In recent years there has been a push to find new and greener ways of fuelling road going vehicles in order to cut down on carbon emissions and also to try and find ways of reducing fuel duty.
There have been some interesting developments in the area of bio diesels and fuels not least the notion that a car can be run successfully on vegetable oil.
Straight Vegetable Oil
Straight Vegetable Oil ‐ or SVO as it is often referred to when discussing its use as a fuel ‐ can be used as a fuel by simply putting it straight into your tank but you should be aware of the pitfalls of doing so. Not least is the fact that in using Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) as a fuel you are automatically breaking the law if you do not pay duty.
This is something that many drivers who have considered using Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) as a fuel fail to recognise and can sometimes fall foul of the law. Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) although usable as a fuel is not recognised as fuel and therefore does not carry duty in the same way that petrol or diesel does and if you ‐ as the user ‐ do not voluntarily pay the duty on the oils you use then you are infringing the duty laws and could be liable to prosecution.
What Happens if You Have Paid Your Duty and Want to Use SVO?
If you have paid the duty of your Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) and want to use it as fuel the law says you can. There is nothing illegal in using it once you have paid the duty but you should be aware of the other pitfalls that may occur when using such a thick oil in your engine.
The main problem with Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) is just that ‐ it is too thick. It needs to be thinned with an additive or a percentage of diesel or petrol just as you would fill your car normally. However you should know that if your engine breaks down your warranty will not cover the cost of repairs if the wrong type of fuel is used.
There are conversion kits on sale that can be fitted ‐ and it is recommended that these are fitted professional ‐ that allow for other fuels to be used. For example at present conversion kits are available that allow for the running of gas in cars‐ again perfectly legal as the gas is purchased from garages in the normal way.
Waste Vegetable Oils (WVO)
This is exactly what it sounds like ‐ waste vegetable oils that have been used for frying (probably in large quantities such as in fast food establishments). Again you should not simply try to fill your tank with waste or straight vegetable oil, a conversion kit is needed and you must ensure at all times that the duty is paid.
The Pros and Cons
As with all money saving and environment‐saving idea there are catches and using vegetables oils are no exception. The main drawback when using vegetable oil as a fuel is that it is likely to cause ‐ either immediately or over time ‐ problems with your engine. You may find that injection systems fail and where your car would normal start from cold in the winter it may struggle.
As we have also indicated your warranty will become void if you use vegetable oils and they cause problems to your engine. If this happens the manufacturer may refuse to service or maintain your vehicle and any damages will have to be paid for privately.
Also at the present time there are studies under way to evaluate the level of emissions that these oils produce and initial reports say there may actually be more emissions from burning vegetables oils than from burning ordinary fuels such as petrol and diesel.
We should stress however that the above is for the purposes of information only and should you decide to switch to vegetable oils as a fuel you do so at your own risk.