How Wood Burning Trucks Helped Beat WWII Gas Shortages

An interesting piece of forgotten technology

Grant Piper
5 min read5 days ago
Wood burning Opel truck (Public domain)

During World War II, many essential materials and supplies were rationed in order to support the war effort. Everything from nylon to aluminum was in short supply. One of the biggest commodities that was affected by the war was gasoline. Huge amounts of gas and oil were being burned from the Pacific to the Eastern Front. Thousands of tanks and trucks guzzled gasoline at an incredible pace. Large warships also sucked up thousands of gallons of fuel oil, not to mention the thousands of planes that were also tapping into the global fossil fuel supply. The result was that gasoline was in short supply. As the war went on, the supply of gasoline became dire, especially for the Axis powers.

In a bid to skirt around the fuel problem, countries turned to an ingenious piece of technology that has been largely forgotten. During World War II, people started rigging their automobiles and trucks to run on wood gas. Wood gas was produced by special generators and could then be used to power an internal combustion engine.

Internal combustion engines are powered by pressurized gasses. Today, these engines generate these gasses via gasoline. But in the 1940s and 1950s, people shunned gasoline for wood power. If properly built and rigged, a car…

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.