Sorry this turned out so long…
Having lived with “everyday woodgas” for several years now in a 2-driver family, here is my opinion on that idea.
It would have to be a lot of really short trips to not make sense. (or wood supply would have to be very difficult)
Yeah it’s a bit of a pain to light up all the time, but the fact is, once it is lit for the day, unless you let it sit for many hours unused, it is lit for the day and takes very little effort to “restart” later in the day. It’s like when we used to harness a horse in the morning. Once he’s harnessed, he’s harnessed.
As long as you don’t leave the hopper too full and let it get cold, it is very very easy and fast to light up and go. Get a big blower to move a lot of air fast. Don’t rely only on bilge blowers. find an old vacuum motor etc. Build a system that shaves seconds/minutes off the process and it becomes routine and not very taxing at all.
Yes, there are times that I use gasoline, or more likely another vehicle, instead of wood because I am in a hurry and only going a very short distance… but most of the time it is worth lighting up.
I kind of compare it to my days with only horse and buggy. And whether or not to harness the horse and hitch the buggy instead of jumping on a bicycle.
I figured out I could harness a horse and hitch the buggy in about 3.5 minutes. If I’m in a hurry, it takes less time to light the gasifier and be heading out the driveway. This does require a system built for efficiency. Lifestyle.
Also, I have been meaning to make a correction about something I posted a long time ago. I can not find where I posted it, but it has been nagging on me for a long time. It sort of fits here, so I will put it here.
A long time ago we were talking about the cost of woodgas and whether it was a hobby or a real way to save money. At the time I posted that I believed it was not really something one was going to save a lot of money with…since then I have kept some records of miles and costs…We have rebuilt gasifiers and spent hours of labor and miles of welding wire, etc.
I have to say, I was wrong. Woodgas can be done as an expensive hobby, or in a thousand other ways…but the way we have done it for the past few years has saved us thousands and thousands of dollars in fuel expense.
I think the tricks to this are multi-fold:
Using it as often as possible for as much as possible (within reason). Always opt for the woodgas if possible. TRY to find a way to use it. Don’t get lazy with it. Use it enough to “KNOW” the technology so it is second nature. Just like knowing what a bad spark plug wire feels like, know what the gasifier feels like.
Switching the brain to think of it is a normal regular part of the mechanical inventory, just like the chainsaws, concrete trowler, ice truck, wood chipper, skid steer, etc.
It is easy to start off in woodgas seeing it as an anomaly or a hobby project. Something weird or different or out of place. But it has to become part of the development process. Seen (by me) as just another tool in the drawer. Just another option for moving this machine down the road.
Allowing it to become part of the normal everyday operation of things allows you to think of it differently… keeping the parts and materials needed for it just like we would for any other vehicle or piece of machinery. For instance, buying bulk quantities of rubber fittings or thermocouples or steel or whatever, etc. to get the price breaks, just like I buy fuel filters for my reefer units in bulk, or buying diesel fuel 2000 gallons at a time, or buying a 500 ft roll of chainsaw chain that lasts 15 years instead of paying 3x as much at the saw shop, etc.
Standardizing. Rather than doing woodgas as an art project. Bring some of Henry Ford’s wisdom into it. Make the same parts over and over, keep old used ones that still have life in them, make them all so they fit together in another unit.
The gasifier parts in a truck should mostly be like the other parts…interchangeable from one to the other so they are re useable. Also, maybe build 2 or 3 pieces at a time while you’re set up for it already.
Maintaining morale. Don’t be a purist. Having a woodgas vehicle that only has woodgas is probably going to get you discouraged. Having the objective to not use any gasoline is a great thing to operate with, but if you have yourself a law that won’t allow you to turn the rheostat knob for the fuel pump, you will likely get discouraged with it, and eventually start opting for the “easier” machine.
Having a functional, effective system of operation with woodgas that reduces your fuel bill by 60%…and actually operating in that way, is lightyears ahead of some philosophical purist , “I’m never going to use dino fuel in my woodgas truck…” system that doesn’t actually get used or accomplish anything because you are discouraged with it and instead opt for the wife’s mini van most of the time.
In the same sense, using it as one of multiple options. Going to Atlanta for 5 difficult, heavy loads with a woodgas truck, spending 2 days doing it, maxing out your equipment just to make sure you don’t buy any fuel, over working your machine,…Or, using the 1 ton, or borrowing one, or paying your friend to haul one easy load from Atlanta… If I’m stuck with too much of a purist attitude, I will not make choices that are logical and make sense. Recognize it for what it is for and also recognize that the technology has it’s limitations. That way you can keep from becoming discouraged with it.
Be a world-class scrounge. If you need a definition of this. Watch old episodes of MASH and pay attention to Radar Oreilley. Always gathering pieces and parts. Whereever, however you can.
Maybe this belongs in the morale list: Get yourself a personal woodgas mechanic like Jakob. Nothing makes woodgas easier than having an energetic teenage son who is an expert in the technology.
My conclusion: When given a fair chance as a technology, woodgas (atleast the WK) CAN be $-saving and not just the coolest hobby in the world. I did not start with that opinion. I grew into it through experience and keeping track of the numbers.