When I visited the Townhead community near Sheffield to write about them for my book, I did not think I would come away with my camper van eco-pimped and ready for the Big Green Gathering.
But they know more about living green and cheap than anyone else I have met, and within a couple of days, they had well and truly pimped my converted hospital bus, turning it from an eco-basket case into a model of sustainable travel.
First to go was the diesel gasoline I use to power the van in its place I now pour in vegetable oil, at half the price, or less than Diesel from the gas station. In the UK, Diesel is now 1 per litre ($1.85), but corn oil can easily be found for 50 pence a litre and if you look hard it is only 32 pence (58 cents).
Because I have a Renault Master, which runs on a Peugot engine, and comes with a heated oil filter, the veggie oil can just be poured straight in during the summer. In the winter I would either need to have a special conversion kit fitted, but there is another way.
Dave, one of the 25 people who lives at Townhead, in a row of terraced workers cottages in the middle of open countryside, explained how he did it. I keep the tank nearly empty all the time, then when I want to fill it with vegetable oil, I run the van for 20 miles first to warm the engine, then pour in the veggie, but make sure that by the end of my journey its run out and I have put a couple of quids worth of diesel in again, he told me.
At the moment it’s too warm in the UK, but I’ll try Dave’s system this winter.
Meanwhile Piet, the groups technical wizard, fitted me a superb solar panel, with a regulator and a cheap truck battery to store the power. The panel is roof mounted, and although he could have rigged it so I could take it down and lean it in the best direction to pick up the sun, I did not want the hassle.
The regulator stops the battery overpowering, or draining, and Piet also fitted a connection to the Alternator of the main engine so the battery charges faster when we are on the road. He wired the fridge into the battery, and added a cigarette lighter socket, so I can run anything 12 volt off the Truck battery or else just plug an inverter into the cigarette lighter when I need 240 volts.
Big Green gathering here I come.
you can contact Piet as firstname.lastname@example.org
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