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October 12, 2008

Going Green with the Mainstream

Amymattinatwithatool Our AskPatty Expert Advisor Amy Mattinat attended this summer's 3rd Going Green Expo in Burlington, Vermont, an event hosted by Going Green Magazine (www.goinggreenmagazine.org). Besides the eclectic variety of eco-exhibitors at the event, Amy was also surprised at the number folks from the mainstream looking for information on alternative-fueled vehicles. Because she says "It's clear that people seem ready to make some major changes to their homes, work places, and modes of transportation." Amy is sharing some of the interesting experiences and information from the event here with AskPatty's eco-concerned readers.

Amy_with_hydrogen_equinox GM Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle
I was asked to help run the event's "Green Test Track and Auto Zone." We were able to bring in a wide diversity of alternative-powered automobiles. GM came up from NYC with their Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle (www.chevrolet.com/fuelcell ) and also brought along a Malibu Hybrid and a Tahoe Hybrid. The Equinox generated a lot of interest and kept the GM folks busy answering questions. When they turned it on you would hear more of a "gurgle, gurgle" than the normal "vroom, vroom" of a gasoline-powered engine. Folks got a kick out of that, but were very skeptical that the country could provide the infrastructure to support the Hydrogen fuel.

Zaptruck Zap Truck
There were two electric vehicles at the event as well:  A Miles Electric Car and a Zap Electric Truck. The Zap Truck (www.zapworld.com ) was the hit of the party. People loved the affordability of a trucklet ($12,500)  that can go 40 mph for up to 25 miles per charge. Folks who lived and worked in the city felt that this little three-wheeled truck would be a great second vehicle for their family. Buzzing around the test track, I had to agree that it is fun to drive and that the math is very attractive.

Amyinmoonbeam Moonbeam Microcar
Then there was the Moonbeam,  a homemade 100-mpg microcar that costs about $2500 in parts and about 1000 labor hours to create. Gasoline powered, it goes 40 mph and gets 85-105 mpg. It was so cute and way fun to drive, but I felt it would be too small to get around town on a daily basis.


There was also a Hybrid Camry, a Hybrid Highlander, and a converted Hybrid Prius Plug-in. The Prius Plug-in got a lot of attention, because folks are excited about the extra 100 miles the lithium battery provides before the hybrid system takes over. Most folks had unrealistic expectations that the industry should be able to provide an affordable hybrid plug-in right away, but they're open to listening and getting educated to the reality of the time, energy, and money the automotive industry is putting forth to creating the lithium battery. I don't know if Vermonters are more apt to be DYI'ers, but the Greasecar Vegetable Oil Conversion System (www.greasecar.com ) that modifies diesel vehicles to run on straight vegetable oil was a big hit. If there had been an exhibitor there promoting their own Greasecar Conversion Business, they would have made a lot of sales.

Also on hand was a fellow who had installed a MagDrive Hydro-Gen in his truck. (www.fuelfromh2o.com ) It's a hybrid system in that a small hydrogen fuel system is added to the existing gasoline or diesel engine. I'm going to visit him soon and will write more about it then.

Most folks were attracted to the low-cost, low-maintenance vehicles shown at the event. They were all very concerned about the fluctuating cost of fuel prices, very concerned about the mpg their vehicle was getting, and many were apologetic when I asked what they were driving.

Which alternative-powered vehicle are you most interested in? Join the conversation and send us your comments!


Amy_with_smart_car All My Best,
Amy Mattinat
www.amysgarage.com/blog


Amy Mattinat is on the advising board of AskPatty.com. Her career in the automotive industry began at Auto Craftsmen Ltd., an independent Import Dealership located in Montpelier, Vermont. Over the years Amy has done almost every job in the place. From cleaning lady to mechanic's helper, bookkeeping and marketing, to salesperson and service advisor; from part-time to full time, she took on more and more responsibility until she became so integrated in the life of the business and the customers that she was asked to become a business partner. Amy is passionate about creating Automotive Excellence within her business and feels that good communication is the essence of being able to explain, suggest and fix any problem her clients may have.



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