Hybrid and biodiesel
offer drivers alternatives


By David Douglas

Carlos Nieto is ready to hit the road. The painter-turned-car-salesman for Cox Toyota of Burlington is excited about the Toyota Prius. Prius, Latin for "go before," is Toyota's little gas-electric hybrid car with big possibilities.

As Carlos talks about the car's features, his face lights up as he shares the fact that, "When you paint a 500-square-foot room, you produce more smog-forming emissions than driving [the Prius] for 150,000 miles."

You might be surprised that such an efficient and highly technological vehicle could also be so affordable. The Prius's base MSRP is $20,000, and when you add luxury features such as a navigation system, the price rises to $28,000.

Carlos says the car is best suited to those who do most of their driving in the city. Why? Well the battery is used more in the slow-speed driving done around city streets, and the battery is charged every time you brake, giving you up to 65 miles to the gallon. Even on the interstate the car is efficient, logging up to 55 miles per gallon.

If the station wagon-y appearance of the Prius doesn't interest you, don't worry, Toyota plans to offer all of its vehicles in hybrid form by the year 2010, making gas-only the option, and hybrid the standard.

Toyota as a company is making big changes to more than its cars. Currently the company's Kentucky plant has reduced its landfill waste by 95 percent, with the other five percent of waste being recycled.

The automaker's ideas for cleaner vehicles and enterprise should make Anne Tazewell of the North Carolina Solar Center, and North Carolina State University happy. Anne, who also serves on the Triangle Clean Cities coalition, says that, "the vision of clean cities is to reduce our dependency on petroleum."

"You don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket," she says, "and that's what we've done with oil."

Among the alternative fuel types available for vehicles today is biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soy oil, cooking oil and animal fats. The non-toxic, biodegradable fuel can be used in any diesel engine with no conversion whatsoever. It is currently available at three service stations in the Triangle area.

Both Anne and Carlos were part of Elon University's fourth annual environmental conference, "Roadmap to the Future: Tomorrow by Design." The conference offered a day's worth of events, including presentations by David Orr and Stuart Hart, both well known among environmental activists for their work on the idea of sustainability.

Participants had the opportunity to eat food prepared by Aramark Food Service chefs that had been locally grown on organic farms. A film festival and afternoon discussion panels rounded out the event.



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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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