A small company is part
of the push to run cars
on vegetable oil
By Will Fifield
VEGETABLE OIL—the stuff in your kitchen cupboard—is not only great for frying tacos, it’s a clean,
readily available source of automotive fuel. Costco
members Edward Beggs, of Salmon Arm, British
Columbia, and Craig Reece, of Berkeley, California,
say that it’s the most environmentally friendly and
economically viable alternative fuel available today.
Their Web-based company, Neoteric Fuels,
which does businesses as PlantDrive (
drive.com), provides the expertise, products and professional mechanical assistance necessary to help
individuals and companies modify their diesel-powered vehicles to run on vegetable oil. Beggs and Reece
say that a growing number of motorists are buying
diesel-powered cars and modifying them to run on
vegetable oil because it addresses
environmental, geopolitical and economic concerns.
Costco member Craig Reece helps people modify their diesel-powered cars to run on regular
A grassroots approach
Using vegetable oil as fuel is not a
new idea. The first diesel engines,
developed by Dr. Rudolph Diesel in
Germany in the late 19th century, ran
on vegetable oil. But the oil industry
developed an inexpensive petroleum-based diesel fuel, which became the
standard fuel for diesel engines.
Beggs, who founded PlantDrive
in 1999, became interested in vegetable oil as an alternative fuel source
as a university student studying environmental and sustainability issues.
He says his education coupled with a
background in soybean farming (a
popular source of vegetable oil) near Detroit—aka
“Motor City”—gave him an early interest in all the
topics surrounding his business.
In 2003, Beggs offered to sell half-ownership of
the business to Reece, who had converted his own
car to run on vegetable oil in 2001. After modifying
his car, Reece had been handling engine conversions
for Bay Area motorists using PlantDrive products,
and he jumped at the chance.
Now the pair hope that what has been a grassroots movement will expand. Each year, more
motorists frustrated with wildly fluctuating gas
prices find their way to PlantDrive’s Web site.
Name: Neoteric Biofuels
(doing business as PlantDrive)
Owners: Edward Beggs
and Craig Reece
Beggs: Kelowna, BC
Reece: Richmond, CA
kits to convert diesel-powered cars and trucks to run
on vegetable oil and offers
support during the process
of converting, or refers
clients to mechanics who
can perform the conversion.
Neoteric Biofuels Inc.
B.A.G. 9000, Suite 305
90 Trans-Canada Highway NE
Salmon Arm, BC V1E 1S3
Comments about Costco:
“We often recommend Costco
as a great place to buy new
vegetable oil. I’ve filled up
more than once at Costco,
and the look on fellow Costco
shoppers’ faces as I fill up,
once with a 1999 Mercedes
E300, is priceless.”
The nuts and bolts
Costco member Erik Elbek, of Santa Barbara,
California, modified his diesel-powered Volkswagen
Jetta in 2005 after reading a news
story about oil companies posting
record quarterly profits. “At the time
diesel fuel was at $3.50 per gallon. The
largest container of soy oil at Costco,
a 35.6-pound tub, was cheaper than
buying diesel,” he says. “I was just
tired of getting ripped off by the gasoline industry.”
Elbek learned the nuts and bolts
about modifying his diesel engine to
run on vegetable oil by studying
information on PlantDrive’s Web site.
He says it cost about $700 to $800 in
parts to modify his Jetta. Because he is
mechanically inclined, he handled the
modifications himself. Elbek and his
wife were so pleased with their converted Jetta that they modified their
Mercedes Benz turbo diesel about six
Reece says that PlantDrive has helped car owners modify hundreds of diesel engines—and that
these vegetable-oil-powered engines consistently
deliver about the same economy and power as
engines that use standard diesel fuel. However, he
says, modified engines tend to last longer because oil
is a better lubricant than traditional diesel fuel.
Like the Elbeks, many PlantDrive customers collect waste vegetable oil from restaurants for free.
After they filter it, they can recycle this waste product as fuel in their modified cars.
and can be
Co-owner of PlantDrive