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Dennis Weaver at Nat'l AFV Day
Actor and hydrogen-advocate Dennis Weaver was one of many speakers on National AFV Day, which seeks to educate Americans on alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles. Weaver is also the celebrity behind the upcoming International Hydrogen Drive 2004, a border-to-border tour of alternative fuel vehicles from Mexico to Canada

AFV's Point Way to Oil Independence

National AFV Day Odyssey Delivers Answers to Driving Consumers from Coast to Coast!

By Kathleen Kennedy and Nicole Michaelis

At 54 sites from Connecticut to Hawaii, record crowds found solutions to soaring gas prices, ways to preserve our energy security, and ideas about how to breathe more freely at the 2004 National AFV Day Odyssey--a one-day, nationwide event showcasing the latest in cleaner, energy-efficient vehicles using alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles.

"We're seeing an explosion of interest in these high-tech cars, trucks and buses!" said Meg Baughman, Lead Developer and Co-coordinator of National AFV Day Odyssey. "We had nearly a thousand attendees at our kickoff event on April 2 at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California, which started with a speech by Dennis Weaver—our national spokesman for Odyssey. I think we all remember him from 'Gunsmoke' and 'Macleod,' and now he's a dedicated advocate for the environment." Baughman added, "Odyssey gave driving consumers a way to touch the technology and see for themselves how easy it is to make a difference while saving dollars at the pump."

National AFV Day Odyssey was developed by West Virginia University's National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), whose Executive Director, Al Ebron, remarked, "Odyssey is an event that demands huge efforts from everyone involved in it, but the payoff is great! We've reached thousands with the alternative fuels message through media coverage across the country, and with the help of our site coordinators and our national sponsors--General Motors, Toyota, American Honda, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation and Oak Ridge Laboratories--we've given people all around the nation a chance to learn about AFVs, and to see for themselves why these 'next generation' vehicles are good for the planet and for their pocketbooks!"

"Rising gas prices are definitely increasing peoples' interest in AFVs," said Nina Babiarz, Director of Energy Technology at College of the Desert. "Our Odyssey event showed us that people really want to know about AFVs. We had folks lining up to get a look at our hydrogen-fueled Cobra sports car, and we had a lot of media coverage--TV and radio stations around the state did some terrific pieces on the event. We're estimating that thousands heard about Odyssey here in California." Babiarz commented, "Dennis Weaver and some local politicians made great speeches, and we had ride-and-drive demonstrations of several hybrids. It really was a wonderful day! We got the word out and people had fun learning about these 'next generation' vehicles."

"Our Odyssey Day here in Tucson was a smash!" said Colleen Crowninshield, Coordinator of Tucson's Regional Clean Cities Coalition. "Here in Tucson where gasoline costs $1.99 a gallon, car buyers and fleet owners are looking for vehicles that'll run on something besides gas and diesel fuel." Crowninshield added, "Our Odyssey event was a total success! People came with questions and we gave them the answers!"

In Lima, Ohio, the University of Northwestern Ohio hosted an Odyssey event that attracted more than 300 people, many of whom showed up to get a look at the "funny car" fueled by ethanol. Mark Thomas, five-time Funny Car World Champion was on hand to talk about ethanol and the "funny car" driving circuit. The car on display at the Odyssey event had been modified so that the entire body lifted up to give onlookers a view of the engine and chassis. The funny car's engine, lubricated with corn oil, was a main attraction for sports car enthusiasts attending Odyssey.

"Mark Thomas and the 'funny car' were a big hit," said Andy O'Neal, Dean of the University of Northwestern Ohio's College of Technologies. "But the main point we wanted to make by putting this car on display was to show people that if high-powered race cars can run on alternative fuels like ethanol, then the family sedan will run just fine on these fuels, too." O'Neal also remarked, "This Odyssey event was great! People from all walks of life turned out to see the AFVs and to test-drive the hybrid cars that are getting so much media attention. AFVs and hybrids are the answer to a lot of problems in this country, and we're proud to be a part of the effort to get the word out."

"Odyssey events around the nation brought out all kinds of people—everyone from soccer moms hoping to cut their gas bills to local dignitaries who support clean-burning, economical 'next generation' vehicles," said Meg Baughman. "In Cleveland, Ohio, the city's mayor spoke at the Odyssey event there, and in places as far-flung as Hawaii, the Clean Cities Coalition in Honolulu offered tours of a hydrogen fuel cell facility that's drawing local interest because of President Bush's interest in hydrogen fuel technology." Baughman further remarked, "In other parts of the country, people stood in line to test-drive hybrids, to look at sports cars fueled by ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen, and to learn how they can save money and help the environment by driving an AFV."

"National AFV Day Odyssey was developed to promote the benefits of 'next generation' vehicles," Baughman said, "and we were optimistic about our first Odyssey in 2002, as well as the event this year, but the nationwide response exceeded our expectations! Odyssey is the spark of an idea that's igniting an explosion of interest in advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles all across America."

NAFTC Executive Director Al Ebron added, "With the success of events like Odyssey, we like to think we're changing the way this nation drives—one vehicle at a time!”

Times Article Viewed: 4083
Published: 13-May-2004

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