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Biodiesel bike departs on eco trip around nation

Paul Carter on the biodiesel motorbike, 'Betty'.

Paul Carter on the biodiesel motorbike, 'Betty'.
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Monday, 7 September 2009

A former oil driller will strike a blow for the environment tomorrow when he starts an epic journey around Australia, riding a University of Adelaide biodiesel bike fuelled by used cooking oil.

Paul Carter will depart on the 20,000km trek from outside Elder Hall on the University's North Terrace campus at 10am on Tuesday 8 September, farewelled by Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison.

The 40-year-old author and former offshore oil rigger will ride an award-winning biodiesel bike nicknamed "Betty", built by the University's Mechanical Engineering students in 2007.

The BioBike, which runs on used cooking oil and waste fats, won acclaim for generating minimal greenhouse gas emissions in completing a 3000km trek in 2007 between Darwin and Adelaide in seven days.

Mr Carter says his journey will hopefully raise awareness of the potential of used cooking oil as a viable alternative to hydrocarbons as a fuel source for farming.

The motorcycle enthusiast says after spending 20 years in the oil industry, he is interested in giving something back to the environment.

"I will sit on about 95km/h riding `Betty' and expect to use about 650 litres of vegetable oil for the duration of the trip," he says.

Mr Carter is well-known in the oil exploration industry and has written two books on his experiences in that world: Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse and This Is Not a Drill.

The biodiesel bike was conceived by Dr Colin Kestell, coordinator of the Automotive Engineering program at the University of Adelaide, and built by students within the School of Mechanical Engineering.

Releasing just 71 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled on the Adelaide-Darwin trip in 2007, the BioBike won the major environment award in the Panasonic World Solar Challenge Greenfleet Technology Class that year. Its fuel efficiency was 3.5 litres per 100km.

"This experience showed that biodiesel can be used to power a commercial-type vehicle over long distances and that it can have a significant, positive impact on the environment," Dr Kestell says.

Mr Carter will start his journey in Adelaide, head south to Melbourne and then up the east coast of Australia to Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin before travelling anti-clockwise around the continent. He is expecting to finish in November.

Adelaide City Council is supporting a number of projects to become a more sustainable city, including launching solar panels to power the Rundle Lantern and commissioning Tindo, the world's first solar-powered electric bus.

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