Alt Wheels Festival
I went to the Alt Wheels Festival at the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation (Beware, this is a really bad Flash website - I was horrified). It was pretty interesting. I have some pictures. I would like to apologize up front for the slow loading of this page (I used MS Paint to edit the images so they are still quite large), small picture size (I linked to the larger image) and sheer number of pictures. I ran out of space on the camera. Apparently pictures from our anniversary were still on the camera and hadn't been downloaded to Carol's computer. I know what you're saying "Well why didn't you delete them?" For some reason Carol thinks our "relationship" is more important than energy independence and the environment. Sheesh, I think the wedding is off.

This must have been the largest gathering of Priuses short of a Toyota factory. Here's our old buddy, the first Prius model along with a new one from PlanetTran (they had several there). Check out the Synergy Drive too.

A lot of the hybrids and electric vehicles were there from the town of Brookline, Boston and Newton. I think it's clear that local governments (at least in this area) are really doing their best to push the low emissions cars - probably at an extra cost. I, for one, think it's a good idea. I talked to a guy from the Boston Public Health Department who said that they have 5 for various traveling. Newton had an EV1 (I've seen one in Brookline before too).

I didn't see any fuel cell cars. I think that speaks to the immaturity of the technology and lack of infrastructure at this point. I did see a Civic hybrid by Honda and an Insight that seemed to be voting for Kerry in 2004. I wonder how many people there were voting for Bush in 2004? Hmmmm. ).

Carol and I got to test drive a Prius from the Toyota dealership in Wheymouth. I got stuck behind a bus. She didn't. Boo. Can you tell that Caroline doesn't have her license in this picture. Also, the dealer said to expect double the 8 year, 80k mile warranty on the battery. That suprised me because I've heard a lot of concern over battery life affecting resale value.

There were 4 or 5 people who volunteered to show people their Segways to the crowd. They were a big draw. One guy had chrome rims on his. He looked like Batman with his long leather jacket. We got to ride the I-series apparently. Carol wants one. She's not getting one.

Biodiesel was out in full force - and I mean full force. There was a huge Ford truck (I think it was an F-350) and a big biodiesel pickup used by Keene, New Hampshire among others. The biodiesel contingent consisted of by far the largest vehicles. I think it's clear that that is the niche that biodiesel will fulfill.

There was a biodiesel tanker truck as well. This guy, Dennis K. Burke was selling jugs of biodiesel. This indicates to me that some of the infrastructure needed for this fuel to take off is being built. Also, there was a bus from "Project BioBus" at Middelbury College.

There were lots of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles - a fleet really - from Keypsan and the MBTA. They are replacing their old buses with the cng models (or at least introducing some).

I saw a Rav4 hybrid used by ZipCar along with the Ford Escape Hybrid. Most of ZipCar's fleet is stocked with high mileage cars. Their business model does not seem to include gouging you for gas like most rental car companies.

We saw a couple of very small electric vehichles also. I think these cars would be death traps on American streets and highways. It's no fault of the car, it's just our roads are too dangerous to have such a small vehicle. I think these vehicles could do well on private property - like a large lot, sports complex or park. A lot of electric vehicles are probably used already in cases like this. But the vehicles I saw were more geared towards personal transport versus utility functions (i.e. a cart for injured players at a football game).

There was this small EV from Corbin Motors, a Global Electric Motors (GEM) from Daislmer-Chrysler and a "smart" car from DaimlerChrysler. The dealer said the cars were coming state-side soon from the UK. The first question I heard after that was "Are they going to make them bigger for the states?" I think a discussion about American culture ensued.

Check out Carol in the Corbin Motors EV. Then check out me. She's the perfect size. My 6 feet, however, are not.

There were some old electric "ElecTrak" GE lawn mowers from the 60's and 70's (complete with rust from the 60's and 70's). I never got why electric mowers weren't more prevelant. Too bad we didn't see the Newton Mower there. There was also a Vogelbilt Electra Cruiser in attendance. These goodies seemed to be stashed in an area that said "neato", not "practical".

Then there was the guy from There were a bunch of (functional) bikes there too. It's the "popular alternative" way to travel in the city. I don't really see what purpose or advantage to Michael Killian's bike is. Can anybody help me with that one? Oh yeah and what would the day be without a solar powered car?!? Look at all that leg and head room. Is that a third row fold down seat I see too? Gets infinity miles to the gallon. I can dream right!

I saw a lot different things at Alt Wheels. It was interesting to see that local governments, police departments and even some private industry are pushing the alternative fuels issue. It was eye opening to see the CNG and biodiesel fuels in so much use.

Update: Turns out the GEM is a fuel cell. Also, maybe the Electra Cruiser will work. Who knows.

Updated at: 8/10/2006 6:21:44 PM ->

check out this article i pasted into url field. i think it does a very good job of covering the current dilemma regarding alternative engery in automobiles. Should companies adopt a short term solution of CNG which is very viable with little investment. or fuel cells which would be more of a long term solution and require a considerable capital investment.

Posted at 9/28/2004 11:25:00 AM by neel

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