Stacy Jurich says her 8,000 mile road trip looking for adventure across America will cost her only $64 for fuel.
This “greaser” isn’t driving a secret Big Three high-mileage concept car. She’s driving a 1981 Mercedes Benz 240 D which gets 22 miles per gallon powered by her fuel of choice—waste vegetable oil.
The 23-year-old Ohio State graduate is 2,000 miles into her trip to promote alternative fuels. She is in Houston, Texas this weekend recovering from a few days stay in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Stacy bleeds green. She is the director of Toledo Choose Local, a non-profit that promotes local buying which reduces energy use, and Green Drinks, a periodic social gathering for those interested in environmental issues.
If you talk green, you should walk green, Stacy believes. Or, in this case, drive green. She bought the car named “Vegipwr” on e-bay for $4,650. It came with a Lovecraft conversion system that allows her to burn waste vegetable oil, straight vegetable oil, diesel or bio-diesel. The kit has a tank and various hoses, switches and a heater to warm the oil and deliver it to the carburetor on demand.
Stacy starts the car on diesel until the engine temperature reaches 80 degrees then switches to vegetable oil. Before turning the car off, she switches back to diesel for a few minutes so the oil doesn’t congeal in the lines.
There are no solid numbers to tell us how many Americans are converting their cars to vegi-power. One expert has it at around 50,000. But, as fuel prices rise and the numbers of “greasers” grow, these creative environmentalists will draw the attention of the federal government which requires a fuel license, a bond, and, naturally, the paying of a fuel tax. State and federal officials are currently reviewing laws and will have to balance the nation’s need to become energy independent with its need to keep fuel tax revenue flowing to rebuild roads and bridges.
In the meantime, Stacy is doing her part to show America there are alternatives to foreign oil. She gets her grease from restaurants, many of which give it to her free which for them is better than paying someone to haul it away.
Good grease comes from non-hydrogenated oil used at Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Thai restaurants, not so good comes from McDonalds. Either way, the job is a little more time-consuming than pulling into the corner gas station. Stacy will don coveralls before getting to work with equipment she describes as a “12-volt pump, 70 micron clear stainless steel strainer wand and dual filter manifold with twin 3 micro nominal P551000 Donaldson water separator filters.” This girl loves her toys.
She can store 30 gallons in her trunk and 19.5 gallons in the tank. The good news--she only needs to find seven or eight cooperating restaurants on her trip, the bad news--she has no trunk space for stuff. It also takes 90 minutes or so to refuel. Her first collection stop was at Double Happiness restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina. She left the state blowing an exhaust trail that smelled like Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Stacy can get about 360 miles to the tank. That should get her through the long stretches of deserts and mountains in the west. She’s headed to Taos, New Mexico then along the California and Oregon coast. She’ll return via Denver, Colorado and St. Louis. She’s staying with friends and at hostels and campgrounds. She also will network with other “greasers” at www.fillup4free.com who are willing to share waste vegetable oil. She left her Sylvania home three weeks ago and plans to return to Northwest Ohio in mid-May.
The trip’s purpose is to promote alternative fuels and discover first hand what other communities are doing to be sustainable. That doesn’t mean Stacy’s not having fun or discovering her inner self. She’ll visit the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and other national landmarks. So, is she nervous traveling alone to see America in a 1981 Benz with 160,000 miles on the odometer?
“I have short moments of anxiety, but they don’t last very long. I have a motto not to let fear dictate anything that I do,” she explained.
You can follow Stacy’s trip by clicking on her picture above or clicking on www.vegipowerseesamerica.com.
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