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AltCar Expo Debuts New Ideas:

Alternative vehicle test-drives, on-site purchase options, information booths, and expert panel discussions offered the public cutting-edge information on available options for cutting gasoline consumption and reducing carbon footprints at the third annual AltCar Expo and Conference at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last Friday and Saturday, September 26 and 27.

The Alternative Energy and Transportation Expo (AltCar) also featured several product debuts, including the West Coast debut of General Motors’s Chevy Voit. This new electric car can go as far as 40 miles on a single charge from a home outlet, and it contains an onboard range-extender powered by gas or E85 ethanol that will create additional electricity to extend the vehicle’s range to nearly 400 miles.

Making its U.S. debut was the Danish designed trioBike, which is designed as a bicycle with a two-seat buggy attached to its handlebars. Its components can be detached without tools so the buggy can become a stroller and the bike can be ridden separately.

There also was a worldwide introduction of the MIIN-AER Car from GIMM Inc. This proof-of-concept vehicle features the conversion of 1999 Porsche Boxster to a zero-emission compressed air engine. The Silicon Valley-based company hopes to be licensing the conversion technology and begin selling conversion kits soon.

Available to test drive and purchase was the Honda Civic GX, which is a natural gas car that can be refilled overnight at home through the use of a gas-refueling appliance. This Honda Civic, like some other alternative fuel cars on the market, is currently eligible for a $4,000 federal tax rebate, and state rebates may be possible as well; eligibility for such rebates depends on how many of that model car have been sold and an individual’s personal tax situation.

One of the speakers at the Expo was Chris Paine, the writer/director of the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? He emphasized that the “age of cheap oil is over so we need to change the way we think about making and using energy.” He also remarked that once you “control the energy that goes into your car” you are more predisposed towards looking at your energy use in other areas.

Another speaker was Rick Sikes, the City of Santa Monica’s Fleet Superintendent, who said that 84 percent of Santa Monica’s municipal fleet use alternative fuels such as electricity, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, or liquefied natural gas. He praised the use of natural gas because it is one of the cleanest fuels, is less expensive than petroleum, is domestically abundant, and is renewable. He also noted that California has the infrastructure throughout the state to recapture methane and convert it to natural gas. Eventually, consumers are going “to end up with a lot of regional fuels” as alternatives to gasoline, he predicted.

The AltCar Expo was sponsored by the City of Santa Monica, the California Energy Commission, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board, the California Fuel Partnership, Southern California Edison, Toyota, Honda, the National Biodiesel Board, the Propane Education Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Sustainable Works, and the Ambrose Hotel.

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