When I was a teenager in the 60’s, the movie “The Longest Hundred Miles” sparked a life-long interest in powering gasoline engines with wood. Part of the movie story line involved the use of WWII era charcoal gasification technology to power an old bus enabling a priest, a group of orphans and two American soldiers to escape advancing Japanese soldiers. I was intrigued by the novel source of fuel, but figured that it was probably a Hollywood creation. My dad, however, who was watching the movie with me, said that coke made from coal was used to power trucks when he was in England during WW II when gasoline in very short supply. You can see the movie on YouTube with this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ53DdHA3Y0. In 2015, I discovered Gary Gilmore’s SimpleFire YouTube videos and finally realized that charcoal gasification was within the reach of my limited skills, tools, and materials. In September of 2017, I built the “basic” 5-gallon SimpleFire which was eventually installed on a discarded push mower and is now used to demonstrate charcoal gasification for guests who visit my “house of curiosities.” Click on this link to see my other curiosities: http://www.wral.com/lifestyles/travel/video/17045240/. I was able to get over an hour of run time with the 5-gallon SimpleFire when I used it to mow my yard. My original goal was to use the small SimpleFire to fuel my grist mill engine. After many attempts, it became obvious that the mill engine would only run on gasoline. So, one thing led to another.
Successfully running my 8-HP generator with the lawn mower SimpleFire, I built a 15-gallon version to provide a longer run time when powering the generator. I added a fluid drip to increase the power and later a cyclone filter built by Gary Gilmore.
A free shipping and a 25% off on my next purchase offer when I bought the 15-gallon drum prompted me to go ahead and buy a 30-gallon drum for a possible future vehicle gasification project. You can guess what happened next. As soon as I finished the medium size SimpleFire, I began work on the large 30-gallon size. I had my son’s 1989 Toyota Corolla with a 1.6 liter engine sitting in my shop where it had been waiting for needed carburetor repair since he bought it three years ago. I bought it from him for his original purchase price of $200 for this “future vehicle gasification project.” I had my first successful run of this large SimpleFire installed on the Corolla about four months later, in mid-February 2018.
I am thrilled that my charcoal projects have been successful. God has blessed me in so many ways and given me the desires of my heart over and over again, including something I never really expected to do–power a vehicle with charcoal. “Thank you, Jesus.”
I also want to thank the many forum members, too, for your photos, videos, project descriptions, and responses to the few things I have posted; starting with Gary Gilmore, father of the SimpleFire. “Simple” is what made this project possible for me. Thank you, Gary, for your contributions. Also, thanks to Don Mannes, Bruce Southerland, Tom Collins, Dan Hartman, Kristijan Leitinger, David Baillie, and Koen Van Looken. There are others whose comments also made a contribution to my efforts, but most of these listed had charcoal vehicle projects which I studied very carefully.
You can see why I got a chuckle out of Kristijan Leitinger’s comment at the beginning of his description of the Charcoal Powered Seat Arosa project, when he wrote, “The goal was to make a gasifier that wuld not be a gigantic nuclear reactor looking thing on the back of the car.” Well, that’s exactly what I have. I admire his discrete gasifier construction. It takes a lot of skill, innovation, and engineering to come up with such designs. Interesting that he had to think outside the box to come up with his box-shaped gasifiers—very clever.
All three of my gasifiers were completed without any welding. As far as the Corolla gasifier construction is concerned, I followed Gary Gilmore’s SimpleFire very closely. Currently, I use a stainless steel pipe nozzle. My “poor man’s cyclone” is to the right of the reactor. Flex exhaust, muffler clamps, and iron pipe unions connect the “cyclone” to the double 5-gallon bucket filter housing on the left. Black iron nipples and fittings of 1.5 inches are used through most of the unit, except for the outlet from the final filter which is plastic. The lower bucket contains pine straw with standoffs to hold the straw away from the inlet and outlet which is accessible through the bottom Gamma lid. The upper bucket contains a pool filter with a towel wrapped around the outside of it and tied above and below the filter. The filter is attached to the top Gamma lid. The gas exits through the center of the pool filter into the 1.5 inch sump pump hose which carries the gas under the vehicle to the engine compartment. I used Dan Hartman’s Lumina van reactor mounting system and also his exhaust connection, but finally gave up trying to use his idea for gas connection and air/gas valve under the hood due to there being so many leaks in my air intake system. This is where it went beyond my abilities. So, I asked a machinist friend to make a T-fitting to replace the filter housing over the carburetor. The 1.5 inch gas hose connects to one side of this fitting, the cable controlled air/gas mixture butterfly valve is in the other side of the T where the pool “air” filter is attached.
To start the gasifier, I first fully open the air/gas mixture butterfly valve. Then, I connect the portable starting blower hose in place of the pool “air” filter and clip the power cord to the car battery. I turn the blower on and light the charcoal with a torch through the gasifier’s air inlet, allowing the blower to run until I can get a continuously burning flare. Then, I remove the blower, connect the pool “air” filter in place of it, adjust the air/gas mixture valve to a previously-marked run position, and start the engine. Controls inside the car include a knob to turn on and off the gasoline valve between the fuel pump and carburetor and a lever to operate the air/gas mixture valve on the T-adapter.
So far, the nozzle and filter arrangement have been adequate for test drives in my driveway. At the present, the car is not legal to drive on the highway, so my testing is limited. Also, due to serious problems with the carburetor, I’m leaving the gasoline valve turned off for now. I would like to be able to rely on gasoline until the gasifier is producing enough gas at the beginning of a run, as a backup fuel, and for extra power when needed, but until the carburetor is rebuilt and properly adjusted, it will not be safe to operate with gasoline. There are possibly other issues, too, which may need attention. Anyway, right now it runs better on charcoal gas than gasoline – go figure.
Future developments will likely include, having my machinist friend build a proper cyclone filter, adding a fluid drip, rebuilding the carburetor, and satisfying the legal requirements to drive it on the road. I may also try an adjustable timing control. I am pleased with the results so far. It is at a stage of completion now, so I can relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor for a little while. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’m sure I won’t be satisfied until I’m riding down the highway under the influence of charcoal.