AutoblogGreen already covered the Europe-to-Mongolia Rally but since these guys will be running on Straight Vegetable Oil in the (sort of) competition, we and our colleagues at Autoblog en Español decided to get an interview with them. We talked about the movie they'll be making and just how they'll find their way without knowing a single word of most languages in the counties they'll be driving through.

AutoblogGreen: We're interviewing Pablo Ferrari, the director of the documentary film that will be shot during the adventures of the EcoChallenge team and director himself of the team. So please, Pablo, make us a short summary about you and your adventure.

Pablo Ferrari: The EcoChallenge team is one of the contestants of the Mongolian Rally. This is an non-competitive adventure event designed to raise money for different charities working in Mongolia in development projects. The rally itself starts either in London or Madrid, has a checkpoint in Prague and then we can choose among four routes to reach Ulanbataar, the capital of Mongolia.

ABG: The rally itself states that contestants should not use big cars or SUVs, actually they demand normal small cars under 1 liter....

PF: Yeah - The rally wants to raise money for charity, not destroy the environment polluting with big engines. In our case, an exception has been made, we use a 1.4 but they consider us "original" and with social interest. Our car works with straight vegetable oil, the same you can use at home for cooking - and better if it's already been used.

The interview continues after the jump.
The team
  • The team
  • From left to right: Pablo (director), Adrian, Felipe and Ricardo
  • Image Credit: Eco Challenge Team
Closeout of the main filter
  • Closeout of the main filter
  • Among other modifications to run on oil, diesel cars need custom filters like this
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge Team
The EcoChallenge car
  • The EcoChallenge car
  • Volkswagen Lupo 1.4 TDI
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge team
EcoChallenge Team
  • EcoChallenge Team
  • Side view of the contestant car. A VW Lupo 1.4 TDI
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge Team
The EcoChallenge
  • The EcoChallenge
  • Side view of the car. Suspension has been reinforced and raised
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge Team
The EcoChallenge Team Car
  • The EcoChallenge Team Car
  • The car also incorpores welded panels on the bottom for protection
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge Team
The EcoChallenge car just before departing
  • The EcoChallenge car just before departing
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge
Modifications in the engine bay
  • Modifications in the engine bay
  • Filtro secundario (secondary filter), Activador filtro secundario (sec. filter activator), Calentador por intercambio de calor (oil pre-heater), Filtro Principal (main filter)
  • Image Credit: EcoChallenge Team

ABG: We'll discuss later about the car itself but tell us a bit about the route.

PF: Our route are 16,000 km (10,000 miles). We'll cross all Europe from West to East until Turkey. We chose the southmost route from there crossing Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, a bit of Russia until we enter Mongolia from the east.

ABG: I hope you're using a GPS...

PF: It's forbidden! The route up to Kazakhastan can be made with regular maps and over more or less consistent roads. However, we've been told that after that there are barely dirt tracks and flooded rivers. I guess we'll have to ask the locals.

ABG: How's your Mongolian?

PF: We don't know a single word of it! One of us speaks a little bit of Russian - but we're all expert in facial expressions and signs.

ABG: So what can you tell us about the chosen car?

PF: It's a used Volkswagen Lupo 1.4 TDI (Diesel, 3 cyl. inline, 75 HP) that we converted at Elsbett in Germany. They have added features such as a double filter, oil pre-heating, new injectors... Our car runs with vegetable oil, either new or used. We have also added a solar panel and an accumulator because in case of used oil, we've got to warm it and pass it through a 0.5 micron filter. We prefer fuelling with waste oil.

ABG: Any more modifications? Additional fuel tanks?

PF: There's the SVO conversion. Elsbett did a neat job because we don't need an additional diesel tank to warm it. Besides that, we improved the suspension with stiffer springs and raised height. We have welded some aluminium protections under the car as well. Additionally, we will carry four additional 25-liter cans to store oil. Add the 35 liters from the tank and we have 135 liters (35 gallons) available... This allows us to run around 1500 km (950 miles), although the car consumption on normal roads is 5 liters / 100 km (50 mpg)

ABG: Why did you choose a vehicle like this? Why not a small regular gasoline car?

PE: Because besides of the charity aspect of this rally we wanted to raise awareness about the use of non-fossil fuels. Until the technology for 100 percent clean vehicles is ready, biofuels offer a reasonable middle-way technology that allows us to help protecting the environment. Biofuels can become the base for future improvements and are already available. SVO is even a pure vegetal product, so it's perfect for showcasing this technology.

ABG: Lots of people speak now about biofuels...

PF: Of course. But did you know that I still get asked if the car "farts" because of the oil or if the engine jiggers? Honestly, the car runs as smooth as silk.

ABG: Where are you going to get the oil from?

PF: Anywhere we can! (laughs). We have already spoken with some restaurants on the way, we have additional storage and we guess we will be able to buy oil somewhere, if necessary.

ABG: Besides the technology and the charity aspect of it, a documentary is going to be filmed during the rally. The film team will join the EcoChallenge in an additional car

PF: Yes... Thanks to Kanzaman productions, the adventure is going to be shot. Not only for the adventure aspect but also because we want to showcase a practical application of SVO as a viable biofuel. It's completely renewable and ready for everybody to be used. We must reduce pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels.

ABE: Who are you guys at the team?

PF: The two contestants are recent university graduates. Felipe Blanco is Industrial Engineer, a genius in mechanics and fuels. Then Adrián Vázquez, who studied laws and is a natural-born adventurer. Ricardo Gómez and me are the ones filming the adventure.

ABG: Thank you a lot and let's hope you can make it to Ulanbataar in good conditions.


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