Producer Gas Vehicles: Burning Your Own Homemade Fuel

Using wood or other organic material as an alternative fuel source is nothing new: Producer gas vehicles were the norm for some European nations during the oil shortage of World War II.

| May/June 1974

  • Producer Gas Vehicle 2
    A producer gas generator can be mounted at the rear of your vehicle.
  • Producer Gas Generators 1
    The crossdraft generator design is the easiest to light, but the hardest to build. The downdraft design is well suited to fuels with large tar build-ups, such as wood.
  • Producer Gas Generator Designs 2
    The updraft generator design is said to have greater power than the downdraft or crossdraft designs, and is easier for the amateur to build.

  • Producer Gas Vehicle 2
  • Producer Gas Generators 1
  • Producer Gas Generator Designs 2

Tired of shelling out your life savings every time you want to' do a little trucking? A proven alternative fuel - producer gas - may be the right answer for you.

That's right, proven. Producer gas (also called town gas, coal gas and power gas) is nothing new or mysterious. The principle of its manufacture has been known for about a century and a half. This fuel, in fact, enjoyed a real boom in Europe and Australia during the oil shortages of World War II. During part of that period, 90 percent of Swedish motor traffic operated on gas derived from wood or charcoal.

That same crisis, naturally, stimulated an abundance of research on coal gas, and mounds of material were written on the subject. I've tried to summarize part of the literature in this article . . . which is intended only to acquaint you with the fuel and prod you into thinking about it as an alternative to gasoline. Anyone who's serious about its practical use should check out the sources shown in the reading list at the end.

Making Producer Gas

Producer gas is made by sucking a limited amount of air through a bed of red-hot carboniferous fuel (wood, charcoal, low-temperature coke, straw, peat, etc.) in a closed furnace called a generator. The result - after a series of intricate chemical reactions - is carbon monoxide. This - the primary explosive ingredient of producer gas - can be mixed with approximately the same amount of air and burned in the internal combustion engine in much the same way as gasoline.

A fine jet of water or steam added to the generator's air intake will result in a gas of higher hydrogen content, sometimes called "water gas" or "blue gas". This is generally a better-quality fuel than the plain producer gas. The addition of liquid, however, complicates the design of the generating unit.

Coal gas - when used as a motor fuel - is usually manufactured in transit, by a device installed right on the moving vehicle. The mobile plant can be built most easily from mild steel (a 55-gallon drum, for instance) and is composed of a generator, a cleaning and cooling apparatus and a mixing valve. These parts are connected to one another and to the engine by means of pipes. A fan can be added to the system to aid the flow of gas. Usually, though, the suction of the powerplant's intake is all that's required to pull the air and fumes through the unit.

Thomas Kaeding_1
7/10/2008 6:29:29 PM

Hello, Great web site. Many of the articles ref. NO. and page#. I am having a tough time navigating and finding articles. Help. Thanks, Tom

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