alternative fuel

Photo by Spencer T.

The use of vegetable oil to power vehicle engines is gaining popularity. It is also gaining viability as the technology improves. There are both pros and cons involved in using vegetable oil to power vehicle engines, however. Here are some to consider.


1. Abundant

Vegetable oil is everywhere, especially if you include used cooking oil from restaurants. Even conversion kits, which allow you to convert vegetable oil for use in a standard diesel engine, are easily obtained.

2. Cleaner

The burning of vegetable oil does not emit the greenhouse gases that fossil fuel combustion does.

3. Sustainable

Unlike fossil fuels, vegetable oils are a renewable energy source.

4. Efficient

Vegetable oil can provide far greater mileage per gallon that gasoline. It has been said that a car fueled with a combination of diesel and vegetable oil can go nearly 1000 miles between fill-ups.

5. Cost

Vegetable oil can be extremely cheap – free, in fact. This is not only due to the lengthy mileage, but also due to the fact that waste oil can be filtered and used.


1. Cost

Yes, this was a pro but it’s also a con. The potential problem is that the cost of vegetable oil will rise as demand increases.

2. Crops and Deforestation

To meet a rising demand for vegetable oil for cars, more and more land would need to be devoted to growing the crops from which the oil can be produced. This means less land available for other crops that are needed to feed the world. It also means that more land will have to be cleared to make way for these vegetable oil-producing crops.

3. Maintenance

Vegetable oil engines are tricky to maintain. From heating the oil to just the right temperature and viscosity to the tendency of vegetable oil to clog key components of the engine, maintaining such a vehicle requires vigilance and time.

4. Odor

While the emissions from vegetable oil vehicles are not of the greenhouse gas variety, they do smell. Most people liken the smell to French fries.

5. Vehicle Warranty

It’s possible that the use of vegetable oil will void a vehicle’s warranty.

It seems that the pros and cons are conditional with regard to using vegetable oil as fuel. For example, it’s all pros if you have an old diesel van with lots of room for an extra fuel tank and the time and money available to spend maintaining it. Vegetable oil is a more negative option if you have a new, gasoline-run sedan and little time and skill to devote to it.

Overall, despite its many advantages and disadvantages, vegetable oil is still not ready to be used as a replacement for fossil fuels in general.