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Identify what you need to put aside – pt 15 – Vehicles

The next article in our series ‘Identify what you need to put aside‘ is Vehicles.

Here we are looking at vehicles, for transport in a bug out situation and for general utility/transport use. Initially there will be dozens of vehicles driving around but they will soon stop as fuel is unavailable, it will only be a day or so, and only those that have prepared will be mobile. Fuel will be a valuable commodity and long before people go hungry the shortage of fuel will cause violence.

What do we have now?
Currently the bulk of our transport system is based around fossil fuels despite all the marketing spiel about renewable resources. The electric car needs electricity from coal, gas or nuclear power stations. The hybrid car needs electricity and fossil fuels. The bulk of the vehicles in the UK still run on diesel or petrol, planes run on kerosene, trains run on electric or diesel, buses run on diesel and natural gas while boats use diesel or the wind and all of our agricultural vehicles use diesel or kerosene.

Very few people use horses or animals for utility nowadays. See this article on Power for more background details but many still use the pedal bike for local transport.

What did we use in the past?
In the past we walked, pedalled bikes and used oxen and horses as transport. For utility we used our own muscles, oxen and horses for pulling and lifting.

What options will we have?
Clearly those that walk, use pedal bikes or ride horses will still have those options providing you can feed the horse and keep it secure from cooks or thieves. The bike obviously being a target for thieves and hungry descendants of Michel Lotito. You never hear of oxen now and I suspect they are rarely used in the UK.

Depending on the scenario your vehicle may be useless from day one. An EMP will fry all the latest electrics and make your super new car a very expensive road block. Without spares you can simply swap out you will be unable to get that sophisticated electronic marvel up and running again. Even if we do not have an EMP there will be no replacement of fuel at your local garages and thus the fuel you already possess is a valuable commodity. It should be used wisely.

The easy access to transport we have had the last few decades will have changed overnight and no longer will vehicles be seen as a necessity for everyone. They will have moved up into the luxury bracket as several issues will quickly become apparent.

  • Fuel
  • Spares
  • Security

With stored petrol you would be able to keep going until your fuel ran out. Make sure you have plenty and remember the octane degrades over time so your engine had better not be too fussy. Make sure you have lots.

With the stored diesel you have you would keep your vehicle going on essential duties until you manage to set up and process bio fuels. Just ensure you have enough fuel put aside. Bio fuels can be grown or made from cooking oil. I would envisage that everyone would be trying that and cooking oil would quickly disappear from the shops and chip shops. If you cannot grow your own then you will be reliant on other methods.

Gas is another fuel used in cars. I suspect when that runs out you will be out of luck unless you vehicle handles duel fuels.

If you have an electric vehicle I suspect you will be well out of luck. It takes 8 hours or so plugged into a steady 240V supply to charge an electric vehicle and that gives basic transport and not any real utility power.

Well, first of all Lamborghini won’t be delivering any spare parts for your latest tractor, the Diablo, so you had better look after it and replace the parts that fail with home made ones. Lights and general fitting are not an issue but engine and main drive parts will be. It is unlikely that you will be able to store or rig up enough parts to cover all eventualities and one major component failing, no matter how minor, will make the vehicle unusable. Go for a common car, a diesel, that you will find abandoned all over the place and can scavenge for spares. Even then it may be irreparable but it increases your chances. The engine parts normally last much longer than the chassis and thus you could migrate your old diesel engine to a new chassis because it runs on bio fuels and the original engine does not. If you have the space a spare scrapped car (or two) would be worth keeping just for the spares. My old banger which does run on bio fuels will be worth a bit then. If you do keep spare vehicles then you must remember the Stasi like to keep tabs on the plebs who have cars to make sure they pay their tab so you will need to complete a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) or register a scrapped vehicle. I’ve heard of people selling their cars to non existent people and sending in the forms to DVLA to avoid this but of course I wouldn’t suggest you do this as we are law abiding people.

Vehicles make a lot of noise and others will see and hear them whilst they are out and about. They, more likely the fuel, will be subject to theft and hijacking at first as people are fighting to get home or simply for whatever food and supplies are on board. If you are on your way home then it could be the difference between life and death but if it is just around your local area it will be less of an issue and not worth risking your life over. I don’t see a Mad Max scenario where people are blocking roads and hijacking vehicles lasting after the first few months because traffic will die to a minimum and it won’t give enough returns. Once things settle down though vehicles will be a luxury with only a few having the capabilities of running one and so stealing one will be a waste of time as it will soon run out of fuel and be traceable.

As we have to keep them in reasonable repair and also keep them fed with fuel we need to ensure that we are getting the maximum benefit from that significant investment.

So what use will vehicles be then?
Post event vehicles will be used for one, or more, of four reasons.

  • Bug Out Vehicles
  • Get Home Vehicles
  • Utility Vehicles
  • General Transport Vehicles

Bug Out Vehicles
This one is going to be for almost immediately after the event or for a pre scheduled time later by arrangement, and used to travel to a pre arranged place which will be used as a retreat. The reasoning behind this is basically to move away from large groups of people and make a new life for your group. The vehicle, which could be a pedal bike, car, horse, plane, bus, boat or even a skateboard, obviously needs to have sufficient capacity for your group to travel to the new area so, depending on distance; it requires a stock of fuel, water, food and tools necessary to repair any damage to the vehicle. In the UK you can travel from one end of the country, worst case, on two tanks of fuel although most journeys will be within the range of a tank of fuel. Even then you will have a Jerry can of fuel anyway. Unless of course your choice of bug out vehicle is based on its colour or marque alone. I would suggest you don’t do that. You should be able to reach your retreat in a day or, at the most, two days no matter what vehicle you use.

Get Home Vehicles
This one is going to be less of a Bug Out vehicle and more of an ‘I’m here and I need to get home vehicle’. It is likely to be whatever vehicle you are in at the time and your fuel, food and water situation will be whatever you have at hand. There is a real possibility that you will be unable to top up with fuel at any cost. You will simply be getting on the road and heading home hoping for the best and that traffic keeps flowing. Most will be unprepared, otherwise this would be a Bug Out Vehicle, and will rely on making the journey without drink or food and getting sustenance at journeys end. These will make the bulk of the abandoned vehicles blocking the roads.

Utility Vehicles
These are vehicles used to provide power for agriculture, haulage or construction. Tractors, delivery vehicles, diggers, bulldozers, etc, they will be used locally and won’t travel that much. In fact it would probably be better if the fuel used to power them was stored away from the vehicle to deter causal theft. No fuel means they won’t go far. A utility vehicle can do in a few hours what it would take a team of people weeks to do but it needs a very expensive resource fuel and that is going to be an expensive hit on your resources to produce. Luckily more utility vehicles run on diesel and most are going to be able to be run on bio fuels. Even so, it will require processing and the resources invested will be significant.

Additionally, horses and oxen have been used for decades, just not the last 4, as beasts of burden to provide utility. Horses and Oxen can drag ploughs like tractors, haul lumber and haulage and drive shafts for drilling, pumping and lifting. Of course they have their own fuel supply issues but their fuel does not need refining and they get a most of it themselves in the summer just requiring looking after in the winter. Like everything in life there are differences in types and while a Shire Horse can pull a significant load a normal horse will be dead in the harness. Choose wisely.

General Transport Vehicles
It will be a long time before people use cars to travel anywhere. Horses, pedal bikes or walking will be the transport of choice. I would guess some old motor bikes would be converted to bio fuels but these will be few and far between. Most modern motor bikes require refined fuels for their high revving engines and old motor bikes are collector pieces. Horses require food and while pedal bikes and walking are human powered the fuel required is from your food consumption. Horses hate me so I’ll be looking at having horse curry and using the energy consumed to power a pedal bike but if you have access to horses they are better than pedal bikes or walking.

What can I do to prepare?
Well, I would look very carefully at the cars you purchase from now on. No Ferraris unless you can also afford something more sensible as well.
If your vehicle is for a Bug Out Vehicle ensure it is always fully loaded with your Car Survival Kit and is always refuelled. It needs to be kept well maintained. Keep spare fuel in a jerry can in the car and always make sure you have enough to get you and your vehicle to your retreat in a few hours. Your Bug Out Vehicle needs to be solid, reliable, capable of running off road and fast enough to get away from trouble. It may be chased, blocked or the tyres blown out. Best if it can handle all of that. There will be more articles on this.
If you vehicle is your get to work, or works vehicle, you may not have an option on what it is. You should of course always have a jerry can full of fuel and a Car Survival Kit it in there anyway.
I would also make sure you have a simple pedal bike in your kit. One for each of you and nothing too complicated. It is all well and good having suspension and 18 gears but the more complicated it is the more can go wrong and who really uses those 18 gears anyway?
If you have horses then you should ensure you have everything you need to look after them and feed them for a year. If you live by, or near, a field with horses then you may benefit from learning how to ride and knowing where the tack is kept. You might find one stuck in the field which you could acquire at some stage.

What are you looking at?
I’ve already got a pedal bike. It has 5 gears, comfy seat with a bell and knobbly tyres. Good enough for my requirements.
I have 100+ Litres of diesel stored and planning to buy several more jerry cans and fill them up. I have 100+ Litres of old cooking oil intended for conversion to bio fuel. I have the instructions and looking at buying the key ingredients, another thing that needs lye btw, and storing them.
For my vehicle, I’m looking at something like an old diesel Land Rover. The reason being they are solid, reliable, spare parts are readily available and you can buy newer versions. They can come fitted with tow bars, winches and roll bars. They can act as tractors, haulage or personnel transport and the older ones are simple to maintain. A couple of cheap working ones, a few scrapped ones and some selected spare parts, readily available, and some manuals would be my aim. Convert them to run on vegetable oil as others have done and you have a solid workhorse, this one being more than one HP.

Next up is part 16 in the series, Education and Entertainment.

5 comments to Identify what you need to put aside – pt 15 – Vehicles

  • Skvez

    EMPs are not *guaranteed* to destroy your vehicles electronics, the vehicle is itself a partial faraday_cage and the limited cable runs on the car reduce the areal effect of picking up the EMP. Depending on how close the EMP is, there is still a good chance your vehicle survives.
    Also how afraid of EPM are we in the UK? I’d say less so than our American colleagues.

    Remember that if you’re wisely limiting the use of your vehicle that most vehicles these days leave some electronics powered up even when the key is ‘off’ (the car alarm being one obvious thing) and this slowly drains the battery. The manufacturer assumed that the vehicle would be driven at least once a week and that this would keep the battery charged. If you save your vehicle for emergency or occasional use it would be advisable to disconnect the battery or have some form of battery top up (such as a little solar battery ‘charger’ (maintainer)) so that when you *do* need to use it; there is enough charge left in the battery to start it.

    Be careful making assumptions like you can travel the length of the country on two tanks of fuel. Post-event the roads are likely to be a mess with abandoned vehicles and traffic incidents blocking many roads. Expect to need to take many detours on your route. Having a vehicle that’s robust enough to shunt abandoned vehicles out of the way might pay for the increase in fuel consumption such a vehicle will use. Most cars shunt nicely if you push at the back axle (they sort-of pivot around the front axle).

    Few of us can afford to keep a horse in the shed, most of us can afford a bicycle. The bicycle is still the most efficient form of transport ever designed.

  • Skean Dhude


    I’m not so sure about that. The UK is still a good target for the bad guys with nukes and we are sure to get one on every major city and with the relative size of the country we will get swamped with EMP. In addition our cars are very sensitive to the slightest things now. Electrics get fried if you pull the battery leads off wrong nowadays. I think we are a lot more susceptible than our US friends.

    I agree about disconnecting the battery and topping it up with a solar charger. It is a good plan to do that now if you infrequently use a vehicle.

    You are right about the length of the country on two tanks. I was just pointing out we are a small country compared to most. In addition as the milage goes down the tank size goes up, in general, so we still have a good range on a tank. Most people will not travel anywhere near that distance. I would guess if you are shunting vehicles off the road you are in big trouble. It means you are the first there and there are more chances of being ambushed, your tyres or vehicle damaged and/or disabled and you bumping into survivors.

    I won’t be keeping a horse but some already do. Everyone should have a bike.

  • Silent Storm

    You mention that Octane degrades over time, can you give me any indication on how long diesel can be stored before it becomes unusable? and is it safe to just store it in your shed / garage ?

  • Skean Dhude

    The more processing there is the quicker it degrades. In addition as the turnover of fuel is measured in weeks rather than months most suppliers actually change the additives as the weather changes. In the UK that isn’t too much of an issue but elsewhere what you buy and store in summer may gel in winter. Be aware. Fuel, like everything else likes a cool dark place. Also, fill the containers up to the brim. The fuel doesn’t like air.

    Petrol degrades fast; 6 months storage but is said be extended to 10 years with a yearly addition of fuel additives. I’ve found though that the lower the octane your vehicle requires the longer it takes to degrade past there and I’ve had fuel with no additives last 18 months.

    Diesel is less refined and will last for 2 or 3 years. It too can be extended by yearly addition of fuel stabilisers. I have recently used a container in my car that has been there 4 years with no issues.

    Vegetable oil lasts about 5 years before it starts to go off in the pantry. I suspect that makes it useless for fuel and eating.

  • Skvez

    @Silent Storm.
    Looks like Skean has already answered your message while I was composing this. It’s mostly what he said already:

    Diesel degrades through a number of processes
    Oxidation: which can be reduced by keeping the diesel in full sealed containers and ensuring that it is free from catalysts (such as copper)
    Dust / Dirt: which can be reduced by keeping the diesel in clean sealed containers.
    Temperature: There isn’t a lot you can do about this but cool diesel degrades slower than warm diesel.
    Fungus growth: This is greatly accelerated by the presence of water. This can be minimised by keeping the diesel in full sealed containers (limited ‘air’ for water to condense out of).

    Given all these factors it isn’t easy to put a time scale on the storage of diesel but a year is probably a good rule of thumb before starting to take additional measured to extend the life.
    Additional measures would include:
    * Periodic draining of water
    * Periodic (say monthly) pumping through a filter to remove traces of bacterial/fungal growth before it spreads and filter any gum that has formed. Filters will get clogged up, you will need a few.
    * Addition of preservatives such as fungicides and anti-oxidants (these are nasty chemicals to deal with)

    With these additional measures you might be looking at 5 years. However the original composition of your diesel has an effect that’s difficult for you to predict and can change the storage time significantly.

    Diesel is a lot safer to store than petrol, diesel in liquid form isn’t particularly flammable (only the vapour is). As to how ‘safe’ it is that depends on how much and what it’s stored in. Diesel is similar to home heating oil and you probably have a tank of 1000 Litres of that beside your garage.

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