Transportation revisited…

In all the excitement of getting the Delica outfitted to run on WVO, I completely forgot that we have had some discussion on this blog about transportation and the environment.  It is with some smugness that I direct anybody who  missed it the first time, here.  Back in June 2010 I was lambasted in our comments section by somebody (?) who thought I was a hypocrite to be building a sustainable house while driving an SUV. Check out the comments, too! This post generated quite a few.



Delica WVO Conversion: What I Did

This is sort-of-like a Haynes shop manual of the WVO conversion …

This is what the L400 looked like after I first pulled it into the shop and popped the hood.

When I was working on the engine I removed the intercooler, the battery and the air filter.  The intercooler has a number of electrical sensor lines attached to it, and these also have to be removed.  There is a lot more space in the engine compartment once these three items are removed …

I started by tracking down the fuel lines that I needed to tee into.  The fuel filter is located on the right hand side of the engine compartment tucked behind the coolant filler tank and windshield washer reservoir.  There are two lines going into the filter; the line from the tank (can be traced leaving the rear of the engine compartment) and the line to the injector pump (marked with red tape … can be followed to the injector pump mounted on the right hand side of the engine).

At the injector pump I located and marked the line running from the filter with red tape and marked the return line back to the fuel tank with green tape.  I then tracked down the coolant lines that I would need to tee into.  You want to locate the two coolant lines that are tee’d off of the engine block (rear right hand side).  The Delica vans all seem to come with two passenger compartment heaters; one for the front seat and one for the rear.  I used both sets of these lines for the WVO system; I tee’d the coolant lines for the WVO filter into the lines running to/from the front cabin heater core, and I tee’d the coolant lines for the in-tank heater into the lines running to/from the rear cabin heater.  The heater hose that runs to the front heater core has an orange (or red) rectangle painted on it at the factory.  You can follow this line back to where it passes through the wall into the passenger compartment.  The line that penetrates the wall beside it is the return line.  If memory serves correctly (so you should definitely check this one) the line with two orange (or red) rectangles painted on it is the coolant line running to the rear heater core and the identical line running beside it (under the van) is the return line.  These lines can be traced to the rear heater core located under the van below where the passenger behind the driver sits (remember this is a right hand drive vehicle).  The painted rectangles are visible in the picture attached to this paragraph.

With all of the fuel and coolant lines identified I picked a place to install the WVO filter.  The spot I came up with was on the left hand side of the engine compartment behind the air filter.  There is an empty space here and I was able to place the filter and valves at this spot without having to move anything else.  I made a right angle bracket to mount the PlantDrive filter and bolted it above the tire well using an existing brake line bracket bolt and I drilled a second bolt hole.  Once the bracket was in place I mounted the filter.

I mounted the electric valves used to switch between diesel and oil on an arm attached to the WVO filter body.  I bent a right angle bracket and attached the valves.  After installation I had to bend the bracket again so that the valves sat more towards the air filter assembly; this gave space for wiring and hoses.

I made a bracket and installed the in-line fuel heater (a vegtherm from above and to the left of the engine.  Placing this heater was tricky; you do not want it in close proximity/touching anything that might melt or combust (fuel hose, electrical lines …) and there simply was not a lot of space for it.  My installation spot seems to work fine although you have to watch the wiper arms as they move in this location and watch the clearance of the heater to the hoses running into the inter-cooler. 


The remaining items I installed in the engine compartment were electrical; the circuit breaker for the in-line heater went slightly behind and to the right hand side of the battery and the relay for the in-line heater was mounted in a similar fashion to the heater bracket above and to the right hand side of the engine.

After that it was a matter of hooking up hoses and wires … I ran the hoses and wires along the back of the engine compartment below the arms that operate the wind shield wipers.  Electrical wiring passes through the engine compartment through a rubber gasket (gromet?) behind the diesel fuel filter.  I poked a hole in this gasket and ran the WVO electrical wires through there as well.

I have some more pictures but cannot find them right now.  If I track them down I will post these as well …


Delica WVO Conversion: the Basics

A WVO conversion allows you to burn oil instead of diesel as the fuel that powers a diesel engine.  Diesel engines have a long history of using oil as a fuel.  Most modern ships use diesel engines and run on bunker fuel … bunker fuel is a fancy word for oil.  One of the original diesel designs ran on peanut oil … it was developed for farmers with the assumption that a portion of their land would be used to grow crops that could be pressed for oil.  The idea was to replace farm animals and the crops devoted to them with a diesel engine.  This means that converting a diesel engine to run on oil is just taking it back to its origins so to speak …





The flow of fuel in a typical diesel is fairly simple; the injection pump (sometimes referred to as IP) attached to the diesel engine pumps diesel from the fuel tank through a filter and into the injection pump.  When the fuel is in the injection pump it is injected into the engine where it is combusted to move the vehicle.  The pump is usually drawing more fuel than it needs and the excess fuel is returned to the fuel tank via a return line.  This picture can be a little more complicated if a lift pump is also used.  A lift pump is usually either in or right after the fuel tank and it assists the injector pump by pumping the fuel from the tank to the injection pump; it is used when the injection pump is either not designed or not powerful enough to both pump and inject the fuel.

In order to convert the vehicle to run on  WVO (or oil generally) you have a couple of options; I went with a two tank system.  The two tank system basically keeps the original fuel system and then adds a second tank for the WVO so that you can run on either diesel or oil. Valves (mechanical or electrical) are used to switch between the diesel and oil tanks.  The WVO tank and filter essentially duplicate the existing fuel delivery system.  This allows you to run the vehicle on oil or diesel, depending on what is available.  Unfortunately, it is not actually that simple …


Oil is viscous compared to diesel fuel (especially when it is cold); this means it does not flow as easily and it is harder to pump.  If cold oil is used it will cause problems; it will stress the pump and clog the injectors (bad things).  To solve this problem the oil needs to be heated.  The hot engine coolant is used for this purpose.  The coolant lines are tee’d and a heating loop is usually run through the WVO tank and filter assembly.  This loop pre-heats the oil and allows it to flow more easily.  An in-line heater is also usually placed right before the injector pump to add even more heat.  All of this heat reduces the viscosity of the oil; making it flow better and pass through the injectors without fouling them.  Two other modifications are also common; the addition of a lift pump for the oil and a looped return.  A lift pump can be added right after the WVO tank to help push the oil to the injection pump. Some care has to be taken when adding a lift pump because if it is too powerful it can cause problems for the existing injector pump.  A looped return means that the excess fuel that is not used at the injector pump is ‘looped’ back to the input of the injector pump rather than being returned to the tank; the pump is not working as hard to draw cold, viscous oil all the way from the tank as it is now drawing some already heated oil directly from the return flow of the pump.  This sounds confusing but it does work, the downside is that if air gets into the fuel lines (much more possible with this setup) it is difficult to track down.

Your final fuel delivery system will look something like this diagram.  In typical operation you start your vehicle on diesel and switch to oil after the coolant has warmed the oil sufficiently.  When you are ready to stop your vehicle you switch back to diesel and purge your fuel lines of oil … meaning you run on diesel long enough to get the oil out of your engine and fuel lines.  This ensures that when you go to start your vehicle later it will not be full of cold, viscous oil that will make starting really hard and could damage your engine.  It is possible to use a single 6 port valve instead of two 3 port valves.  I went with the two three port valves so that when purging I could continue to loop the return line … avoiding getting a little oil in the diesel tank every time.  This is not necessary but is what I decided to do.