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Alternative Fuels: Possibilities Far Beyond Passenger Cars


The Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) exposition rolled into Long Beach, California, last week to examine options available right now to use alternative fuels to their optimal advantage.

Focusing on everything vehicular--from clean diesel, mild hybrids, compressed and liquid natural gas, propane, hydrogen and partial/full electric power--the ACT also delved into fleet and commercial uses that could have big financial ramifications on how goods get hauled across the country.

Today, the number of refueling stations offering the flexibility of alternative clean fuels is growing.  In California, more than 300 such stations are now available for use by the general public and commercial entities.

Storage tanks for commercial and fleet usage, which enable propane conversions, are getting easier to find--as is the bio-diesel option for those who prefer diesel power.

As well as workshops that introduced new technologies, the conventional center floor was crowded with expo displays of vehicles and parts, and conversion systems available to both the general public and to fleet managers.

For a first exposition, this one was well attended: 1300 on-site visitors took in almost 90 different displays. The emphasis on the show floor was on commercial and fleet uses, while outside, ride-and-drive vehicles were offered to the public on the third and final day of the gathering.

2010 Honda Civic GX natural-gas vehicle, Los Angeles, November 2010

2010 Honda Civic GX natural-gas vehicle, Los Angeles, November 2010

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In addition to such standards as the BMW 335d and X5 xDrive35d clean diesel vehicles, Honda brought its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and the Civic GX natural-gas sedan that's been available for over a decade. Ford brought the 2011 Fusion Hybrid for drives, and Buick brought its mild hybrid 2012 Lacrosse with eAssist sedan.

There were also fully electric pickup trucks, a GMC Sierra pickup that uses either gasoline or propane from a tank mounted below the body (total weight gain is about 200 pounds), and propane school buses.

And there was more: Freightliner CNG/LNG-propelled tractors, natural-gas Chevy Express cargo vans and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, as well as a Ford E-250 cargo van, and a Ford Crown Victoria dual-fuel police interceptor that ran on either gasoline or propane.

The two-hour driving period, encompassing more than 30 cars and trucks onsite, proved very popular with attendees.

Some were then driven to their personal vehicles in an Ecoliner electric bus, one of three in use by Foothill Transit in the Pomona, California, area. The local transit authority intends to have 10 of these clean, quiet buses in operation by the end of this year.

[top photo: Foothill Transit's electric bus; photographer: Anne Proffit]

© 2011 Anne Proffit

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