Wood Gas Truck: Road Power From Wood Gasification

Our wood gas truck has racked up 1,500 miles running on wood chips and wood scrap, and is still going strong.

| May/June 1981

We were pleased to report in Homemade Motor Fuel Through Wood Gasification that our experiments concerning the use of wood scraps for vehicle motor fuel showed promise. But little did we realize, at that time, just how well the unlikely form of "solid" energy would work in a "liquid" world.

In short, for a total cost of about $125 — and a fair amount of cutting and welding — we've come up with an effective alternative fuel power system. Not only does our wood gas truck move down the road as smoothly and reliably as any conventionally powered automobile, it does so at zero fuel cost!

(Click here and here for downloadable versions of the construction illustrations.) 

A Straightforward Process

Here's how the system works: Wood scraps (we use chunks that are larger than sawdust or shavings, but smaller than a 6" length of 2 X 4) are contained in a modified hot water tank, and rest on a cone-shaped, cast-refractory hearth. The recycled vessel is airtight except for a spring-loaded and sealed fill lid, a capped lighting aperture, and an inlet port (the last is simply a two-inch brass swing check valve, which allows the "draw" created by the engine to pull controlled amounts of air into the firebox).

Incoming "atmosphere" is directed through a series of holes drilled into one shoulder of a discarded wheel rim (which is girdled with a circular band of strap metal and fastened to the bottom of the tank), and supports combustion in the vicinity of the hearth. As the fuel in that area burns, it consumes the oxygen in the air — creating carbon dioxide and water vapor — and forms a bed of glowing charcoal, which collects on a grate suspended from chains several inches below the hearth assembly. (Simultaneously, a heat-induced "decomposition" zone is created right above the combustion region, driving gases from, and carbonizing, the wood prior to its incineration.)

The mixture of CO2 and moisture — in addition to some creosote—is then drawn through a "choker" (positioned between the hearth and the charcoal grate) and forced into the embers at the lower part of the tank before leaving the gasifier. The choke serves as an air restricter which blends the various vapors and directs them through the glowing coals, where they're reduced to the combustible gases carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and — in small amounts — methane. The final product also contains a good deal of nitrogen, along with some unconverted CO 2 and traces of tar and ash.

11/13/2014 1:21:32 PM

I have a '72 motorhome I am converting for handicap use at Burning Man 2015. It has a GM 402 engine I qnt to gasify. It will be making 5 tours of artowrk on the playa at under 15 MPH for 9 days. I need a complete unit to use or buy (if reasonable) and related information; like fuel consumption, waste left after burn, logistics involved, etc. Contact me at: timkelly_nv(at) See the project at:

Emmanuel Roux
3/30/2012 12:05:29 PM

The Tampa Bay automobile museum in Pinellas Park Fl has on display a car from the thirties powered by a conventional motor fueled by gas generated by almond shells or charcoal. Visit their site or better visit the museum tampa bay They also have a working replica of the first automobile built in France in 1783..... and a marvel of engineering, steam powered.My parents were talking about their car during WW2 in France and Tunisia that was powered by wood and the required planning before they had to run an errand

Michael Hilliker
4/3/2009 11:46:23 AM

If i remember correctly. Mother had articles about wood fueled vehicles back in the late 70's or early 80's. I have been a subscriber since issue 49 and have copies back to issue 40. There are so many old articles that are pertinent today as they were in the 70's. I always hoped the magazine would print article from the old issues as a "Remember When" article in each issue. Some of my old copies are getting worn thin from rereading them. It is always peculiar how what goes around comes around.

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