Student starts alternative fuel taxi service

Erica Terrini

News Editor

Beginning June 1, Richmond’s taxi users will have the opportunity to ride green.

Joey Anderson, a sophomore mass communications major, is starting a biodiesel taxi service with his brother, Jeff Anderson, an alumnus.

BioTaxi will start June 1 and serve the fan, downtown and other city areas around the VCU campuses.

Joey Anderson said using biodiesel is cheaper for taxi users and better for the environment. He said he and his brother make the fuel and will drive a 1999 Mercedes model car.

“We are trying to accommodate to anyone who uses taxis in Richmond and especially VCU students,” Joey Anderson said.

The Commonwealth Times: When and how did you decide to start BioTaxi?

Joey Anderson: A year ago I was working at Wendy’s and just flipping burgers and I saw where all the grease was going, and I wondered how easy it was to make bio diesel. I did a lot of research for the past year and I actually found out it’s easier than you think.

I tried to think of an advantage of making our own fuel because it costs a lot cheaper than buying fuel at the pump. We thought about reselling it but that didn’t work and then we thought why not just do a taxi service?

The CT: What did your research show?

Anderson: We found out that it’s pretty expensive if you want to resell oil in America or if you want to make your own gasoline but it’s way, way better for the environment and it’s like using all sources (that are) homegrown. You’re using the soy plants, which are grown in Ohio or wherever and then it’s used in fast food restaurants and then we use it again as fuel but it’s biodegradable.

The CT: So, how exactly do you make biodiesel?

Anderson: It’s pretty complicated. You take the raw grease and then you add a little bit of methanol and you just heat it for about 24 hours and then you heat it again for another 24 hours and you just have to drain a little bit of the stuff and then you’re pretty much good to go–that’s the simplified version. You can get machines that pretty much do it for you. We’re leasing one right now and then we’re going to buy our own.

The CT: What is the cost benefit to biodiesel?

Anderson: A normal gallon of diesel right now is $2.90 and we’re paying like a $1.50 and diesels get better gas mileage than normal cars anyway. So, we’re getting anywhere between 25 and 36 miles to the gallon and we’re getting better fuel economy and paying for cheaper gas.

The CT: Are there other benefits besides the cost and environmental impact?

Anderson: Anybody can use a taxi. My brother and I, we did some research, and we rode around in different taxis and none of them were good experiences. So having the Mercedes–we think that is a little bit more professional and you want to be just really professional about it so we can go to businesses downtown and say that you can travel with us and at school, for instance, (we can provide rides for students).

The CT: What kind of feedback have you both received?

Anderson: We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback–because this is really unique. There’s one in Oregon and think there’s one in Texas but as far as we know there’s no one on the East Coast that does it.

The CT: Who is your target consumer?

Anderson: It depends on the time of day honestly. In the morning it might be around hotels, and then during the day it may be (at VCU) and maybe at night probably down in Shockoe Bottom.

The CT: Have you faced any other challenges since starting BioTaxi?

Anderson: We’re making our own fuel but we have to pay a tax on it at our own accord. Like when you buy a gallon at the pump the tax is already included so we’re not evading it, I don’t want people to think that we are and then try and shut us down. (Another) big problem is getting commercial insurance. We have everything else good to go to be licensed in Virginia but commercial insurance. We have two months so by then we should have it. Also, cars aren’t really made to run on vegtable oil. A lot of cars actually take it really well and can run 400,000 miles and some of them don’t. We’re a little nervous but I’m sure it will be fine.

For more information about BioTaxi, visit the BioTaxi Facebook page or call 926-0393.

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