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Old 10-14-2011, 11:43 PM   #1
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Alcohol as fuel and making your own

I looked for a thread on this and didn't find one so here goes.
Has anyone run there bus on straight alcohol? What did you have to change to make it work? Has anyone made there own fuel alcohol? What resources would you recommend to learn about both making the fuel and running a bus on it?

I am looking to convert an older(precomputer) bus bit haven't settled on a particular model. I want to be able to produce my own fuel and alcohol looks most practical for me at the moment, though I have researched wood gassification as well and if it could be made to work reasonably well might go that route.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:33 PM   #2
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I've wanted to ask this community the exact same thing.

To elaborate on the production side of this old and unanswered question:

What's it like hauling a still in a skoolie?
Do the vibrations shorten its life significantly?
How do you heat the still?
Do you have to park for an ungodly amount of time to make a batch?
Are the natives unfriendly where you roam, or do you find it hard to come up with the raw materials?
In the US and other regulation-obsessed places what do you do about permits for alcohol production, or is yours simply an essential oils still that gets carried away at times?

(I'm a certiified massage therapist and mostly roam outside the first world so the inconsistently applied permitting laws are for me a nonissue; i ask this last q. for others' sake.)

Since Pennsylvania changed their laws back when i was shopping for a bus to convert, i had no option other than to go for a smaller vehicle. I could drive the bus, i just couldn't plate it as a conversion and insure it. So i turned to looking at short buses, van chassis buses.

Many of these were gas engines. I intensely dislike gasoline. (In my family-of-origin we were prohibited to use the word 'hate' and these days i find hating wastes too much energy anyhow.)

Nevertheless i bought a smallish busly sort of thing, with a monster gasoline-powered v8 in it.

It isn't even a bus. It's a Dodge Ram Maxi chassis camper. But i bought it anyway as a stepping stone to what i really want, which is a legit bus chassis skoolie running on plant-based fuel.

I know SVO (straight veggie oil) and it's pros and cons, having had friends and family with VW and Mercedes diesel cars running it.

But if i eventually decide on the smaller type of bus or ambulance, or if it's even feasible to convert diesel to alcohol, then i will want to know some answers to this question. And though it's not a skoolie, i still want to stop pumping smelly gas into my current beast.

Veggie oil would work fine for me if starting from a diesel, as i don't mind the mess and don't have cold weather to deal with. Plus fried food is ubiquitous down this way. But alcohol could feel so deliciously clean. ...and in Brazil that's about all there is. If i ever get that far.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:37 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anomie View Post
I've wanted to ask this community the exact same thing.

To elaborate on the production side of this old and unanswered question:

What's it like hauling a still in a skoolie?
Do the vibrations shorten its life significantly?
How do you heat the still?
Do you have to park for an ungodly amount of time to make a batch?
Are the natives unfriendly where you roam, or do you find it hard to come up with the raw materials?
In the US and other regulation-obsessed places what do you do about permits for alcohol production, or is yours simply an essential oils still that gets carried away at times?

(I'm a certiified massage therapist and mostly roam outside the first world so the inconsistently applied permitting laws are for me a nonissue; i ask this last q. for others' sake.)

Since Pennsylvania changed their laws back when i was shopping for a bus to convert, i had no option other than to go for a smaller vehicle. I could drive the bus, i just couldn't plate it as a conversion and insure it. So i turned to looking at short buses, van chassis buses.

Many of these were gas engines. I intensely dislike gasoline. (In my family-of-origin we were prohibited to use the word 'hate' and these days i find hating wastes too much energy anyhow.)

Nevertheless i bought a smallish busly sort of thing, with a monster gasoline-powered v8 in it.

It isn't even a bus. It's a Dodge Ram Maxi chassis camper. But i bought it anyway as a stepping stone to what i really want, which is a legit bus chassis skoolie running on plant-based fuel.

I know SVO (straight veggie oil) and it's pros and cons, having had friends and family with VW and Mercedes diesel cars running it.

But if i eventually decide on the smaller type of bus or ambulance, or if it's even feasible to convert diesel to alcohol, then i will want to know some answers to this question. And though it's not a skoolie, i still want to stop pumping smelly gas into my current beast.

Veggie oil would work fine for me if starting from a diesel, as i don't mind the mess and don't have cold weather to deal with. Plus fried food is ubiquitous down this way. But alcohol could feel so deliciously clean.
I've made alcohol. Mine was "party fuel" though.
You're probably asking about a different kind of still though.
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:40 PM   #4
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It would be prohibitively dangerous to travel with a working still, and probably wouldn't pass the smell test by the local gendarmes in almost any jurisdiction here in the US.
But interesting topic, and good luck if you actually pursue installation...
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Old 07-16-2019, 01:47 PM   #5
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Hehe, definitely not imagining rolling while the thing was in operation. I doubt it would even work, based on looking at photos of stills.

And i don't know enough about alcohol distillation to know whether the equipment needs to be much different for fuel-grade versus human consumption.

I just know i dislike gasoline, and wouldn't mind being freed from diesel either, especially with rising fuel prices (Mexico is in a fuel crisis) compared to relatively stable prices on sugar cane and other base materials.
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:01 PM   #6
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You shouldnít do this, but if you did:

Youíd want a reflux still. 15 gallon keg and a column made of copper pipe.

Alcohol/methanol would run in a gas engine, but it eats all the rubber parts. It seems far more feasible to run a diesel bus on waste vegetable oil.

Is this a doomsday scenario? The zombies would turn your bus into an easy bake oven!
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:25 PM   #7
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I applaud your desire to eschew petro chemicals in favor of a cleaner burning, renewable source of fuel! That said...
The still is just the final aspect of the process. I've never made moonshine, but have homebrewed considerably, and the initial aspects are similar.
Presuming you have a 100 gallon fuel tank, if you could run it on beer, that would require approximately 25 5-gallon fermentation carboys, since the entire capacity of wort can't be racked.
Don't imagine the hops and dead yeast wouldn't otherwise gag the fuel delivery system some. But I digress...
Under optimal, sterile conditions, the alcohol produced by natural fermentation can get up into the high teens. While sufficient to get teens high, it isn't combustible, so it proves to be an inadequate fuel for non-biotic burning.
Alcohol's lower vapor pressure, coupled with the fact that heat rises, makes distillation possible. As the heated vapor travels thru the coiled tubing of the cooling condensor, the alcohol drops back into the liquid phase and may be easily collected.
Now then, you might want to hide your corn flakes, coz I'm fixing to piddle in 'em...
You back? Good.
Given the differing ABV between beer & distilled spirits, I reckon it will take in excess of one hundred 5-gallon buckets of processed and distilled mash to fill your tank. And that won't even top it off, due to inevitable losses in the process.
We can discuss the several week period of tending to the mash while it ferments some other day...
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjo View Post
You shouldnít do this, but if you did:

Youíd want a reflux still. 15 gallon keg and a column made of copper pipe.

Alcohol/methanol would run in a gas engine, but it eats all the rubber parts. It seems far more feasible to run a diesel bus on waste vegetable oil.

Is this a doomsday scenario? The zombies would turn your bus into an easy bake oven!
I've run plenty of reflux stills that clamp onto kegs. Copper or stainless- doesn't matter much.
It would be so inefficient to power a bus with one its silly. Burning all that fuel to distill a couple gallons of 85% would just be wasteful. Not to mention the time it takes.
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:27 PM   #9
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I applaud your desire to eschew petro chemicals in favor of a cleaner burning, renewable source of fuel! That said...
The still is just the final aspect of the process. I've never made moonshine, but have homebrewed considerably, and the initial aspects are similar.
Presuming you have a 100 gallon fuel tank, if you could run it on beer, that would require approximately 25 5-gallon fermentation carboys, since the entire capacity of wort can't be racked.
Don't imagine the hops and dead yeast wouldn't otherwise gag the fuel delivery system some. But I digress...
Under optimal, sterile conditions, the alcohol produced by natural fermentation can get up into the high teens. While sufficient to get teens high, it isn't combustible, so it proves to be an inadequate fuel for non-biotic burning.
Alcohol's lower vapor pressure, coupled with the fact that heat rises, makes distillation possible. As the heated vapor travels thru the coiled tubing of the cooling condensor, the alcohol drops back into the liquid phase and may be easily collected.
Now then, you might want to hide your corn flakes, coz I'm fixing to piddle in 'em...
You back? Good.
Given the differing ABV between beer & distilled spirits, I reckon it will take in excess of [n]one hundred[/b] 5-gallon buckets of processed and distilled mash to fill your tank. And that won't even top it off, due to inevitable losses in the process.
We can discuss the several week period of tending to the mash while it ferments some other day...
I've never had a mash take longer than ten days to be fully ready.
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:31 PM   #10
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you can get past the rubber parts pretty easy... pick yourself up an old gasoline carbed bus.. you can buy a quickfuel E85 carb right off the shelf.. swap your lines over to stainless.. tune, jet and drive.. I imagine an old chevy 366 would run marvelous on alcohol..
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:32 PM   #11
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"Beer is different from booze."
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I've never had a mash take longer than ten days to be fully ready.
I get annoyed if I have to wait more'n ten minutes to slide in next to the pump...
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:33 PM   #12
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I've run plenty of reflux stills that clamp onto kegs. Copper or stainless- doesn't matter much.
It would be so inefficient to power a bus with one its silly. Burning all that fuel to distill a couple gallons of 85% would just be wasteful. Not to mention the time it takes.
I donít think itís feasible either, that said, Go Solar! I made a solar stove out of a satellite dish that was easily as hot as any commercial natural gas stove.
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:39 PM   #13
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I donít think itís feasible either, that said, Go Solar! I made a solar stove out of a satellite dish that was easily as hot as any commercial natural gas stove.
When you work out how to convert the thermal into kinetic energy to drive a bus, you will be instantly financially well off!
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:49 PM   #14
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I donít think itís feasible either, that said, Go Solar! I made a solar stove out of a satellite dish that was easily as hot as any commercial natural gas stove.
I like melting stuff with the fresnell lens on projection tv's.

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Old 07-16-2019, 02:51 PM   #15
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I donít think itís feasible either, that said, Go Solar! I made a solar stove out of a satellite dish that was easily as hot as any commercial natural gas stove.
Right. I also have access to nearly unlimited sunshine, and two local TV repairmen have offered to sell me the next 50" or larger (diagonal) fresnel lens they get for the equivalent of ten bucks each, so that'll be two more ways to heat the mash.

HazMatt, you're talking to a trucker with one. If you double check your signature quote you may find your conscience prickling.

When i said 'an ungodly amount of time' i meant it. I know fermentation is involved, that beer is too weak, and, hell, i'm in the land of Mezcal and frequent a spa that used to be a palenque (Mezcal production facility, with a circular pit where the donkeys tread the mash.) Others are in the land of corn or sugarcane or wheat or potatoes. This Time article mentions 110 proof mezcal, but that's the weak stuff.

Danjo, thanks for the tip on still type.

As far as the rubber, i've seen what it does to old seals when introduced at 10% as it is was in most gas in the US last time i had the misfortune to buy it there, as i've worked on a handful of old motorbike engines before and after the country's petrol got polluted by corn.

But as i edited my first comment to mention, in Brazil nearly all cars run on ethanol, and i've heard that there are seal compounds that resist alcohol degradation. Not to mention that all(?) new vehicles use them.

I may not be in manufacturing myself, but dozens of people on this list are, if not hundreds, and it's not out of the question that someone reading this thread could decide, for example, to contract a factory in Korea or somewhere to produce to specification a complete set of rubber for, say, a popular skoolie engine like the DT 466 or Cummins 5.9L or something.

(Anyone's welcome to PM me if such a kit exists for first gen Dodge non-Magnum 5.9L gas guzzler. My Google-fu has failed me in this.)

As far as i see it, higher compression (required), cooler combustion, minimal point-of-use pollution, and abundant fuel source materials make it an obvious choice for the tropics, where, by the way, many good ole yellow buses end up in the afterlife. (whatever people say about quantities for the mash simply doesn't phase me. The earth produces vegetation almost as if it LIKED global warming)
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:52 PM   #16
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[QUOTE=EastCoastCB;338352]I like melting stuff with the fresnell lens on projection tv's.

I got one of those big old school satellite dishes off craigslist and covered it in silver Mylar. It was a flamethrower
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:57 PM   #17
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When you work out how to convert the thermal into kinetic energy to drive a bus, you will be instantly financially well off!
I think a shorter path to that is recycling peoples trash oil. I though about it!

Thereís a YouTube series where these Aussie guys were pulling a biodiesel converter in a trailer. Even in the most favorable environments they still were challenged. Iíll post the video if I can find it.
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Old 07-16-2019, 03:01 PM   #18
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I used get 25% yield from daddy distillers yeast and white cane sugar back in the day. Lets assume you have a 100 gallon tank. You would need to make 400 gallons of mash, 5lb per gallon of sugar 2000lbs of sugar, and several packets of yeast and a 500 gallon still. I don't think you can distill it cheaper than you can buy it.
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Old 07-16-2019, 03:02 PM   #19
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^^Biodiesel is quite different from waste vegetable oil.

And yes. The heat from the sun is easily used to substitute for the gass or wood fire used in the distillation process. The rest of the conversion from solar to kinetic is the same as any other engine discussed around here: combustion.
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Old 07-16-2019, 03:07 PM   #20
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I used get 25% yield from daddy distillers yeast and white cane sugar back in the day. Lets assume you have a 100 gallon tank. You would need to make 400 gallons of mash, 5lb per gallon of sugar 2000lbs of sugar, and several packets of yeast and a 500 gallon still. I don't think you can distill it cheaper than you can buy it.
For decades Brazil has used waste sugarcane biomass to make methanol. Need to use waste to make it work. Legalize hemp I say!
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