Scott Skylar Leads the Charge for Alcohol Powered Cars

A former senatorial aide is promoting alcohol-powered cars by driving around Washington, DC in a vehicle he converted to alcohol fuel himself.


| March/April 1979



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Scott Skylar converted an old Rambler Classic to run on alcohol—what he hopes will be the first of many alcohol-powered cars.


ILLUSTRATION: BOJANOVIC78/FOTOLIA

Mr. Scott Skylar (who served as an aide to Senator Jacob Javits for almost a decade and is now the Washington Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology) owns the "hottest" automobile in the District of Columbia!

Which is not to say that Scott's 1964 Rambler Classic is a tire-squealin' speedster (although it is a bit quicker than other cars of its own year and make). You see, Skylar's old green four-door is one of the few alcohol-powered cars—probably the only one—that regularly commutes through the streets of the nation's capital.

"The car was given to me about 10 months ago for a token $1.00 payment," Scott explains, "by an interested party who wanted an ethanol-fueled auto operating where members of our government could see the vehicle."

And, since the idea of helping to awaken an official interest in alcohol power appealed to Skylar (who's an alternative energy proponent from "way back"), he accepted the vehicle and the challenge.

The "Classic" Conversion

Because alcohol doesn't vaporize as readily as gasoline—and thus isn't as easy to ignite—Scott's first job was to design what he called a "coldstart canister." "On chilly days, when battery efficiency is 60% or less," he explains, "pure ethanol just won't start a car without some help." Skylar solved this puzzle in a straightforward and inexpensive manner. He bought a used Ford electric window washer and pump (the unit with the white plastic fluid reservoir), then ran the "squirter" nozzle directly into the Rambler's carburetor venturi. "I filled the canister with gasoline," Scott says, "and—in cold weather—I just push the washer button on the dashboard to shoot a little petrol into the carb, and fire her up!" After the car has started, it draws alcohol through the normal fuel lines and will go on running without further need of the gasoline "boost." This portion of the conversion cost $5.00 (the parts were purchased at a junkyard) and consumed one hour of the amateur mechanic's time.

Of course, a few additional alterations were needed to make the vehicle into the kind of "foolproof" runner that would impress skeptical politicians. So, since alcohol has—in effect—twice the volume of gasoline, Scott drilled out the carburetor's main fuel jet with a jeweler's drill bit. This job took about two hours and could probably be performed by most service stations.





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