From 1930 to 1987 the Lister company made diesel motors for pumps, generators, and general-purpose use, using mostly the same design of big, slow-speed, heavy flywheels and simple, easily-repaired parts. The Lister company then sold the designs. Today there are many Indian and Chinese companies that produce Lister copies (aka: “Listeroids”) for export. These are fairly faithful to the original design — with varying quality. The price for these engines *per kilowatt* is cheap, when compared to the more commonly found gasoline-powered generators, though they are not very portable. What is truly amazing is the efficiency of the Lister: one user reports an average of 8000 watts and 0.3 gallons of diesel per hour. They can be made nearly silent with cheap car mufflers or a water muffler. They run fairly cool, and home-built radiators (water tanks, house radiators, car radiators) seem to work well. These slow-rotating workhorse machines are good for nearly 100% duty cycle if properly maintained. (A 100% duty cycle means running 24/7, with no down time due to heat and lubrication needs). The Listers can run all the time, and there are even some people who have figured out how to do oil changes while the motor is still running, thus removing even the lubrication issues. Their efficiency and raw power makes them perfectly suited for electrical generation for long-term use versus “emergency-only” generators which have an extremely short lifespan. They are also works of mechanical art, and will keep a mechanically-minded hacker occupied for weeks, experimenting and tuning. I’m sure that vegetable oil or waste motor oil would work as fuel in these engines as well, but more research is needed.
There are quite a few US-based vendors for engines and gensets. You’d still need to rig a mount for it (concrete pad) and a radiator. This is as close to a “complete” system as you can get. The utterpower.com website sells a cheap CD with loads of useful information; well worth the cost before you start looking.
[The editor of the Utterpower website, which previously sold the engines, explains that the EPA has made these engines illegal to sell. Most people buy a short block, and build the engine themselves. -cc]
One home-built Listeroid-powered 7.5 kilowatt generator with water-tank cooler.