Ford, competing at the Salt Flats. They have run both a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and a battery powered vehicle. By bringing pure vegetable oil as a fuel to the race, we can help familiarize the public with a variety of alternative fuels and show them how well they work. The club plans on putting a Cummins Diesel engine into a small pickup and run it on vegetable oil from the campus cafeteria. In the future, they would like to expand to other fuel alternatives, such as oil extracted from algae grown at Boise State.


If you want to contact GreenSpeed about parts or sponsorship: http://greenspeed.me/Greenspeed/Partners.html