#1201: 20 Miles Per Wood Chip

Did this car really run on wood chips?!

Original Air Date: 01.07.2012

   Best Moment :36

This week on Car Talk, Hans recalls fleeing from Germany during World War II in a car powered by woodchips, but he's never been able to figure out exactly how it worked. So who better than two car experts with MIT degrees to figure this out? Well, maybe anyone would be better in this case. Tom and Ray will likely do better helping David figure out how a three-pound bag of Hershey Kisses disappeared from his Civic overnight, and why his car now smells of melted chocolate. Elsewhere, Victoria's Mom needs to trade in her Corvette after surgery, so Victoria's wondering what car's right for a hip Mom with a new hip; Aaron's windshield wipers are stuck in a salute position; and, is Mary-Ellen wearing out her brakes parking in "The Gulch" every day? A box of doughnuts is riding on the answer, so this is serious business. All this and lots more, this week, on Car Talk.

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Steam powered cars during WWII

by Oldtimer2002

When my father was stationed in the Philippines during WWII, they were running cars with a boiler in the trunk and piping steam pressure directly to the intake manifold. They had modified the timing gears to the cam to be a 1:1 ratio and were using the engine as a steam engine with a valve in the steam line as a throttle.

Wood-Fired Vehicles

by fireworks

Most surprised that you had never heard of wood-fired cars. Actually, Vermont Castings, the wood stove company, retrofitted a bus to operate on wood back in the 1970s. Can be seen in some of their archival photos.

Favorite Moment: The chumps got stumped at their own game.

Car Running on Wood Chips

by Peter Max

I grew up in Germany near Hamburg and recall very well that during the last year of WW II my father drove a gasoline burning car that had been converted to run on charcoal. The charcoal was burned with insufficient oxygen in a cylindrical barrel mounted on the rear bumper and the gas was then injected into the cylinders. (Wikipedia describes that wood chips were used for the same purpose as well, in Germany and other countries.) In February of 1945 my father was able to drove this car, pulling a one-axle trailer loaded with bags of charcoal, from Hamburg to a town near Berlin to rescue my aunt and her three sons before the Russians occupied that area. The only luggage they could take out was what would fit onto the trailer in the place where the charcoal bags that had been used up on the first leg of the trip. I used to help clean that combustion system periodically; it was a very dirty job!

20 Miles Per Woodchip

by Running Dummy

MIT..? What does that stand for... Massachusetts Institute of Technology? They should make studying Mother Earth News part of the curriculum.... (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Transportation/1981-05-01/Wood-Gas-Truck.aspx) I’m so disappointed… Hopefully Hans will have his faith restored after the next program…. Seriously you should look at this website. It has an interesting discussion and explanation of how a wood gas generator was built…Hmmm, I wonder if that would void the warranty on my Ford Diesel….

Favorite Moment: Love every program...how do I get a cusshie job like that?

wood gasification fail

by nursemike

devastated that 2 mit engineers are ignorant of wood gas internal combustion engines. keep google upn a laptop while taping, it will save you kiester.

Favorite Moment: closing credits


by Farmall240

Strange but true. Gasoline for civilian use was very limited during those war years and many places--Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands--used wood to run delivery trucks and farm vehicles. All gasoline was diverted for military use. I helped build a few of these woodgas generators for Mother Earth News magazine in the early 1980's for trucks, generators, and a sawmill. Newer designs have improved the technology.

Wood burning (generator gas cars)

by volvomac

Woodburning cars were very commonly used in Sweden and Finland during WWII due to the extreme shortage of oil. You generate hydrogen and carbon monoxide by controlling the access of oxygen while burning wood chips. Most cars during the '40s were converted to this type by adding a "stove", usually in the back or trunk of the car. They are actually very effective, with 2000 lbs of wood corresponding to about 300 gallons of gasoline.

Wood burning car engines

by scoutcom

I was able to locate information on wwII wood burning vehicles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Planet_Mechanics_wood_gasifier.png and http://strangevehicles.greyfalcon.us/HOLZBRENNER%20VOLKSWAGENS.htm

Woodchip Rerun

by Blue-Wizard

I knew I had heard this show clip before...this archived discussion: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-170133.html discusses Hans and his woodchips way back in 2002 or 2003, and also mentions the Geena Davis callback. Also, the listing for Episode 0305 on cartalk.com confirms Geena's call-in. So, when did they start inserting old clips into new shows?

Favorite Moment: Still a great clip.

Woodchip Rerun?

by Blue-Wizard

I swear that I have heard this Woodchip clip several years ago on Car Talk. I remember many of the details. And then, I remember the subsequent week Geena Davis (I think!) called up and said that her father had had this contraption or something, and the guys at that point had received the correct answer, and imparted it at the same time as she called. I vaguely remember that this clip was even online for a while as a "best of" kind of thing. So, is this a recorded clip?

Favorite Moment: Still a great story.


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