Alternative fuel smells of french fries
Randy Gyllenhaal / Reporter
Need to get around campus this weekend? Why not take a colorful approach? Elon’s newest addition to its lineup of trams is a green and blue clad bus that runs entirely on an alternative energy source—soybeans.
This “bio-bus” is one of four expected to
eventually crawl throughout the campus. The current one
serves the outer loop route, making trips to and from
The tram runs on an environmentally friendly fuel called
bio-diesel—basically diesel fuel made from different
organic fat substances.
“Bio-diesel is an alternative diesel fuel that’s
made out of vegetable oil instead of petroleum oil,”
said Leif Forer, co-founder of an alternative fuel company in
Pittsboro. Piedmont Biofuels began distributing bio-diesel in
the Triad area last October.
The bio-bus gets eight miles to the gallon while serving
students. Though this may seem like a gas-guzzling amount,
Forer points out that bio-fuels are not made from petroleum
oil. Burning bio-diesel is less harmful to the environment
and reduces dependency on natural petroleum.
The words “BIOFUEL POWERED” and “Elon
Cares” are seen visibly on the tram’s side as a
symbol of Elon’s new commitment to cleaner energy.
Environmental Studies professors suggested the idea of the
bus as part of an “environmental initiative to raise
awareness,” said Will Mackin, an associate professor of
The letters “PART” can also be seen, as the bus
is partially sponsored by the Piedmont Authority for Regional
Elon’s student run Campus Climate Challenge, which has
helped to create environmental awareness in students, faculty
and school administration, is pleased to see that Elon has
stepped forward in alternative energies.
“The bio-bus is an incredible step in the right
direction and I’m really proud of all the effort that
is being put forth on campus,” said sophomore Christine
Irvine, president of the on-campus group.
The new bio-bus has also created opportunities for those
aside from Mother Nature.
“If you look at all the seats, there are signs that
say ‘handicap,’” part-time tram driver Carl
The bio-bus is the first handicap accessible tram on
Elon’s campus, which will allow disabled students to
get around more quickly. New features include a wheelchair
lift and handicap accessible seats.
Mackin and Irvine warn that bio-diesel is not the cure for
solving America’s environmental worries—or
Elon’s for that matter.
“Elon can do a lot more,” Irvine said.
“And I have faith that they will.”
The two agree that the new bio-bus is a great way to get
students to start thinking about alternative energies.
“What they [Elon] are trying to do is get air
pollution cleaned up,” Bodsford said. He added that the
fuel “stinks.” Since bio-fuel is derived from
fat, an odor similar to french fries often lingers outside
Bio-diesel will work in any diesel engine, while a modified
engine would need to built for vegetable oil
“I have a Volkswagen and I use vegetable oil and
bio-diesel,” Mackin said.
Mackin avoids using traditional diesel fuel because of the
harm it can cause to the environment. The “dirtiness of
our diesel fuel” turns him away from using it, he
“It has about 500 parts of sulfur. That’s a lot of sulfur,” Mackin said.