Side draft charcoal gasifier

I have been a member for some time and have just a few post. I recently became a premium member and have been thinking about this subject for a long time. I read an article about 40 years ago that told about how wood gas was used in Sweden during WWII. They had factories set up to produce formed charcoal to power their cars. From what I remember about the system it was installed in the trunk and was very efficient. I do not know if it was side draft or not but it used one formed charcoal cartridge to get the man to work in the morning and would have enough to get him home in the afternoon. I saw these cartridges used in Korea back in the sixties. They were used to cook the food in the local town by Osan AB and then were used to heat the floor where the local people slept. Needless to say this created a serious problem with carbon monoxide poisoning. I think it would be a good idea to incorporate this into a side draft system to mount on the back of my Ford flat bed. I would use an old aluminum tool box to build it in so it would not be obvious that the vehicle was being powered by wood. Any suggestions are appreciated. Glenn


Hi Glenn,
welcome on “the dark side”!
Do you have a name of the system you are referring to? Haven’t read about a gasifier using cartridges but a lot about charcoal gasifiers which mostly used normal char.
I can strongly recommend the two books in the library section:
-Driving On Wood: The Lost Art of Driving Without Gasoline
-1949 | Gengas: The Swedish Classic On Wood Fueled Vehicles

You will find a lot of useful information, and of course also in the threads here about different projects.
If you come up with specific questions or a draft of what you are planning to build, I’m sure you will find a lot of help here.


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one of the library download books shows a picture of a downtown Tokyo car being refueled with a large made-fuel chared? block into a rear bumper mounted gasifier system. The Lost Art book? The authors of that say in Denmark they were forced to make up fuel blocks from dried, chared? seaweed.

Not an actual aluminum material box GlenG. Aluminum has no forgiveness from uneven burn combustion zones hot spots. The hot spot will weaken/melt and just slump open. Steel. Steel. Steel.
tree-farmer Steve unruh

Steve, I am not talking about using the aluminum box to built the fire chamber in. The actual gasifier will just be installed into the toolbox. The gasifier will be insulated from the aluminum. I wish we had more information about the systems that were used then. I have five 30 pound propane bottles and one 15 pound to use for experimenting.What I am envisioning is a approximately 8 inch piece of black pipe in the center of one of these propane bottles that the actual fuel block will be placed in. I have a lot of thinking and work to do on this but I have a lot of confidence in it. There are quite a few you tube videos about making “briquettes” of charcoal. I did not see the manufacturing process in Korea for the blocks,but I do not think it will be too difficult to make something that will work. Wish I had better drafting skills.

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O.K. I do see now.
Best before you weld, you read.
The last two fellows I know of to enclose vehicle charcoal gasifiers into vehicle trunks were Ben Peterson and Kristian in Slovenia. Even with much prior experiences they were shocked how much allowances they needed to make for systems heat ventilation’s, once enclosed.

Krisians experiences are well pictured and described here on the DOW if you search.

Regardless. Member Til’s advice to read those two books was to familiarized yourself with the overall needs for any system.
#1 - how much charcoal fuel will you need? And where can you get it/make it/store it.
Many, many topics here on just that.
Many, many very good excellent welder fabricators have made up something that will be impossible to make useable past a first woopie! flare-burn and engine run. Not close to meeting all of a systems requirements for hours usages.
No personal offense intended.
I say the same thing to the modern-electronics-controls-will-solve-all-of-my-gasifier-system-problems, folks too.
Easier imho to have for decades have hard worked much wood for heat; then, learn to basic fab/weld and wire; than the other way around.
15 years of Net broadcast out failures to prove this now.

best regards Steve unruh


Thank you Steve, I have read your post over the last year with great interest and respect so any advice you give will be gladly received. I am not the best welder by any stretch of the imagination and I realize the importance of good welds in this endeavor so I may professionally hire some of it to be done. To my way of thinking control of where the CO goes is of the utmost importance. I installed and operated for a short period of time 4 two thousand pound incinerators in Afghanistan several years ago so I have some background.One thing I am concerned with and have been reading on the “dark side” is the nozzle. I am hoping that I can configure it in such a manner that the intake air will do enough cooling that it will last longer than most materials. I am thinking about using fire brick with a replaceable nozzle installed in the brick. Thanks again for your advice.

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No Til I do not know the name of the system but i have been researching it for some time to try and find it. I have been told by soldiers from the Korean War that the systems that were used in that fracas used the charcoal cartridges, so I do believe that it has definitely been done before. I read the article about the Nordic system about 40 years ago,it may have been longer than that. It also makes good sense to me to do it that way as when I observed the cartridges being used for food cooking it really generated a lot of heat.

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Hi Glenn, Also a big welcome to the “dark side”. I too am interested where you read about the “charcoal cartridges”. Are these bags or tins filled with “engine grade” charcoal or are they compressed blocks of charcoal? A charcoal gasifier must oxidize the charcoal into carbon dioxide, then pass that hot gas through a hot bed of surrounding charcoal to reduce it into carbon monoxide. That is easily done when the charcoal is in small pieces but not sure how this could be done with a cartridge. If you can post some drawings of what you plan, we (the dark siders of woodgasification) can chime in on whether we think your design will work or not.
Gary in PA


Hello Gary, I really wish I could remember where I read the article but ti has been more than forty years since then.I do know how the charcoal blocks worked in the cooking appliances in Korea. They were approximately six inches in diameter with holes through them and about eight to ten inches long. I cannot say with any authority that these were the charcoals that were used in automobiles just what I was told by soldiers that were stationed in Korea during the Korean War one of which was my oldest brother who recently died and another friend that also has since died. Time marches on. The article “Modern Portable Gas Producer” in the library list charcoal briquettes as a fuel for the systems on page 111. That is basically what I am proposing and what the system that I remember reading about all those many years ago and also what I believe was used at various places around the world.
I have a friend in the area here that built a gasifier on a 92 Chevrolet pickup without a bed and was stopped by a state trooper. The Texas trooper informed him that what he was doing was illegal but that he did not know how to write up the ticket. The idea being that he was not paying road tax on the fuel. I believe a simple solution to that would be to pay the road tax as if it were propane which is possible here in Texas. I want to add steam and carbon dioxide to increase the ratio of volatiles to non volatiles to the output of the gasifier. It is going to be a significantly more complicated and laborious process than most guys are doing it but I believe it will be worth it in the long run. I have been viewing your Youtube videos for some time and your inputs to the forum and respect your knowledge on the subject so go ahead and be critical I can take it.