Biodiesel Fuels the Clean Cruiser Project

Posted on August 9th, 2019

Headshot of Don ScottWhat started as a couple of pals looking for their next adventure soon turned into a carbon-cutting crusade for Steven Ploog and Nathan Stuart. After the initial idea of fixing up two old Toyota Land Cruisers and driving down to Panama, the two came up with an interesting challenge.

The two decided to do a trip entirely carbon neutral.

The Land Cruiser originated as a utilitarian, four-wheel-drive vehicle patterned off the American Jeep but is perhaps more ubiquitous internationally and often associated with the wildest regions of the world. The spartan appointments of a vintage Landcruiser are meant to get you to any spot on the globe with reliable performance, but not with so much comfort that the occupants feel separated from the wild terrain. Steve and Nathan’s Land Cruisers retain that rough-and-tumble character but contain one important modern upgrade. Cummins Inc. has recently become the first engine manufacturer to market common rail diesel engines direct to consumers for retrofitting existing vehicles. Common rail technology makes the reliable diesel workhorse a clean powertrain capable of doubling or tripling the fuel economy of existing vehicles. With Cummins engines in hand, the partners started filming their progress restoring both vehicles and installing brand new engines. This gave the friends the opportunity to reach more people and influence them to be a little more conscious of the environment and promote conversation efforts around the world.

With that, the Clean Cruiser Project — now an official nonprofit organization — was born. The idea is to produce a web-based reality series which will focus on conservation efforts around the world, and, of course, the vehicles themselves. The goal of the project is to now plant over 10,000 trees in 2019. These trees planted by Clean Cruiser partners will offset nearly five times the carbon emissions of their vehicle travels.

Once Ploog and Stuart got the ball rolling on the idea, they started receiving some much-needed sponsorship support. Cummins donated the two engines and offered support through their service locations through Mexico and Central America. Tread Lightly and C.F. Martin Guitar are among nearly 30 additional sponsors. Members of the National Biodiesel Board, including Imperial Western Products, Crimson Renewables, and New Leaf Biofuels have provided biodiesel for their expeditions.

Steven Ploog and Nathan Stuart with Toyota Land Cruiser

Ploog and Stuart with Toyota Land Cruiser powered by biodiesel. Picture from the Clean Cruiser Project Facebook page.

Cummins, like all US diesel manufactures approves blends of 20 percent (B20) biodiesel in their engines. Since biodiesel reduces emission by 85 percent compared to petroleum diesel, this reduces the carbon footprint they are seeking to offset by planting trees.

During the months of May and June the Clean Cruiser Project drove over 18,000 vehicle miles, made carbon-neutral through biodiesel and by planting over 600 trees along the way. These trees planted so far contribute to the goal of planting 10,000 trees during the year 2019., The friends don’t intend to stop exploring. Rather, they are just getting started. They have proven biodiesel and the Cummins R2.8 retrofit engines are a practical way to go exploring and prove that it can be done while reducing emissions.

To make outreach opportunities like these possible, we want to thank our NBB members for supporting their journey and providing biodiesel. Our members continue to demonstrate that biodiesel is a reliable, and cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Thank you.

To track Stuart and Ploog’s travels, you can follow them on Instagram and YouTube.

Don Scott serves as the Director of Sustainability for the National Biodiesel Board. His previous experiences in protecting water resources include eleven years as an Environmental Engineer for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Chief of Surface Water for the Missouri Water Resources Center. He can be reached at dscott@biodiesel.org.

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