Charcoal powered van

I started this very simple carbon steel charcoal gasifier build last fall with my friend Justin Adams, He wanted one after visiting the all the great guys at the woodgas meet up in Kansas! We modeled it after my coal scooter gasifier. unfortunately, he hurt himself late last year at work and so we put his project on ice until this Spring. He hurt his leg pretty bad, so we took that into consideration when finishing up his unit. He operates it like a pro!

The Rig is very Heavy, no problem, Handles the city/highway perfectly, runs strong, Charcoal mostly and whatever else is laying around

I love my new wood units, but coal in some ways, has advantages; we don’t have to chop wood into the right size, he cooks to charcoal, then it breaks down quite easily. my friend is new to this process and charcoal gives him a consistent fuel quality on a budget, Our flame mostly purple in color, he travels and camps, he has all the time in the world.

Put 85 miles on it last night, seven people showed up, went along for the ride down I70 highway, we had both ac units blowing cold, his motorcycle in back with more gear and around 650 pounds of fuel on board too! Got home late, wife wasn’t happy about that, Woodgas Life!!! BBB, ChrisS

Here is the YouTube vid, I tried keeping it short for the Dial up guys, (Steve U) ; )

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The spent char from these wood units has very little gas fuel energy value left after gasification. It works well in a grill for cooking. You would have to mix the char with some wood or steam to get engine quality fuel that would move a vehicle down the road.

I thought the 70 mph was good. How long can you run at that speed with that weight before the unit over heats? Does it start burning the paint off the outside?

Did I see right at 2:02 the unit was glowing blue??? Does it get that hot? Odd that it glows blue?

If that’s really whats going on I’d be very concerned about the longevity of the unit. Please tell me that’s a flare of some sort.

What are you using to control the charcoal temps, engine exhaust or maybe water vapor? Or just running it white hot??

Made this its own thread.

Hi Chris, thanks for giving this project it’s own thread! We originally started this build for better understanding of larger coal units,"gohin poulenc’ style, though I personally prefer a very nice wood gasifier, this beast is tough! I hope to answer everyone’s questions as best as I know how.

Hi Woody, yes we have played with the degree of how much we cook out the wood to char for energy reasons, we found that the gas stays clean and strong, if you heat out all the water out but not ALL the gases. Takes about 3 hours making the right Charcoal, timing is everything.

70 mph is max top speed on his unit, it averages between 60 to 65 on flat land, 55 to 60 up step hills. His van rig is so heavy, it does not go much faster on gasoline.

Over heating is a major concern with a coal unit and can ruin itself, if not maintained, they can reach incredible temperatures. The stainless container holds water that is metered in via temp gauge, We added a tap from the exhaust, we have not added exhaust gas tube yet, But I would prefer exhaust over a water drip (doesn’t need a refill).

In the vid at 2:02 is us returning from a long trip. we were almost completely out of fuel and water.

My camera in the vid detected the heat, but in person the gasifier did not glow blue, It did faintly glow, this unit only has one layer, we have added a fire plate (Pederick style), since then and that too makes a big difference in keeping the bed in the center!

Thanks for thinking about us dial-up people ChrisMO.
Tonight after midnight (State Farm Jake talkin’ time) the soonest I’ll be able give the video a look-see. Your stills pictures are fine for now.
Woody/ChrisKY I think? they are charcoal making on board in the one barrel unit using the volatiles as gasifier fuel and temperature control? Charcoal man Gary Gilmore is now using raw wood fuel in addition to engine exhaust for charcoal gasification temperature moderation. (Edit: I was wrong. The second barrel was a filter.)
If/when this operator does burn out/burn through his unit pushing metals limits and boundaries with this unit IT being outside mounted against an all metal trailer it will FAIL SAFE and he will just trundle on home with gasoline.
Regards to All; Steve Unruh
postscript: Hey ChrisMO. Good answers. Good evolving forward. You are the first modern I’ve heard of actually using the Pederic improvement. I type slowly and just hit the send and closed down earlier without seeing your response. S.U.

The unit should not glow on the outside as long as there is charcoal. The intake nozzle should be long enough to allow for charcoal to go behind it to the wall of the gasifier. That said the one question that remains is how long can the truck go 70 mph?

If you can only go highway speeds for brief periods then this should be a part of the description of the unit. It is very impressive the amount of weight and no gasoline for help. What size engine is that Ford Van running?

My Ranger can go over one hour or 70 miles as the hopper runs out at 65 to 70 mph with the AC on and shifting between 4th and 5th. I can get the truck up to 80 with the help of pulsing the gasoline on and off and it will then take a long time to drop back to 65 if in 5th gear. The truck is empty and very light.

If I were running that setup with a gasifier in front of that trailer I would put a shield up there to keep the heat off the front of the trailer. Maybe a good place to measure the temperature. One guy I know caught his whole trailer on fire putting the gasifier in front of his wood pile.

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Chris Seymour, That was cute. Glad to see someone making progress. What are you using to control the water drip into the inferno ? Also, you keep saying coal. Do you mean charcoal when you say coal ? I have quite a bit of anthracite coal here to play with but it’s mineral content is real high so it plugs up the grate … Mike L

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Chris, you got to love that charcoal. I’d second your recommendation of removing the water drip and going to engine exhaust. Much simpler, easy to regulate and does not freeze up. Once the setting is made, you do not have to change it even though the charcoal gas drawn by the engine changes. You should also see some water vapor start to show up in your filter/cooler. There is moisture in the air and charcoal that will get recycled with some of the engine exhaust. This may not be the case in a dry environment. Do you have any water condensing in your cooler? Also saw the charcoal retorts spewing smoke in the background. Most of that smoke can be flared off if you want. Isn’t a problem if no one is around, but cannot do that in my neighborhood without incurring complaints. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t think anyone else out there was using charcoal as a motor fuel and will have to say you are the first I have run across. Keep it up!!!
Gary iin Pa

Hi Woody I have been fascinated with you and your son Sean’s hard work in this science! I am happy to meet such great trail blazers that are here on this site!

We have strayed a bit from a typical coal gas design, using a large input air port and output and four inch piping all the way up to the engine, massive twin cyclones and cooler help. Other than half the radiator and hearth the gasifier is cool to touch, final output tube stays ambient no matter how long we drive . It has performed very well. Hour after Hour

The Pederic Style plate is what was needed to keep heat off his outer barrel (I hated using barrels for this project, hotter than normal woodgas), but he had a TIGHT budge), and water/ exhaust gases have and will help that. Just WATCH your gauges!

His rig needs a 55 gallon refill after 70 to 85 miles. Drives 55 miles an hour up the tallest hills 60 to 65 flat runs and of coarse faster than that going down hill! Has not overheated on us at all or failed in any way yet, but we are pushing it as hard as we can, and will correct any problem that arises. Just reload and keep goin has been the theme around here!

The trailer is perfectly happy with the gasifier on board, even a 25 minute idle doesn’t warm up the back wall more than warm, passed trailer safety with flying colors! Though we always have a fire extinguisher around in case.

The nozzle and “replaceable” grate have worked better than I thought it would.

Mike, We port water directly into the plasma zone. Yes I mean charcoal, but we did go to Rich Hill Missouri to get “Black Smith Coal”
But we got there late, and will have make the trip again soon, if they can’t send us up some.

The video was a compilation of different drive times over the last two months.

These pics posted, shows our recent trips for final testing, not including around the metro areas etc. He is now out there somewhere today driving it. He is very happy, a relief for me.

SteveU, NO hippies around here ; )'Kansas%20City%2C%20MO%20to%20Rich%20Hill%2C%20MO%20-%20Google%20Maps'%20-%20maps_google_com_maps_oe%3Dutf-8%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26ie%3DUTF-8%26gl%3Dus%26saddr%3Dkansas%2Bcity%26daddr%3Drich%2Bhill%2Bmissouri.png'Kansas%20City%2C%20MO%20to%20Higginsville%20Municipal%20Utlts%20-%20Google%20Maps'%20-%20maps_google_com_maps_oe%3Dutf-8%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26ie%3DUTF-8%26gl%3Dus%26saddr%3Dkansas%2Bcity%26daddr%3Dhiggins%20ville%2Bmiss.png

Thanks Chris,

That’s great news. Hauling weight and haulin ass on wood. That’s what it’s all about. That little glow zone on the barrel shouldn’t be much of a problem to manage. Charcoal was very popular in the old days in Europe. Now we can all see why. This bodes well for small engine running a genset at steady rpm’s.

Burn it Bro, Burn it good. :sunglasses:

Hi Gary G, thanks for your comments! You are a true leader in this field of coal gasification, and I respect and enjoy hearing your earned inputs! Yes Exhaust is the way to go! Worked great on the Scootie! We designed this unit to take on water, because he is new and for use of more raw"er" fuels.

I am having him in the shop early next week to change cooling systems to exhaust inputs, water is not very easy.

Gary, We did ignite those barrels off when making charcoal, they sound like afterburners. People just loved hearing it around here, makes a camp fire even more fun!

Woody, I hope to be visiting Florida soon, my wife has family to see there.

This time in my OWN ride at the end of summer if I can get time to finish the truck up . Need a vacation, I would like to visit Wayne and Chris on my way down from Missouri, It will be a fun trip!


Good stuff !!! Only trouble I’d have is I never have an exhaust system to pump back into things (salt belt) … M

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Hey Chris MO ,

Thanks for posting the video and pictures.

Look like you boys are having some fun!! I like the music also.

I would be real glad to have you come by on your way to Florida. I might be on your route depending on what part of the state your going.

Congratulations Chris,
You guys are making great progress!!! Limits and Rules can be broken that’s how we learn. My door is always open for you and it would be great if you could
make it for a visit. BBB Sean

Hey ChrisMO
I did get a chance to see/hear your video. Good work. Your low resolution just like some of SeanF’s really helps the download times.
I saw the “blue light” hearth glow too but then also saw the orange and white hearth areas and the red hearth wall back reflection from the van brake lights. On my non-SLR camera without clip on filter capabilty red and orange char glows really screws up and “disappears” the violet and purple flare colors. Only people in real life seen me gasifing and close coupled reburning in my glass fronted wood stoves. 25 X 2 different camera setting and I still cannot photo this.
Congrats on another person OBDII vehicle converting and driving now.
Regards; Steve Unruh

OBD2 on this 97 cavalier has been working perfectly. I only get an open injector circuit message (obviously). I can’t believe how well it adjusts the timing and I can pull way over 4000 rpm under load. I don’t mess with fords here as they rot twice as fast … M

I can’t wait to meet up!

Mike I too now Love OBD2 cars, I prefer Cheverolet.

Build photos were on one of the Yahoo sites, I think? Can you provide a link? What size engine is in that Van? Are you really using a whole 55 gallon drum of charcoal to travel 70 miles? What size is the charcoal? Softwood or Hardwood? The rig looks nice, it runs up and down the road, and you guys deserve a big congratulation. +++