Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pickup truck runs on 'gasifier'

The Post and Courier
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A pickup truck that runs on scrap wood chips and switchgrass briquettes began a coast-to-coast tour Monday in Mount Pleasant to raise awareness of bio energy.

Wayne Keith, a cattle farmer and partner in Renewable Energy Systems LLC in Springville, Ala., developed technology that enables vehicles to be powered with material such as wood, switch grass, crop residues and chicken litter.

"It's been 3 1/2 years since I've driven anywhere on gas," Keith said Monday.

Auburn University is partnering with Renewable Energy Systems in the cross-country tour.

The lime green 1987 Dodge Dakota truck with Auburn University car flags would have been hard to miss Monday in the parking lot of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. "Go Green" is printed across the tailgate.

Going green is an especially timely subject now, with gas prices that recently reached record highs and still remain in the $3.70 range in many areas of the Lowcountry.

Fuel for the Bio-Truck is cheaper and turning material like wood into gas is a carbon-neutral process, which makes it environmentally clean, Auburn University professor of agronomy and soils David Bransby said.

Keith uses scrap wood, but said even if he had to buy chips, the cost would be less than one cent a mile to fuel the truck.

In very simple terms, here's how the process works:

Wood or other material goes into a container on the bed of the truck. When the material burns, it produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The mixture flows into a gas radiator, which looks like black rails on the truck. The gas runs through a filter, then directly through the carburetor to the engine.

Keith said the system requires cleaning.

"You're going to get your hands dirty," he said, but he figures he's saving $4,000 to $5,000 a year. "I discovered that buys a lot of soap," he said with a smile.

Bransby and Keith left Mount Pleasant bound for Georgia. They'll work their way to the west coast and Keith will drive a 1991 Dodge Dakota Bio-Truck in a road race for vehicles powered by non-commercially available fuels. The race runs from Oct. 11 through 13 and goes from Berkeley, Calif., to Las Vegas.

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