Exclusive German Auto Care, Inc. of Carpinteria, is the first auto shop in Santa Barbara County to offer vegetable oil conversions for diesel vehicles. This means that Mercedes and BMW owners can use anything from common vegetable oil to commercial biodiesel to reduce their own fuel costs while helping to fight that nation’s petroleum addiction. Two customers have already taken advantage of the process, which can cost under $1000. “This is definitely the future,” said Elisa Christensen, who owns the three-year-old shop with her husband Anders, a master mechanic from Denmark. “There is no way we can keep going with just petroleum. To have the luxury of a German car, but to run it off of vegetable oil is thrilling to us.” The Christensens are eagerly looking into ways to import a greater variety of diesel cars that are commonly available in Europe but not here due to California’s stricter exhaust standards.
Exclusive offers two types of conversions, double-tank or single-tank. If the customer wants just one tank, it can be filled with vegetable oil of any kind, even used frying grease from local restaurants. A series of filters and heaters makes the oil more palatable to the engine. Or the single tank can be filled with biodiesel, which is refined vegetable oil broken down into hydrocarbon chains. If they wish, customers can get one tank for each type of fuel. The biodiesel is not strictly necessary, but it’s desirable for start up and prior to shut down to because it goes through the cold engine more smoothly, according to Elisa Christensen, who owns the shop with her husband, a master mechanic from Denmark. Both the biodiesel and the vegetable oil are free of petroleum products. The double-tank conversion costs between $2000 and $3000. The single-tank conversion is $800 to $1600, depending partly on the type of car.
Manufacturers cannot void the factory warranty on a car because it is running on biodiesel, though the same cannot yet be said of vegetable oil.
In addition to converting cars, the shop will deliver vegetable oil drums to the consumer’s door. The oil costs about $2.50 per gallon; biodeisel currently costs about $3.25.