How Much Wood is Need to Run a Wood-Burning Truck?

Reader Contribution by Chris Saenz
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So… How much wood could a wood-truck chuck if a wood-truck could chuck wood? Let’s find out.

Quoting Wayne Keith:

“Most people want to know, how much wood does it burn? In controlled studies we did at Auburn University, my Dodge Dakota got about 1.25 miles per pound of dry wood. It turns out that the truck is 37% more efficient on woodgas than gasoline, so it works out to 16 lbs per gallon equivalent.”

“Sometimes people jokingly ask how many miles I get per log. When I tell them that my truck goes 5,200 miles per cord they stop laughing. Firewood in most rural areas sells for around $50 per cord. So if I were to buy wood, I could travel for less than a penny per mile. However I have never had to buy firewood or cut a live tree to feed my trucks. I get all the scrap wood I can use from my homemade sawmill. Wood gas is a great fit for me since I have scrap wood laying right in my way.”

(Read more about Wayne’s wood gas trucks in this feature article: Wood Gas Wizard! – MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

You’re probably thinking, that’s OK for one farmer in Alabama. But what if we all switched to wood power? Deforestation would quickly ruin the countryside, right? Think again. While it’s true that we can’t power our massive trucking industry with biomass, it’s possible that we could provide more than enough wood for passenger vehicles in this country, even with conservative forest management. Here’s some figuring we did to determine if this is feasible:

  • Around 199 million drivers on the road (passenger vehicles only).
  • The average driver goes about 13,500 miles per year.
  • Average fuel economy is 20 mpg (16 lbs/gal = 0.8 lbs/mile on wood) – need about 10,800 lbs per driver (2.16 cords).
  • Total wood requirements = 199 million x 10,800 pounds = 2.1 trillion pounds or 430 million cords.
  • One acre of woodland can produce about 1 cord of wood annually (very conservative) – need 430 million acres.
  • The national forest is currently estimated at 747 million acres. The contiguous US is 1.89 billion acres.
  • The farmland devoted to corn for ethanol is estimated at 33 million acres (13.2 billion gallons/400 gal per acre).
  • This farmland could produce wood for nearly 23 million drivers, assuming 1.5 cords/acre (managed for max yields).
  • Same farmland currently serves about 16 million drivers on ethanol, not counting energy inputs and soil depletion.
  • Current “readily available” logging waste is about 49 million tons per year. This can fuel about 9 million drivers.

Of course, all this is theoretical – wood gasification requires skilled, hands-on operation. It’s not turn the key and go. The general public will never accept the mess and hassle of burning wood, either in their homes or their cars. So DIYers, relax and enjoy the bountiful resource we have in this country. Build a gasifier and take advantage of wood energy! No one else wants it – help yourself to all the scrap wood you can get. Your money stays in your pocket, and the environment will thank you for it.

Check out Wayne’s website, Drive On Wood! for details about his trucks and further information on wood gasification.