September 2008
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AL Cattleman’s “Bio-Truck” Runs on Solid Fuel

Alabama cattleman Wayne Keith converted his Dodge pick-up into a “green” truck. His “bio-truck” is powered by biofuels such as switchgrass and chicken litter.  

Wayne Keith, an Alabama cattleman, has turned his Dodge pick-up into a "green" truck. Green in more than color; it’s a "bio-truck."

"The actual gasifier was used in World War II," said Keith.

He has modified the ‘gasifier’ to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide to power his pick-up. Keith has used switchgrass and even chicken litter for fuel. Currently, he is using wood. Once the solid material is loaded into the converter, carbon monoxide and hydrogen are extracted. The gas cools and condenses in the radiator, which really looks like guard rails surrounding the bed. Then fuel pumps straight to the engine.

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks simplified how the ‘gasifer’ works: "You put it (the fuel) in there (the gasifier). It burns and breaks down. That sends hydrogen through the rails on either side of the truck. The rails are the cooling system. Then it goes back through the filter and to the engine."

Keith said, "It shows we don’t have to have liquid fuel to run a vehicle, we can do it off solid fuel if we need to. On this particular truck I know I can get 5,000 miles per cord of wood."

That’s about one mile per pound of wood and it can go over 80 miles an hour.

Keith’s bio-truck has caught the attention of those promoting renewable energy. One of these companies is Renewable Energy Systems, LLC (RES). In fact, RES is one of the companies along with Commissioner Sparks and Auburn University sponsoring a Coast-to-Coast and Back tour for a "Green Team" to help make people aware of bio-fuel options, attract media attention and prove a point on the open road.

The team is made up of six people who are driving across the country using bio-fuels. Members of the team are an Auburn University Professor (Dr. David Bransby, professor in the Department of Agronomy and Soils), two representatives from RES and three other support staff members.

The tour will start in Charleston, SC, on the East Coast and take a southern route to San Diego, then north to Los Angeles and San Francisco, stopping at different renewable energy installations en route to get the media to highlight these projects, companies and technologies.

The team said it will take about two weeks to get from Charleston to California, but it won’t be because they’re stopping for gas. They will be making stops across the country to power up on a wide range of solid fuels.

Dr. Bransby said, "This truck runs on wood or grass, no gasoline, and that should get people’s attention."

The Bio-Truck will then participate in a road race for vehicles powered by non-commercially available fuels from Berkeley, CA, to Las Vegas, NV, in a three day event (October 11-13). Following completion of this race, the Bio-Truck will race the clock back to the East Coast. The entire project will run from Monday, September 29, to Friday, October 17.

"I don’t think folks are ready to start hauling wood and gasifiers in the back of their vehicles, but the point is the technology is there," Sparks said.

Sparks estimates we’re about 5 years away from using some form of bio-mass fuel on a regular basis.