30 March 2014
Alternative Fuel Grant Proposal
At Bay Path University, many students are concerned not only about their transportation but also the impact they have on the environment. With a new grant for a more ecofriendly transport center on campus, both areas can be addressed. The current shuttle service can be updated to run on ethanol derived of plant wastes from local farms as well as waste vegetable oil from local restaurants, and this cheap but cleaner fuel will help Bay Path be a more efficient and ecologically aware campus.
The benefits of using ethanol would include that ethanol is renewable and produced domestically, ethanol helps in the reduction of imported oil from other countries and greenhouse gasses, it is cheaper than a single gallon of oil, and the production of ethanol does not require special fueling equipment and can be used in any type of vehicle, particularly shuttles in our case. Ethanol does not produce air pollution which would be beneficial to the environment. The drawbacks of using ethanol fuel is that the production of ethanol takes up large amounts of energy, and the production of ethanol uses resources that could be used for food production, which will later on raise the price of food. There may be some failure as well as success with this grant and our plans to provide the ethanol fuel for the public.
The majority of the grant funds would be used in the first year to convert the current shuttle system over to ethanol based fuels. The vans would need a diesel engine if they do not
have them already, and these typically run at about $4,000 $5,000 each. The conversion process from petrodiesel and biodiesel to pure vegetable oil is relatively simple, and costs could be saved by having maintenance perform the conversion using a purchased kit, $200 $300 each. Even after conversion, regular petrodiesel and biodiesel can be used as fuels. Used vegetable oil is the cheapest fuel to source, as it is a waste product of the restaurant industry and could be obtained for free or else a nominal pickup fee. It could also be produced in the laboratory from waste plant parts such as the stalks of corn or wheat, which are not edible for humans. This would be cheap, but as these can be sold for livestock feed, the price would certainly be higher than used vegetable oil. This fuel would work well in summer; however, it will gel at low temperatures and a mixture of biodiesel and petrodiesel would be preferable in winter. The biodiesel can be produced by reacting the vegetable oil with sodium hydroxide and methanol over heat. This is an easy procedure, but very time consuming. Using biodiesel combined with petrodiesel during the winter would prevent gelling while maintaining lower prices for fuel. Since the pure vegetable oil can be heated in cool weather and biodiesel can be used mixed with varying percentages of petrodiesel in cold weather, the petrodiesel would only be needed for a small portion of the year, and only in small quantities. The overall costs for fuel would be much lower throughout the year compared to what the shuttle service costs now.
The initial costs to set up the new fuel system will be $1,000 $1,500 if the engines are already diesel and just need converting or $21,000 $26,500 if new engines must be purchased and then converted. The low fuel costs will allow the new shuttle system to experience lower operating costs than those with typical gasoline engines. The fuel costs will be little or nothing in warm weather when used vegetable oil can be used. Since even petrodiesel is cheaper than…