Jerud and I have talked a lot about whether or not having a WVO vehicle is worth it. The simple answer is: Not when you’re living on the road. With that being said, don’t be surprised to see another post about this with a different answer a few months from now. We’re only four months into owning a WVO truck so we’re allowed to change our minds.
The main reason why it’s not worth it is because of how hard it is to find sources of WVO. It is simply a pain in the ass. When you’re living in one place you get the opportunity to build a relationship with a restaurant and then continuously collect from them. You can’t build any kind of relationship when you’re on the move constantly – it’s like having a one-night stand, over and over. You get what you need and say goodbye. Majority of the time you don’t even ask for a phone number. After all, who knows when you’ll be back.
Before we left Asheville we figured that restaurants in large cities would already have contracts with biodiesel or livestock feed companies that pay the restaurants for their grease. Our plan was to hit up restaurants in small towns; we thought they probably didn’t already have a contract in place. But we were wrong. And if it’s not a big company that comes to pick up their WVO then it’s a local individual who has already called dibs. We are just too late to the WVO game. Seven to ten years ago there probably was so much WVO that was thrown out that restaurants would have been thrilled to have someone take it away at no cost to them. Today we have to approach a minimum of five restaurants before we actually find WVO. Being told no by one restaurant after another sucks. There’s only so much rejection we can handle in one day. It’s really stressful for us when we are low on grease and know it’s time to go looking for more. We actually dread it.
Yes, our truck will still drive even if we don’t have WVO. But we are so set on driving on grease that we actually believe that the truck won’t drive unless it’s on grease.
The second reason is that converting a truck to a WVO system and expecting it to run flawlessly the first time you do it really not possible. Ok, it might be possible if you buy a WVO kit, but not if you put together the whole conversion system yourself. It’s the age-old saying, you either save money or you save time. But you can’t do both. The benefit of buying a WVO kit is that you can drop it into your truck and it will probably work right away – if not, the manufacturer will provide support. But it’s expensive and you miss out on learning the details of how your system works – so troubleshooting future problems on the road is harder. Putting together a WVO system yourself saves money (there is a break even point, but we’re not sure what that is at the moment) and teaches you the ins and outs of your new system, but you will spend a lot of time troubleshooting. Jerud has spent countless hours with his head under the hood trying to figure out why the heck we keep getting bubbles in our grease lines or some other WVO related problem. We’ve had to back out of plans with friends because the truck wasn’t driving on grease. (We have incredibly understanding friends.) Troubleshooting equals a lot of learning which equals making a lot of mistakes. Mistakes mean wasted money and materials. We have gone through a couple more fuel filters than we should have because we’re still making mistakes. If you know us then you know how much we hate wasting money and materials. The thing is - nothing about converting a vehicle to WVO is turnkey or convenient. You can pay someone to convert the system for you, but the people we know who have had that done have been pretty disappointed with it.
The whole process of collecting and filtering grease isn’t sexy. Which is why it’s a good thing we’re not doing this to look good. The actual collection of grease isn’t so bad. We don’t get too dirty getting grease, but it can be gross when you open up a large container of old nasty grease and then think about how you eat food fried in oil like that. But that’s also the kind of grease we prefer to avoid but have no choice due to scarcity. Filtering is the messy part. No matter how hard we try we get grease on a lot of things: the ground (thank goodness for scrap-cardboard-box groundcloths), ourselves, tools, and the truck bed. In my mind I picture our rig and truck looking super slick driving down the road. In reality the bed of our truck is a mess. On top of parts of the bed being covered in a layer of old sticky grease, our truck bed is overflowing with our must-have crap. Finding a good streamlined filtering process and equipment for a mobile setup is what the real problem is. When we first started out we had a lot of 5-gallon buckets, filters, and strainers plus a bulky oil collection pump setup. It took up much valuable space in the truck bed. And it’s a hassle pulling out the filter stuff and then getting it to fit back in like before. A lot of cursing is involved. (Yes, on top of how much we already curse.) We’re now on version three of our filter setup, having pared down the equipment, and are working on version four - hopefully our final filtering setup.
So why do we keep on driving a WVO truck? Aside from being really stubborn people, it’s because we believe in the benefits of driving a WVO vehicle. We have learned a lot about everything WVO related and we think we are working out the kinks to the whole process. Jerud and I are advocates against using fossil fuels; we strongly believe in doing what we can to minimize our dependency on them. Not having to spend money on fuel is definitely also a plus. We hope that practice does make perfect. Maybe a few months from now we’ll decide it’s totally doable to live on the road full-time with a WVO vehicle. We hope that's the case since we are planning to convert our new replacement truck (once we find it) to run off WVO.