Day in the Life of a Wood Gas Driver, Part 1

| 1/21/2014 11:01:00 AM


For the past two years I have driven around for free, using scrap wood instead of gasoline. It's a daily challenge, and yet remains the most rewarding choice I've ever made. Wood gasification represents independence to me; only a few folks can thumb their nose at the gas stations and keep driving. Several of us are now doing so, thanks to Wayne Keith over at Drive On Wood, the wood gas community website. One of our catch phrases is "smile with every mile" or SWEM. And it's true! It puts a smile on my face every time. But this daily pleasure comes with a lot of work.

Start Your Wood Gasification Engines!

Every time I take a short trip to the post office, it's about a 5-minute procedure to get rolling. Wood gasifiers are much like wood stoves, in that they need a fire to be lit, and it takes time to warm up. Fortunately they are designed to heat up fast and without needing "kindling" - there is always a layer of charcoal ready to burn.

So when I'm ready to go, I'll put the mail in the truck, and open some valves up. Off comes the lid, and I run fans to create a draft. Lighting the gasifier with a propane torch is fast and easy. And at this point I add a 12-pound bag of wood, close the lid, and let the fans heat up the fire. I watch the output of the wood gas (it has a peculiar odor), and once satisfied I will crank up and head out. By the time I make my round trip of about 10 miles, most of the wood I added will be gone.

Preparing Logs for Wood Gasification Fuel

The wood itself is quite a job. It sounds wonderful to drive around for free, but nobody is handing you wood chunks on a silver platter. Anyone who heats their home with wood knows what I'm talking about. For the most part, you need to find scrap lumber, downed limbs, sawmill waste, etc. Almost none of this wood is exactly the right size. I will eventually build a wood chunker like this one to process sawmill slabs, but currently I use a chop saw and a splitting axe.wood_processing

Using these, I can process enough wood in one morning to last for a week of driving. But that's not the end of it! Most of this wood is still green, and won't burn in the gasifier as-is.

Chris Saenz
2/1/2014 3:50:49 PM


For a highway traveling vehicle the 92-96 V8 Dodge Dakotas are hard to beat. THey're light and powerful, and keep up well on the freeway.

The Dodge V10 and Ford 460 V8 with 4WD make for wonderful farm trucks. They can haul anything you want, just not as fast as the small light trucks. In general you're trying to have a very overpowered vehicle on gasoline, because there's a power loss with woodgas.

If you already have a truck, that's a candidate too - but you generally don't want something too new (much past 2000) and diesels are too hard for a first project. I invite you to read the forums at, and ask some questions - you'll get lots of practical advice.

Good luck with your project!

1/31/2014 4:39:59 PM

Chris - What are your suggestions for make and model of trucks to look at to start a project like this? I've got my menfolk on board with the idea but they are not sure where to start on looking for the right project truck. We live rural so farm trucks that can be had for fair money are plentiful - anxious to get started!

Chris Saenz
1/23/2014 1:42:30 PM

Quick video to go with this post:

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