You are hereBlogs / WcP.Scientific.Mind's blog / Inventors in 800mi car race run on wood chips, cow dung, veg oil, no gas! Jagged Sierra Nevada, bleak flatness of Death Valley

Inventors in 800mi car race run on wood chips, cow dung, veg oil, no gas! Jagged Sierra Nevada, bleak flatness of Death Valley

By WcP.Scientific.Mind - Posted on 22 October 2008

Sharon Westcott, left, and Jack McCornack arrive in Las Vegas, winners of the Escape From Berkeley race


Wayne Keith, a hay farmer from Springville, Ala. (population 3,000), pulled into Berkeley last week driving a lime-green pickup truck that runs mostly on wood chips but sometimes cow dung, too. Keith, who wore dirt-flecked overalls and a trucker's cap, was in town to compete in the first Escape from Berkeley race, a kind of mini Cannonball Run to Las Vegas for drivers of vehicles that run on anything but petroleum. Two other racers relied on vegetable oil, one on alcohol and one on steam power to run his carriage (mostly for show; after a few miles, it was put on a trailer to traverse some of the dicier terrain).

Shannon O'Hare made final adjustments to his vegetable-oil-fired, steam-powered vehicle, a highly modified horse cart

Contestants in the three-day race starting Oct. 11, were tempted by the $5,000 purse - awarded to the team reaching the Sahara Hotel and Casino valet parking area first, about 600 miles away - but most seemed equally pleased to show off their inventions to the public. They also wanted to see if their vehicles could withstand the jagged topography of the Sierra Nevada and the bleak flatness of Death Valley. "I haven't paid for gas in three years," Keith said, looking at the bags of wood scraps he had collected for free from a shutter company in Lubbock, Texas. "I'd like to win the race, sure, but the real incentive is to show people the technology works."

six teams completed the first leg of Escape From Berkeley using alternative-fuel-burning vehicles which had to be street legal

Craig Reece, owner of Berkeley's PlantDrive, one of the largest retailers of diesel engine converter kits, estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 people in the United States now drive on vegetable oil, a tiny fraction of cars on the road. More than 250 million passenger cars were registered in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Fred Benoit, a representative for the Massachusetts-based Grease Car company, which sells conversion kits to run engines on grease, said retail sales of the kits rose dramatically in the spring (along with gas prices), yet the average American is still not ready to convert his car. "Running off grease isn't as easy as pulling up to a station, filling up and driving away," Benoit said. "It's a commitment, and most Americans want their convenience - we're just not there yet."

Back in Berkeley, the youngest racer, 16-year-old Calund Llaguno from San Diego, arrived at the starting line in a 1984 maroon Mercedes-Benz 300SD. He was dressed snazzily in suit and tie and topped that off with a shaded racing helmet in honor of the anonymous test driver The Stig on the British TV show "Top Gear." The teenager converted the Benz diesel engine to run off vegetable oil with the help of his father, Lundy Llaguno, who also wore a suit and was required to sit shotgun to help his son complete the remaining 25 hours of his learner's permit. "My son's idea was to dress racing-classy," Lundy Llaguno said of their apparel after the race was completed. "But by the time we were oily, we had to ditch that (idea)."

Kimric Smythe fires up Kristy's Flyer, a vegetable-oil-fired steam carriage, before the start of the three-day competition for alternatively fueled vehicles last Saturday in Berkeley

As in the 1981 Burt Reynolds flick "The Cannonball Run," mechanical difficulties delayed the three-day journey. Of the 10 teams that signed up, only seven made it to Berkeley able to actually race, and just five got off the starting line. The motorcycle team had trouble with its gasifier system; the solar-powered bike team had gear and brake failures; and a Volkswagen van, also rejiggered for gasification, leaked potentially toxic amounts of carbon monoxide back into the car.

But imperfections are the lot of DIY energy culture. Its adherents know that finding a solution to petroleum is messy business. "It's part of the event's point," said Jessica Hobbs, the organizer and a member of Shipyard Labs, an artists' colony in Berkeley that turned into an alternative-energy colony when the city shut off its power in 2001 in an attempt to force them out. The artisans, looking to power their industrial space, quickly became experts in alt-energy. "A lot of the innovation in this field is coming from people hacking away in their garages, trying new things."

2nd Day of Escape from Berkeley: race starts

Somewhere before Mono Lake, Lundy Llaguno reported that the Mercedes slowed to 45 mph. The chilly temperature had coagulated the vegetable oil, gumming up the tubes; Lundy said the contents of the main tank had jelled and looked like a thick vinaigrette dressing with speckles of fat. The father-and-son team had to reroute the tubes on the fly to keep the oil warm and flowing, purportedly using a Paul Newman's grape juice container and "a whole lot of zip-ties and duct tape" to solve the problem.

The Mercedes is Calund's first car, and he nicknamed the luxury ride "the Merc," short for "Mercedes," but also because "it acts like a mercenary. If you don't pay it - or if you neglect it - it acts up on you and doesn't work." In the end, the delays cost the team valuable time; they had been the pre-race favorite to win, but arrived in third place. It didn't cost a dime to fill their tank, Lundy Llaguno noted. The two picked up donated oil from churches, restaurants and friends along the route.

Jack McCornack and Sharon Westcott of Cave Junction, Ore., back their canola-powered car to the starting point in Berkeley

Keith, the hay farmer, used about 600 pounds of wood scrap, spending what amounted to 1 cent per mile, he said. A blown tire helped Keith place second. Another team, which styled its Lotus Seven roadster after the '60s television show "The Prisoner," had fewer technical glitches and reached the finish line three hours ahead of Keith's pickup.

The winners were Jack McCornack and Sharon Westcott from Cave Junction, Ore., who zipped along at a top speed of 72 mph and used 12 gallons of top-shelf canola oil to reach Las Vegas in a total of 1,418 minutes. "The truth is, we decided to join the race before we read the fine print and knew there was even a prize," McCornack said. "We were inspired by efficiency."

Sharon Wescott and Jack McCornack in their roadster, which Mr. McCornack said could go 72 miles an hour - and get 70 miles to the gallon - using nothing but vegetable oil

The event’s organizers include Jim Mason, founder of a 20,000-square-foot open-air garage in Berkeley called Shipyard Labs where self-described “geeks and gearheads” work in shipping containers. Mr. Mason chose Las Vegas to complete the race largely out of contempt for the tourist destination, he said. “Vegas is a place of excessive spectacle and consumption of other peoples creativity,” he said. “This isn’t a place of production, of citizens making, expressing, creating....Vegas is the biggest contradiction of what we just did.” Next year’s race, he said, will be held over Memorial Day weekend and will conclude in Mexico.


Photos courtesy of Kurt Rogers / The Chronicle, Steve Friess & Jim Wilson / The New York Times, and

Original Source: SF Chronicle and NY Times (with Image Gallery)

Related Articles: Veggie-Oil Lotus Wins Alt-Fuel Race to Vegas, Breaking News: MAX Wins Escape from Berkeley!, and From Berkeley to Vegas on one gallon of gas

Official Site: Escape From Berkeley (by any non-petroleum mean necessary)

I am so amazed by this cute, small lime-green">pickup truck that is canola oil powered. I like the idea of the competition having vehicles run by vegetable oil, alcohol etc. Congrats to the winners. I'd love to ride in one of those creations.

Contact Us

Contact Us

RSS feed

Subscribe to WcP Blog RSS feed


WcP Blog on Twitter


WcP Blog on Facebook

Custom Search

Archive Calendar

July 2022

Random image

LuCxeed Photography: Out of Blue


Search the Web

Custom Search

Featured Videos

Latest Quote

"We come from the earth.
We return to the earth.
And in between we garden."
- Author Unknown

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
- Cicero

Recent comments

Reader Reviews

  • "Great culture sharing. This is really important to show all over the world and different cultures and nature to whole world." - Anonymous (January 27, 2019)
  • "This is one of the most incredible blogs I've read in a very long time. The amount of information in here is stunning, like you practically wrote the book on the subject. Your blog is great for anyone who wants to understand this subject more. Great stuff; please keep it up!" - Anonymous (May 29, 2018)
  • "I am just happy to know about your website. It's informative and valuable for me. Thanks for sharing interesting info with us. Keep doing best in future." - Kelvin (May 28, 2018)
  • "Very good and creative website, graphics are wonderful." - Ricky (October 7, 2017)
  • "This is absolutely fantastic photography. I recommended to lovers of photography." - Christina (June 30, 2017)
  • "Your website seems to have precious gemstones on the subject of penning." - Bryce (March 29, 2017)
  • "Your articles are constantly awesome. You compose with exactness and your data is constantly precise. What's more, those two things make an article go from great to awesome! Continue distributing more extraordinary articles." - Ayesha (March 19, 2017)
  • "You are doing an amazing job." - Jake (January 4, 2017)
  • "I am an anthropology student and this site has helped me a lot to know more about the various cultures across the world. This is the reason I visit the site so often. Keep on sharing more and more posts like this. Thank you." - Anonymous (April 3, 2016)
  • "Your site is valuable. Appreciative for sharing! Awe inspiring Blog!" - Anonymous (March 16, 2016)
  • "This blog is the book which has feelings for around their lives. Will you produce intense addons." - Anonymous (January 26, 2016)
  • "Interesting quote. I have gone through different posts in this website. I could see different themed quotes and interesting posts here. I am much impressed with this website. Keep up the good work and keep sharing interesting stuff." - Howard (January 25, 2016)
  • "I was so impressed by it I felt I would reach out to you to say thank you. Great work...that's one great blog you've got there!" - Kayla (January 8, 2016)
  • "This is incredible. Finally something new. I was reading comics the whole time. This is the real fact, which I do not think anyone else has such a well written and updated blog like yours." - Zach (January 7, 2016)
  • "The Superbly defined stuff of reading, you constructed a masterpiece with your magical mind. Your writing skills are simply awesome. Great work!" - Katie (December 28, 2015)
  • "This really shows that you can still find folks that care about the things they post online. I really liked browsing the comments." - Myles (December 23, 2015)
  • "Yes i agree with the above poem that window is the world so far i have come across. Every thing comes from it. You have written in a very poetic way. Looking forward for more poems from this." - Anonymous (December 11, 2015)
  • "Every last tip of your post is incredible. You're really great to share. Keep blogging..." - Anonymous (December 8, 2015)
  • "I always take pleasure in your articles. You have a gift for discussing such stirring topics in ingenious yet amusing ways. Your posts help us realize that our troubles are typical, and we can solve them in ready to lend a hand ways..." - Angela (October 05, 2015)
  • "We all appreciate the power of words you always provide!" - Anonymous (October 05, 2015)
  • "So poetic..." - Anonymous (September 15, 2015)
  • "The method for composing is phenomenal furthermore the substance is first class. A debt of gratitude is in order for that knowledge you give the perusers!" - Anonymous (July 23, 2015)
  • "Your configuration, man...too astonishing! I cant hold up to peruse what you've got next.Thanks for your superb posting!" - Anonymous (July 16, 2015)
  • "I found myself starring at these photos. I cannot believe that I haven't seen them before, taking into account that I am mesmerized by sea and ocean as one can be by forces of nature. Thank you so much for putting them out here, because even though they were posted by such a giant as National Geographic, I still have missed them. Well, “dazed” is the exact word that describes the feeling that I felt when I first set my eyes in these photos." - Anonymous (July 14, 2015)
  • "I will check your different articles without further ado. Continuously so fascinating to visit your site. Thank you for sharing, this will help me such a great amount in my learning." - Anonymous (July 10, 2015)
  • "Extraordinary stuff, just basically astonishing! Keep it up in future. I am truly inspired by this site!" - Anonymous (July 3, 2015)
  • "I was reading your post since 2012 and you are writing so much outstanding ideas I must say you are a talented person." - William (June 29, 2015)
  • "I have never seen such amazing thoughts displayed in composing. Your author has an extremely one of a kind method for exhibiting data so as to catch the peruser's consideration." - Anonymous (June 27, 2015)
  • "Mind boggling posting! I really like the way you are sharing the exceptional tackle this subject." - Anonymous (June 25, 2015)
  • "I unquestionably appreciated all of it and I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post in the future." - Anonymous (June 13, 2015)
  • "I was very thrilled to find this website. This is really interesting and I have recommended this site for my friends also. I had a fantastic read from this blog." - Anonymous (June 2, 2015)
  • ""The exposition seeks to discover a haven inside character and communicate gratitude for life during its peaceful and thoughtful vibe." - Micheal (May 19, 2015)
  • "Fantastic Blog! I might want to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post." - James (May 15, 2015)
  • "You are a good photographer your photography is good you click very nice shots which are very attractive and beautiful keep it up." - Ashlyn (May 5, 2015)
  • "Amazing! Great post! Wonderful pictures and well written article!" - Anonymous (March 10, 2015)
  • "Certainly worthwhile content! This is an excellent reference to spent time and gets authentic observation by reading." - Anonymous (February 12, 2015)
  • "Certainly exceptional blog! It is so wonderful content and acceptable with a clear concept. Thanks much!" - Lisa (January 13, 2015)
  • "Photography is my passion and like to learn something new about it. From your blog i have learned many things and i loved to read it thanks for sharing such a useful post" - Anonymous (January 1, 2015)
  • "Magnificent web blog! This is your superb consideration and appreciate your notion with this matter. Thanks a lot for sharing!" - Lisa (December 20, 2014)
  • "Undoubtedly enjoyed this blog! You set the subject content with exceptional abilities and a bit on the right track." - Lisa (December 17, 2014)
  • "It's an extraordinary joy perusing your post. It's loaded with data I am searching for and I want to post a remark that the substance of your post is wonderful. Thanks! :)" - Lilia (July 31, 2014)
  • "I do not even understand how I finished up right here, but I thought this to be great. I do not recognise who you are however certainly you
    are going to a famous blogger for those who are not already. Cheers!" - Gerald (July 24, 2014)
  • "Your blog is very informative. Also the images in it are beautiful!" - Anonymous (January 8, 2014)
  • "It is tempting to comment because of the amazing content on this blog. I wish I had a blog like this." - Anonymous (December 27, 2013)
  • "Thanks for trying to make the world a better place." - Anonymous (July 16, 2013)
  • "I have added to my favorites. I just found this blog and have high hopes for it to continue. I believe this really is excellent information. Most of men and women will concur with you and I ought to thank you about it. Thanks for sharing." - Anonymous (May 16, 2013)
  • "This is awesome! Your photos are perfectly taken! It captured the decisive moment. I am a fan already." - Sarah (Apr. 15, 2013)
  • "Can I just say what a relief to obtain a person who truly knows what they're talking about on the web. You certainly know easy methods to bring an issue to light and make it critical. Extra individuals must read this and comprehend this side of the story. I can't believe you're not even more well-liked considering that you absolutely have the gift." - Anonymous (Jan. 23, 2013)
  • "I wish to show my thanks to the creator of this blog. Keep contributing a good concepts and strategies. Many people will surely improve their skills by reading blogs like this." - Anonymous (Dec. 25, 2012)
  • "I really like your style but mostly your initiative. The world needs more writers like yourself." - Steve (Jan. 18, 2012)
  • "It must be very rewarding to have a long term project like this and too see the progress being made! Thanks for sharing it." - Mika (Jan. 18, 2012)
  • "This was a very eye opening video. It's made an impact on me. We're so unaware of the things that we do every day can destroy our ecosystem. The statistics are mind blogging especially the fact that 90% of big fish are gone. We need to stop this somehow. I'm going to spread this page to my mutual friends. Thanks for this." - Joseph (Jan. 15, 2012)
  • "I enjoy this blog a lot." - Liz (California, USA; Oct. 17, 2011)
  • "Keep up the good work you're doing." - Casper (Melbourne, Australia)
  • "Thanks for sharing some great content through your blog. It has been a sincere pleasure to read." - Anonymous
  • "Always fresh and fascinating." - Anonymous
  • "Cool bio[mission statement]." - Darin (California, USA)
  • "You have some beautiful images. Love your site!" - Susan (Washington DC, USA)
  • "I love your Blog." - Kate (Ireland)
  • "A great site highlighting many important issues." - Bob (New Zealand; Feb. 20, 2010)
  • "Love the images on this blog..there are some interesting articles about health I noticed...we tend to run a 50/50 risk of a heart attack...I noticed when in the USA recently everyone seemed huge..they ate massive meals...I reckon that is one cause of heart failure...just my opinion..but yeah these articles can be worrying to some folk so just heed the advice...I know I will." - Mick (The Sunshine Coast, Australia; Aug 29, 2009)
  • "Excellent blog." - Bill (Vancouver Island, Canada)
  • "Fantastic blog and educational articles, much enjoy visiting...Thank you!" - Lotus1150 (Alberta, Canada; Aug 28, 2009)
  • "Great site and awesome photos." - David (Washington DC, USA)
  • "I loved your website. Even finding some news about Turkey made me surprised." - Anonymous (Turkey)
  • "Gorgeous site ... the kind of place you could lose yourself for hours (suppose that was intentional?). Also, cartoons, commentary on the events of the times, etc. Great stuff." - Daniel (Nevada, USA; Jan. 03, 2009)
  • "...may your blog, ideas and efforts help many more people." - Anonymous (New Mexico, USA)
  • "Very cool site..." - Anonymous
  • "Amazing site, worth the visit every time... enjoy." - Sam (Saudi Arabia)
  • "Easy to read and well-designed." - Colin (Arizona, USA; Apr. 22, 2009)
  • "Unique mix of news, photos and poetry." - Frasier (Virginia, USA)
  • " is an extremely interesting collection of news articles. It calls itself "A Window On the World". The site contains a wide variety of topics, all very informative and pertinent to life in today's world." - Cynthia (Massachusetts, USA; Aug. 07 2008)
  • "Wow. Cool." - Christopher (Melbourne, Australia; Dec. 10 2008)
  • "An interesting way to check out the wonders of our world." - Anthony (Ohio, USA)
  • "Nice site, especially the rss icon." - Daniel (California, USA; Sep 10, 2008)
  • "Good blog - Everything from news to photography. Very informative." - "explicitmemory" (Texas, USA)
  • "Very informative site by prose and picture..." - Jeff (Michigan, USA)

AdSense unconfigured block. Click to configure.