Maine-bound truck burns wood chips

Posted May 23, 2009, at 12:54 p.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — A pickup truck that was modified in Alabama to burn wood chips for fuel was headed to Maine with its new owners behind the wheel of the bright green vehicle they call “Termite.”

Auburn, Maine, businessman Ford Reiche and his son George left Birmingham, Ala., last Tuesday, in the 1991 Dodge Dakota pickup. A device in the bed of the truck roasts the chips to form a wood gas, which is cooled, filtered and fed into the engine. The truck has a gasoline-powered backup system, according to Reiche’s blog, http:///blog.safehandling.com.

It was modified to be green-powered by farmer-inventor Wayne Keith, who has driven 15,000 miles in the vehicle, including a trip from Alabama to California and back last year. He’s now working on a new prototype.

When burning chips, the truck burns one pound of wood for each mile driven, or about 5,000 miles per cord.

The Lewiston Sun Journal said Reiche was investigating wood-to-energy technology for his company, Safe Handling Inc., when a friend told him about Keith’s wood-burning truck. Keith agreed to sell the truck earlier this year.

Safe Handling is a bulk-product transportation company that operates what its Web site calls the largest rail-to-truck trans-loading facilities in New England.

The “Termite” is equipped with a complex array of gauges and guides, and the operator must carefully monitor the temperature and air pressure of the wood burner.

Reiche’s blog entry said he and his son were in western Pennsylvania on Friday. “Hills hills hills,” he wrote. “For two days we have had constant hills.”

Earlier, when running low on fuel in West Virginia, they drove into an automotive repair garage, where they were given “the tail end of last winter’s fire wood pile.” They also threw in some coal, which made the wood gas burn hotter.

Reiche wrote that the wood gas equipment is quieter than the gasoline-powered backup engine.

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