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Thread: Panamericana 2006 - VW and biodiesel, a winning combination

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Smile Panamericana 2006 - VW and biodiesel, a winning combination

    OK, so the manufacturers always seem to be dragging the chain as far as use of biodiesel in their vehicles is concerned, and it's not only in Australia; but just sometimes you see evidence of some forward-thinking.
    Has anyone seen this website: or heard of this marathon event?

    They took 3 VW R5TDI Touaregs*, and with 9 drivers (travelling almost non-stop) covered the 25,000 kilometres of the Panamericana Highway (billed as the longest road in the world) from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in under 16 days.

    *An R5 Touareg is a VW 4x4 vehicle with a 5 cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine using the VW "pump-deuse" injection system...

    They went through 14 countries on 2 continents, and all on BIODIESEL.
    The VW vehicles are advertised in the publicity as fully approved for 100% biodiesel.

    I have been fortunate enough to get to know one of the drivers through my "clubtouareg" contacts, and he has told me that the only modification made to these vehicles was factory fitting of heated fuel lines.
    I hit him with a list of questions and here they are together with his answers:

    Here is my letter to him, pretty much in full, with his answers interspersed after each question in italics...

    ------start of letter------

    >G'day Eric,
    > OK, let the badgering begin...
    > First, as I said in my (earlier mail) I would love to do something like a panamericana
    > drive, it sounds absolutely amazing! In case you haven't guessed by now, I'm
    > jealous.
    > I'm also a keen supporter of biodiesel, and am keen to understand a little more
    > of how the panamericane event managed that side of things.
    > So, here come the questions:
    > 1. What was the basis for the biodiesel (soy, canola, waste oil, tallow etc)?

    It was a pretty big blend across the trip. We picked up Bio from several sources, including our first source in Alaska which turned out not to be processed Biodiesel, but in fact we used straight salad oil mixed with Diesel number 1 to acheive the equivelant of B5 for the very cold Dalton Highway. This was Canola (Raypeseed Oil I believe). The other sources other than the LA Biodiesel CO-OP I have no idea, but assume mostly Raypeseed. In LA they used Walnut Oil. It was WONDERFUL!!! Little or no smell, so the inside tanks did not hinder sleeping when we had any seapage. The exhaust smell also was non-existant! This stuff was GREAT!! Several of the stops where we got oil the stuff was pretty cloudy, which we expected and had brought along 15 factory fuel filters in anticipation of clogging, but in the end only used 5.

    > 2. Were you using B100 or a blend?

    We used B100 from Vancouver down to Puebla, the rest of the time we would mix from our B100 stock and local diesel to acheive B20 or better except where noted along the Dalton.

    > 3. Were the R5 TDIs modified in any way or factory standard? In this I mean specifically related to the biodiesel use. If they were prepared "in the factory" for biodiesel, do you know what this consisted of?

    The only modification for 'Biodiesel' was the addition of a thermostaticly controlled Fuel heater in the engine bay. The rest of the vehicle was bone stock. Well, we did have a 50 gallon custom fuel storage tank in the back, and another 50 gallons of capacity up on the roof racks in the red plastic fuel jugs. Other than that, Factory shipped R5's.

    > My 2005 R5 TDI manual talks about biodiesel NOT being suitable for the V6TDI or V10TDI which both have particle filters, and otherwise just warns of the need to use biodiesel only if it meets the standard, and to limit its use to ambient temps of > -5 deg C. It also mentions changing the fuel filter more often. It also indicates that the "penalties" for not adhering to these requirements will be blocked fuel filters. I have since heard of "factory modification" for biodiesel use consisting of heating fuel lines and maybe a different filter?

    I think the factory is really just afraid that they don't know the quality of the fuel that you would acquire, the extra 'Setiment' that might be present and the lack of most countries of having a standard rating of Biodiesel quality. Too much Glycerine and you can block filters or put out too much soot of a different chemical compisition than the catalyst in the partical filters is prepared to deal with. All in all, the real risk is warranty coverage. If you don't mind replacing filters yourself, and potentially dealing with clogged Partical filters, I don't see any real risk. Hell, there are a few European countries that are now requiring B20 as a minimum blend and B100 by 2010. So VW will either get their act together, or stop selling Diesels in those countries (NOT BLOODY LIKELY)...

    > OK, back to the questions:
    > 4. How did you manage the quality of your supplies along the way? I have not read every daily report, but when you are ceremonially given 1500l by a university in peru (say) do you just accept it, or what?

    Well, that was the reason for the 15 Fuel filters my friend Once the fuel was lined up, it was pretty much take it or don't use biodiesel. We had lots of options in the US, as there are filling stations along the route, but didn't need 'em. In South and Central America, it was available, but finding it while trying to set a record would have been tough, so we used it even if we thought it would require more frequent filter changes. In the end, we suspect the PetroDiesel we mixed with the BioDiesel from Puebla was more of a problem for our filters than any of the Bio we used. The Petro Diesel used in Panama was DISGUSTING!!! Within minutes of topping off with our result of B20, we were blowing smoke like a 50 year old School bus!!! Even the NEW R5's that were our escort were pumping out soot like there was no tomorrow. They (Panama) REALLY NEED TO GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER!!!

    > 5. How did the vehicles perform compared to R5's on petro-diesel?

    I can honestly say from 4 days of driving in Alaska on PetroDiesel that the BioDiesel had NO difference at all from the seat of the pant's dyno. Exactly the same performance across the board in my opinion.

    > 6. I noticed your contribution to the thread in CT from the guy in england who isn't happy with his economy in the R5, and you quote your (understandably) relatively high fuel use figures to him, but you don't mention the biodiesel as your fuel. Is there a reason for this or don't you think it is significantly any different?

    As for the BioDiesel, I don't believe there is a significant difference in economy. If there is, the normal I've seen quoted is between 5-10%. Easily overcome by more conservitive driving tactics and paying attention to the torque band and shifting patterns. Unlike Normally asperated engines, which shifting as early as you can results in the best economy, Turbo engines get their best economy with the turbos spooled up and taking advantage of exhaust gasses. Not wound up to redline of course, but we found 2100 rpm to be about the best for overall economy. That and the fact that the factory shift points in the automatic seem to be setup for the V6 and V8 engines, and you have to manually manage them for the R5 and V10's. Gota keep those Auto Trannies in lockup configuration and prevent gear hunting if you want the best mileage. Fuel type doesn't really come into play in my opinion.

    Again, opinions are like bung holes, everyone has one, and they are worth what you pay for 'em, so please don't quote me as a scientific data source

    > Thanks for listening and reading my questions.. Feel free to refer me to an "expert" if you want to,
    > cheers,
    > ..Neil

    And Thanks again Neil for your questions, they will certainly come in handy if you don't mind me reprinting them

    ------end of letter------

    Over to you, folks: look at the website, read the Q & A, and whaddyareckon?


    VW Touareg R5 TDI

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005

    Re: Panamericana 2006 - VW and biodiesel, a winning combination

    Well done! If only VW locally would pull their heads out of the sand and realise what their overseas counterparts are doing. I guess you can all tell by now that biodiesel WILL run fine in a VW (or any diesel engine) despite what the local manufacturer will say out of ignorance.
    Site Admin.

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