Interview: Robin Charron About Converting a Vehicle to Run On Straight Vegetable Oil

We did a short email interview with Robin Charron (thanks to Philippe Telio for connecting us) about his experience converting his diesel truck to straight vegetable oil. Robin lives in Montreal, Canada, and English is not his first language, so grammarians can skip this one.

How did you hear about converting a car to straight vegetable oil (SVO)? Do you know other people who have done it?

The first time I heard about it was in august 2005, when I was on vacation. On television, there was an interview with guys from Québec City, running a Volkswagen on SVO. Before the conversion, I didn't know anybody who had done it. There is information on Internet, but the validity of that information is hard to qualify…How hard was it to do the conversion to vegetable oil? How much did it cost?

The conversion took 40 hours for an experienced guy (Simon Daigle, from www.vegetalcar.com). It cost me CAN$1500, but when the conversion went to the finish line, Simon told me that for future conversions of vehicles like mine (Dodge RAM 2500 Cummins Turbo Diesel), the cost would be around $2000-2500. If we add what I’ve paid for pumps, barrels and other equipments, the total amount I’ve spent is $3000.

You live in Montreal, it gets quite cold there in the winter (I know, I was born close to there). Can you run your SVO car in such conditions?

I can run on SVO during winter. Since I have a ride of 30 miles from my place to work, I have to run for 12 miles during very cold weathers (-20C) before the oil is ready to use. Since I have a plastic tank (lack of information during the installation), I cannot install a block heater in the tank. The heat source is a copper line in which prestone is circulating. When the temperature outside is between -5C and 0C, driving for 6-7-8 miles is enough to make the oil at the right temperature.

I'm sure that people who are considering making the switch to SVO are wondering: How hard is it to find a supply of waste oil? Lots of people are afraid of losing the convenience of the pump.. Are restaurant owners easy to deal with from your experience?

It takes a lot of time when you have no contacts with any restaurants. It took me at least 2 months to make a deal with a restaurant. This is a big part of the job. Restaurant managers have different priorities than dealing with the wasted oil … Once the deal is done, the rest of the process is pretty smooth.

Anything else you would like the share with our readers?

There’s a lot of things I have to share. I must say that I’m pretty happy for my children to get, in their education, the truth about alternatives in our society. The truth about the environment, and the price or effort we have to pay to keep it. I must also say that I am not somebody who used, before, to work on my car. I had no tools, no experience, and no inclination toward manual work. The project of converting a truck, setting up a filtration station in my garage, doing the pick-up at the restaurant, and all the tasks relative to the oil... Everything went fine (lot of hours and tests, but it’s really really fun, especially since I’m saving almost CAN$100 a week).

I also have to share the amount of time it represents in my agenda: It’s about 5 hours per month. The result of that is 400 litres of cleaned vegetable oil, and includes the transport. What a deal!

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Robin.

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