Jaunts around the country in an RV fueled by waste vegetable oil are rare, but that’s just what three recent University of Florida (UF) graduates undertook — and lived to tell about, the Gainesville Sun reported.
“People don’t need gas anymore,” said one of the voyagers, Sergio Gutierrez. “People don’t believe it until you show them.”
The trio — Gutierrez, Brad Farrar and Elliot Arroyo — showed that very fact to lots of people on a 90-day, 10,000-mile trip that took them from Gainesville through Texas, the Mountain West, California and the Pacific coast into Canada and then eastward and south back to Gainesville. They arrived back in Gainesville on Saturday.
Rather than stopping at gas stations along the way, they stopped at restaurants to get free used vegetable oil. Pumped through a filter, it provided a fuel that got 10 to 12 miles per gallon compared with the five to six that a gasoline engine would have gotten, Farrar said.
And instead of spending an estimated $3,000 on fuel, they spent about $150 on vegetable oil. They could get up to 1,100 miles on a fill-up of the 70-gallon tank.
Farrar and Arroyo are longtime friends from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
They were in Europe together last year and thought it would be fun to travel around in an RV, but figured it would be too expensive. This year, they decided to buy an RV for a trip around the U.S.
An engineering major who graduated this year, Farrar began researching the possibility of running the RV on vegetable oil. It would be cheaper, and vegetable oil emits nearly no sulfur into the environment and is carbon neutral.
He outfitted the RV with a pump and filtration system so the vegetable oil could run the diesel engine.
The three set off in May along with UF student Andrew Mensah, who left the trip in San Francisco. Along the way, they explained to people that the RV was running on vegetable oil. The RV became more of an attraction once it was painted with graffiti-style lettering.
“Just having to find vegetable oil added to the adventure,” Farrar said. “With a gas engine, you just stop at a gas station. We had to find restaurants or people who had vegetable oil. We found this guy in Burlington, Vt., who was the most gracious by far. He also made soap out of veggie oil and gave us some of that.”
Some time was spent alongside the road — three alternators, a new battery, a starter and a fuel pump sidelined them. All of the trouble was due to the age of the RV, not to the vegetable oil, they said. The RV was broken into in San Francisco with lots of cameras and electronic gear stolen.
But the highs far outweighed the trouble, they said. Parking for the night on the beach in Coronado Beach, Calif., visiting national parks throughout the county, the time spent with each other.
The three are now going their separate ways. Arroyo, who earned a political science degree from UF in 2008, is a graduate student at the University of Georgia and is about to start an internship.
Gutierrez, who in 2008 earned a UF degree in decision and information science, now has an insurance business.
Farrar is about to start a job in the oil industry in Brazil.
“It may seem kind of funny after this, but what I’m to be doing is making oil more efficient,” Farrar said. “We are not going to wake up tomorrow to every single one of these cars running on vegetable oil, but I can wake up a week from now and be making oil more efficient.”