Diesel Station Wagon Runs on Plastic

Old diesel engines from various car manufacturers like Mercedes and Volkswagen are highly prized even in modern times. Not only were these engines incredibly reliable and mechanically simple, but they can easily be modified to run on a wide variety of fuels. It’s common to see old Volkswagen Jettas or Mercedes 300Ds running on used vegetable oil or any other free flammable liquid that might otherwise end up in the garbage. [Gijs Schalkx] has an diesel Volvo 240 wagon, and rather than compete with all the other diesel owners looking for cooking oil, he modified this one to run on plastic waste instead. (Google Translate from Dutch)

While our Dutch language skills aren’t the best, what we gather about this project is that it uses standard solid plastic waste for fuel, but an intermediate step of cooking the plastic into a liquid is first needed. The apparatus on the roof is actually a plastic refinery which uses a small wood fire to break the plastic molecules into usable hydrocarbons, which are then sent to the engine for burning. The car is street legal and seems to operate like any other diesel of this vintage, although the fuel delivery system may not be able to provide it enough to get it going at very high speeds.

While it is possible to use wood to produce wood gas for fuel in an internal combustion engine like this wood gas-powered lawnmower, the hydrocarbon strings in plastic are essentially stabilized hydrocarbons from refining oil and have potentially much more available energy. Releasing this energy is generally difficult enough that used plastic is simply landfilled. [Gijs Schalkx] has made plenty of alternative fuel vehicles, too, like this moped that used locally-harvested swamp gas to ride around town.

Thanks to [Lucas] for the tip!

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