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AltCar Expo 2009:

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 fourth annual AltCar Expo and Conference at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3.

Several major manufacturers previewed their new alternative energy vehicles. Ford presented their 2010 Fusion Hybrid which can go more than 700 miles on one tank of gas because it can go up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. Also part of the new Ford Fusion is a new instrument cluster that helps drivers maximize the fuel efficiency features of the car.

Ford also presented its new 2010 Transit Connect electric van for commercial use in North America. Ford is collaborating with European based SEV-US who will assemble and manufacture the vans. They have a driving range of up to 100 miles after being charged for 6-8 hours, and can go as fast as 70 miles per hour.

Santa Monica Honda debuted as a Honda Civic GX natural gas dealer. Owners of these cars can fill up their vehicles at home with a special natural gas refueling system.

Also previewed at the Expo was Toyota’s newest solar 2010 Prius which uses solar energy to open and close its moonroof and to run its ventilation system.

Attendees also had the opportunity to test drive a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle developed by Nissan. Many believe that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be the domestically powered, zero emission fuel cars of tomorrow. According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership February 2009 Action Plan, several major automakers have already placed fuel cell cars in early market areas in Southern and Northern California in 2009. The goal of the plan is to build hydrogen stations to support these fuel cars through 2014. The plan focuses on Santa Monica, Irvine, Torrance, and Newport Beach and will be adding new communities as demand increases.

The Expo also included panel discussions on alternative fleets, vehicle and energy rebates and tax credits, energy infrastructure, and two panels on “Some Inconvenient Questions. The first addressed hydrogen, natural gas, propane and biofuels technology and the second panel discussed electric technologies, infrastructure and swappable batteries.

Mass transit options were also part of the Expo. Participating mass transit agencies included Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) and Metro. All BBB buses use alternative fuels such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Metro is currently working on the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Light Rail Phase II project that will link Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles. They also are working on the Subway to the Sea that will have several stops along Santa Monica’s portion of Wilshire Boulevard.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others had a one-hour private tour of the Altcar Expo after it closed to the public last Friday.

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