Review of the Bate Autogas Convertor Device

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/IMREK
The Bate's Autogas Convertor Device is not as promising as it seemed.

Harold Bate has made a great contribution to the world by
publicizing the fact that you and I can operate our
automobiles on low-emission fuel. His suggestion that we
can actually produce one of those
fuels–methane–from barnyard manure is also very
exciting . . . but my experience leads me to believe that
the famous patented Bate Autogas Convertor Device, designed
to allow a standard automobile to run on methane, is not
practical at all.

First, there’s the problem of obtaining methane. The
natural gas (which is mostly methane) companies I’ve
contacted indicate that they’re not yet set up to make
their product readily available to automobiles. And, even
equipped with Bate’s instructions, not many of us have
access to the manure (it takes five pounds to produce
methane equivalent to one gallon of gasoline) and can spare
the space and resources to build a digester-compressor.

Second, if you do succeed in obtaining or producing the
gas, you’ll find your car won’t have much range unless you
get a really strong tank and a compressor to force in lots
of methane under pressure. Forget all talk of carrying the
gas in balloons, bottles or whatever unless you plan to
stay extremely close to your fuel source. At that, you
won’t be either safe or legal unless you’ve got the methane
in a good, solid, pressed-steel tank equipped with
excess-pressure relief valve, positive lock-off, etc. as
required by law and common sense.

Third, instructions accompanying the Bate unit state that
“gas pressure from the bottle (to the convertor) should not
exceed approximately 70 pounds per square inch” . . . so if
you intend to compress your methane for range, you’ll need
a regulator in the line between the gas tank and the Bate
Convertor. As a matter of fact, because methane pressure
varies noticeably with changes in outside temperature and
fuel level and because the Bate Convertor is sensitive to
these changes, you’ll need a regulator to stabilize the gas
pressure anyway.

Fourth, Bate’s unit offers no automatic or other positive
shut-off protection in case the convertor leaks when your
automobile’s engine isn’t running. I ran a test on the Bate
device I had and, sure enough, it did leak under such
conditions. That’s dangerous.

Finally, the Bate Convertor is a real disappointment when
operated with propane. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get
the unit to work on the combination propane/butane that’s
marketed as LP here in the U.S. The problem was that the LP
tank and valves froze when vapor was drawn off quickly at
high speeds and–the lower the fuel level–the
more quickly the LP froze. It seems that (according to the
people who handle LP conversions) the fuel must be drawn
off as a liquid and then allowed to expand into a
gas in a heat exchanger that the Bate unit, of course, does
not have.

All in all, the Bate gadget is simply a single-stage demand
regulator that must be supported by at least $150 in extra
equipment if it’s to work satisfactorily (even with
compressed methane).

Automobiles definitely can be operated on methane,
propane and other low-emission fuels . . . but–like
it or not–the answer seems to lie in one of the
commercially available, double-stage convertors (such as
Century or Impco) that come with heat exchanger, manual or
electrical solenoid primer, complete service instructions
and parts list. So we might as well do it right in the
first place. With the proper equipment and for little
more than the real total cost of a Bate conversion
,
you’ll wind up with a system that’ll handle methane,
butane, propane–you name it–without any
extensive changes or extra parts. And that’s when
you’ll begin to save dollars as you cut your car’s
contribution to pollution.