Chocolate Biodiesel Experience

Sounds like an awesome band name, but chocolate biodiesel is in fact what one vehicle ran on, in a 4-week trek from the UK to Timbuktu. A group known as BioTruck modded a 1989 Ford Iveco Cargo to run entirely by biodiesel made from chocolate -- specifically, discarded "waste chocolate" (*snort*) from a manufacturer. Link (via Cat Laine's Twitter stream)


  1. At least one British chocolate company seems to have plenty of waste chocolate!

    Anyway, good luck to these guys, sounds like quite an adventure.

    I was slightly puzzled by “this 1989 Ford Iveco Cargo” clearly saying “TOYOTA” on the front; but after checking out the BioTruck site it appears that the Toyota pictured here is just one of a collection of vehicles which they’re carrying on the back of their Ford Iveco truck. So that’s OK then.

  2. “Independent analysts Carbon Aided estimate that the net effect of the expedition will actually save 15 tonnes of carbon emissions making this the first ever Carbon Negative expedition.”

    How can it be Carbon Negative? Are they saying the chocolate will give off less CO2 when converted to biodiesel than if disposed of in any other way? I find that hard to believe.

  3. Wait- I don’t think they actually modified any of their vehicles at all, except to put them in running condition. Their website says that they are producing bio-diesel by trans-esterification, so their fuel should run in any unmodified diesel engine. One of the problems proponents of bio-diesel have had is that people think they have to modify their cars to get it to work. They don’t.

    At most, they might have to change the fuel filter after the first couple of tanks, because the bio-diesel is a pretty good solvent, and will clean out a lot of crud left in the engine after years of using petro-diesel.

    Och Aye- Their calculation of the expedition as carbon-negative is a result of including the effect of the bio-diesel plant they delivered to Mali for the next year. That is, they anticipate that the plant will reduce carbon emissions in Mali that would not have been eliminated if the expedition hadn’t taken place, so they get to count the total effect of the expedition as carbon-negative.

  4. Wouldn’t this Ford Iveco Cargo actually be…now let’s see…the name is on the tip of my tongue…or grill in this instance.

  5. I wonder what the exhaust smells like.

    I heard that regular biodiesel, made from cooking oil, smells like french fries.

  6. @#6 –

    Not so much like French Fries, but like French Fries cooking. The smell of hot cooking oil. And really only vaguely like that, but it’s the only real comparison.

  7. The smell of biodiesel is not as pleasant as it’s proponents would have you believe. It reeks like burning cooking oil, and feels thick in your head.

    Is there a way to reduce the stink? I want to believe in the potential of biodiesel, but I don’t want the world to smell like Burger King.

  8. The only modification needed to make a diesel vehicle run on biodiesel is to make sure the fuel line not rubber. Biodiesel loves to eat rubber. We run our small fleet of trucks on biodiesel here in San Francisco. It doesn’t smell like french fries, but it does smell a lot better than regular diesel. Anyway, You only notice the smell when you’re running a big truck, belching out exhaust, if you’re operating a small vehicle, the amount of exhaust is very small. Diesel VW Jetta, anyone?

  9. Absolutetrust: My car runs 100% biodiesel in the summer, and it does not smell a bit like Burger King. What matters is the source of the fuel. Mine right now is made from soy oil, so it smells very faintly of vegetable oil. Now, the fuel a friend of mine makes from grease from a Chinese restaurant has a much stronger smell. Especially if he does not filter it at all, which he does not do, as he believes his old Mercedes-Benz diesel will burn nearly anything he puts in. There my be something to that, with an old diesel engine, but mine has a VERY powerful compressor (KOMPRESSOR MIGHT!) under the hood, and I will not run unfiltered or unprocessed fuel through it. It would be a very expensive repair.

    I love what these guys are doing, using food waste to make fuel. There is a huge amount more “food waste” than anyone save perhaps freegans has any idea exists. It should be put to use in biodiesel production as a way to make cheap domestic fuel. It’s brilliant. And I would hope their exhaust smells a touch better than the exhaust from my friend’s unrefined biodiesel.

    In wintertime (I’m in Milwaukee, Wisc.) I run 25-33% biodiesel, the remainder petroldiesel. It doesn’t smell like much anything really, the newer (2006) diesel engine being much cleaner than the old 1980s diesel my friend drives.

  10. This makes my brain all twisty. I happen to be both a chocolatier and a longtime 100% biodiesel user (yes, 2003 diesel Jetta), and fairly intimate with the process used to transform oil into fuel. It’s worth noting that you can’t simply chuck a few blocks of Hershey into your biodiesel reactor and wind up with fuel. You got to begin with pure fat. If you were to extract cocoa butter from chocolate for the purposes of making fuel you’d be an idiot, as cocoa butter is just about the most expensive commodity fat on the planet. Upon further investigation, the BioTruck team suggests they’re processing their “waste chocolate” into ethanol/methanol (a key component in manufacturing biodiesel, regardless of the source oil). This appears here. Such chemical magic tricks I have never heard of, and would almost certainly require a cost- and labor-intensive “cracking” of the chocolate into its constituent parts before further processing.

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