You want fries with that?

| 5/27/2003

A group of college students are trying to show drivers of diesel equipment that alternatives to the petroleum-based fuel are viable.

The 1960s-style Project Bio-Bus will take a group of college students and send them across the country in a diesel-engine powered bus that will be fueled by various vegetable oils, the group said on its Web site.

For the most part, according to The Associated Press, the oil will be provided by cafeterias and fast-food restaurants. The students will strain the oil before using it to fuel the bus.

Alternative fuels made from non-petroleum sources have been gaining ground, though they are not yet a significant factor in the U.S. market. Biodiesel, a fuel made from refined vegetable oils and other products, has been used in some diesel engines. That fuel, which is often used in a blended form with standard diesel fuel, offers lower emissions. It can be made from such products as soybeans or from waste food oils. A large biodiesel plant is being built in Bakersfield, CA.

However, there are still barriers for truckers who want to try alternative fuels. Many truck manufacturers will void the warranties on vehicles that use straight biodiesel, but do allow a certain percentage to be blended into standard diesel.

The Bio Bus trip, which was scheduled to start May 20, is set to reach the West Coast by June 11.

There are some unexpected side-effects of the vehicle’s unique fuel source, according to reports from the Bio Bus group and media.

The oil causes the bus’s exhaust, according to Bio Bus passenger Thomas Hand, 19, to smell "a little bit like whatever it was used to fry — sometimes you get onion rings, french fries, chicken patties."