Students in various classes helped build and then test a diesel-powered vehicle that runs on waste vegetable oil. Here is the story as told by BOCES' General Automotive Services Instructor Robert Winterstein.
"We converted a 1990 Chevrolet Astro van from gasoline to diesel by installing a motor and transmission from a 1992 Dodge Ram Turbo Diesel pickup truck. To handle the added weight of the diesel engine, we installed three-quarter-ton, full-size Chevrolet van coil springs along with two-inch drop spindles to lower the front of the van four inches for better aerodynamics. In the rear, we had to install an axle from a 1997 full size Chevy pickup truck and a custom-made driveshaft to connect the transmission to the axle. To increase the space under the hood for the intercooler, radiator, cooling fans and transmission cooler, we used the entire nose from a 1998 Astro van and welded it to the front of the 1990. To lower the rear of the vehicle we made leaf spring perches and flipped the rear axle so it sat on top of the leaf springs instead of underneath, lowering the vehicle six inches. All of the used parts were donated by Gary’s-U-Pull-It in Kirkwood. We would not have been able to build this project without their donation of used parts.
"Once the van was operational, we cut out the rusty panels, made new ones out of sheet metal and welded them into position. We then applied body filler and smoothed out the panels with lots of block sanding and filler primer to straighten the panels of the van. Last, we applied paint and created a custom stripe for the sides and had Bob Winterstein of Steins Designs letter all of the sponsors and graphics. During this time, our science class made bio-diesel by refining waste vegetable oil from Sparky’s restaurant in Whitney Point. The math students learned how to figure miles per gallon and average miles per hour track speed, the target being 45 mph.
"At the track there were 45 students who rotated between six stations during the race: pit crew, four timing stations, and an eco-driving lesson. While in the pits, student collected data, including tire pressures and tire temperatures measured by using infrared heat guns and a thermal imaging camera. Temperatures from the front brake rotors and rear drum brakes were also recorded. Other students measured vegetable oil temperature and coolant feed and return line temperatures to and from the vegetable oil tank. At the timing stations, students monitored the time of the van on the track to make sure it was within the time it should be and then radioed to the van weather it was going too fast, slow or right on target at each check point. The times were recorded at each station for future math lessons to determine the actual mph.
"Students were shuttled from locations on the track to take a ride in the Alfred State College van to learn how to “eco drive” for best fuel efficiency. Students were also able to attend one of four conferences on alternative fuels or to learn about Toyota’s new zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai.
"Our business students designed and printed a T-shirt logo, and Bob Winterstein of Steins Designs heat-pressed the logo to the shirts and airbrushed the students’ names on the front. As an added benefit, our math and science students got to rub shoulders with Alfred State auto tech students as well as SUNY Morrisville students.
"The event attracted 45 vehicles in three separate races. With the data collected, the science and math teachers gave lessons on analyzing the data, concluding we averaged 25.5 mpg with a vehicle that weighs approximately two tons. There are still future lessons to come to determine average lap speeds, ways to improve our aerodynamics and how to increase the BTU’s of our fuel."
A truly one-of-a-kind learning experience for all. Great job!