Self-refining Biodiesel SUV Stops in Seattle

John Davis

biodieselsuv2.jpgThis is one of the most unique things I’ve seen in just more than a year of blogging for Domestic Fuel: a sports utility vehicle (SUV) that has its own biodiesel refinery in the back!

This story from the Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer says that Japanese sports journalist Shusei Yamada and the Biodiesel Adventure Team have started a quest to drive 20,000 to 30,000 miles around the world in the unique machine.. depending on the kindness and donations of strangers with used vegetable oil:

Standing in front of a donated diesel Toyota Land Cruiser, covered with decals and painted with a green-metallic tint that shifted slightly in color depending upon the angle of view, Yamada described how the vehicle can take many kinds of dirty, used vegetable oil and refine it for use as a fuel. The portable refinery, rolled out of the back end of the SUV, looked like a massive espresso machine.

Speaking with assistance from translator and collaborator Satori Murata, Yamada asked that individuals interested in promoting biodiesel and environmentally friendly transportation alternatives “spread the word” so they can find people willing to donate vegetable oil as they proceed across the country.

Having just shipped the self-refining biodiesel-fueled Toyota SUV from Japan to Vancouver, B.C., they have only driven about 250 miles of their tentatively planned 20,000 to 30,000-mile trip. “We’re a little nervous,” acknowledged Murata, noting they arrived in Seattle on veggie fumes. They are headed toward Los Angeles next, she noted.

“I saw the movie ‘Back to the Future’ and got the idea for this,” said Yamada, a journalist and photographer in Japan. He said he is most excited about eventually driving the vehicle across the Sahara Desert. Yamada said his portable refinery can process about 14 liters (3.7 gallons) of waste vegetable oil at a time and the tank holds about 340 liters (90 gallons).

The article goes on to say the idea is not untested, as the Biodiesel Adventure Team and this vehicle finished third in the commercial, unmodified biodiesel class at the 2007 Paris-Dakar Rally.

They have a web site, although, most of it is in Japanese. Check it out at