Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alt-fuel vehicles draw small but dedicated crowd

The technology is there, but the people aren't.
A display of 20 or so alternative-fuel vehicles on Friday had drawn only a handful of visitors by noon, illustrating what organizers say is their toughest challenge.
The one-day National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day Odyssey expo was hosted at East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa by the Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition to showcase hydrogen, electric and natural-gas-powered vehicles.
When it comes to switching to a vehicle that is less dependent on traditional fuel, there is little that stands in the way of the general public, except awareness and a stigma about alternative-fuel choices, said Bill Sheaffer, executive director of the Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition.
"There is sort of an atmosphere of putting down any kind of alternative fuel, and a lot of it is myth and urban legend," Sheaffer said.
It was a sentiment echoed by Mary Meadows, CEO of H2 Pure Power in Tempe, who was showing her fuel-supplementing hydrogen unit at the expo to anyone who would give her the time.
"We just want to educate people and dispel the myths about hydrogen," Meadows said.
One of those myths is that hydrogen is dangerous and that consumers would have to store and fill large tanks of it to fuel their car. "Everyone thinks that it's highly flammable because everyone thinks about the Hindenburg," she said. Meadows said her unit only converts small amounts of hydrogen from water and mixes it with regular fuel to help it burn more efficiently. While the unit doesn't replace regular fuel, it reduces emissions, cleans the engine and boosts gas mileage, she said.
Vendor Dave Bregant, a sales manager with SanTan Honda in Chandler, said the alternative-fuel industry is caught in a "chicken and the egg" dilemma.
While the infrastructure of fueling and charging stations is slowly growing, there is a need for more vehicles on the road to financially support that growth. It's frustrating, Bregant said, because he doesn't believe there has been enough effort from governments to support a large-scale switch to cleaner fuels.
"The technology is all there, they just won't let it out of the box," he said. It's true that infrastructure is still a challenge, Sheaffer said, but many vehicles are now designed to be more flexible to eliminate some of the anxiety about how far vehicles can venture from a specialized fueling or charging station. Some ethanol cars can now be fueled with regular gas, and regular diesel can substitute for bio-diesel in a pinch, he said.
"We now have personal vehicles that the public can take their pick from," he said. "Our goal is to get the word out." More here.

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