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Event Calendar

World Biofuels Symposium
November 13-15, 2005
Beijing, China

2nd Annual Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit
December 13-15, 2005
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Hosted by:
Candadian Renewable Fuels Association

National Biodiesel Conference & Expo 2006
February 5-8, 200
San Diego, California
National Biodiesel Board

11th Annual National Ethanol Conference: "Policy & Marketing"
February 20-22, 200
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Sponsored by:
Renewable Fuels Association

22nd Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo
June 20-23, 200
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

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Event History

Free Booklet Download:
Fuel Ethanol: A Technological Evolution



Posted on  

May 24, 2001

With Gas Prices High, Green Vehicles Enjoying Spotlight

Gas was cheap, alternative-fuel vehicles weren't available to the general public, and the ones being designed looked more like space ships than cars. It was mostly engineering ``geeks'' who came to see the annual parade of student-designed vehicles.

Things have changed considerably, says organizer Mary Hazard, of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

With record-high gas prices, average folks are paying more attention to the energy-efficient vehicles traveling through the northeast this week for the tour, now called the Great American Green Transportation Festival.

And unlike 1989, the automobile makers are here -- companies like Honda, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler. They're not only sprinkling research money, using the event as a way to show off their own designs and products.

Honda's Insight, for instance, debuted in 1999, and a few thousand have been sold. It gets 70 miles to the gallon, compared to the average 24.5 miles for 2001 models sold this year. It can travel from Washington D.C. to Chicago on a single tank of gas.

Professor Darryl Dowty, who led a team of engineers from Central Connecticut State University to the event, knows students may no longer be on the cutting edge now that big automakers are investing money in fuel efficiency.

That's fine with him.

``I think they're going to beat us to the punch,'' said Dowty, standing beside the truck and a motorbike built by his team. Each was powered by a combination of batteries, solar energy and propane. ``But that's good. That's our job, to get people who do this for a living to build these things.''

The event moves to Greenfield on Thursday and finishes Saturday in Boston. Organizers and participants say it's about teaching the public, and cultivating high school and college students into a new generation of fuel efficiency engineers.

Honda spokesman Michael Tebo, who surveyed the 50 vehicles on display this year, said the technology is so young even the big carmakers need all the new ideas they can get.

``What I see this year is much more diverse entrants,'' Tebo said. ``We're in transition in terms of what the next big technology is going to be, and these guys are trying all sorts of different things.''

Among the entries are a two-seat electric car that can reach 90 miles per hour, and an assortment of ``neighborhood'' vehicles that could be used for short trips through residential areas or to deliver commuters to mass transit points.

Some vehicles still have that space ship look, with a solar ``sail'' or an odd aerodynamic shape. But increasingly, the vehicles look like normal cars.

That's important to Rita Dorgan, a local resident who visited the festival when it stopped this week in Pittsfield.

``Now with this gas problem that seems to be a perennial thing, we're now considering a more efficient vehicle,'' she said.

This year's tour began just after President Bush unveiled his new energy plan. It calls for $4 million in tax credits to spur sales of hybrid gas-electric vehicles.

Environmentalists have been cool to the overall proposal, complaining it emphasizes increasing energy supplies over conservation.

Despite the progress in design and bringing down cost, widespread use of vehicles that run on electricity and fuels other than gasoline is still years away.

Cost and range are factors, though the Insight is down to about $19,000. The biggest challenge may be infrastructure -- who would buy a car when the fuel it needs can't be bought at the local service station?

Another question is how much fuel is really saved by such vehicles. For instance, ethanol, which is made from corn, may burn cleaner in cars. But is it cleaner overall, if the fuel used by diesel tractors to harvest and transport the corn is considered?

That was a concern of Dorgan's husband, Robert, a retired engineer, who said he's suspicious of ethanol but understands the technology is still in its infancy.

``It doesn't make much sense,'' he said. ``But sometimes, you have to do things that aren't sensible to get to the sensible.''

Hazard says such concerns are valid, and says she simply points to the progress made in the 12 years since the tour began.

``The quality of the vehicles is light years beyond the quality of what we saw in the beginning,'' she says.



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