Taming the Gas-Hogging SUV

Self-taught mechanic uses off-the-shelf technology to make Hummers green.

ByABC News
June 9, 2008, 11:11 AM

June 9, 2008 — -- Johnathan Goodwin walks to the back of his auto conversion shop in Wichita, Kan., and lifts up a gas nozzle connected to a huge cube-shaped container. He aims the nozzle at a clear plastic cup and squeezes the handle.

Out pours an orange-colored liquid that looks like a cross between iced tea and fruit punch.

"I always think when I'm pumping this stuff," said the 37-year-old, self-taught mechanic, "man, is this good for your motor?"

Watch David Kerley's report on Goodwin tonight on World News with Charles Gibson.

It better be. The orange stuff he's pumping is the key to his company's mission: converting the worst gas-gulping SUVs into cleaner, meaner machines.

"This is 100 percent canola oil, refined to biodiesel," Goodwin said.

His well-maintained shop is a bit like a showroom for that much-maligned symbol of environmental ruin: the Hummer.

Oddly, the brick walls of this shop that converts Hummers and other SUVs to run on cleaner alternative energies are dotted with nostalgic old signs for oil companies like Texaco and Mobil gas.

In one room, a bright yellow Hummer H-2 sits flanked by a silver H-1. Parked on the other side is a fire engine-red H-3 model owned by "Home Improvement" star Tim Allen. All the cars he shows off have been or will be converted by Goodwin and his team.

The silver H-1 which Goodwin says gets 60 miles per gallon has already been modified to run on biodiesel, diesel, vegetable oil, gasoline, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas and propane.

"Pretty much anything that you want to put into it," said Goodwin, the owner of H-Line Conversions.

On a standard gasoline-to-biodiesel conversion, Goodwin starts by taking a new nine-mile-per-gallon Hummer and removing the original gas engine. In goes an off-the-shelf GM Duramax engine that runs on diesel fuel.

A few extra modifications and a tank full of biodiesel later, the Hummer now boasting 500 horsepower and getting about 20 miles per gallon is ready for the road.