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Alternative fuel vehicles coming to OMSI

by: JOHN M. VINCENT - Electric cars, clean diesels and other alternative fuel vehicles will be on dispaly at OMSI on Saturday, July 19. The event is free and open to the public.If there is one certainty in future transportation, it is that vehicles will be more efficient and produce fewer emissions.

However, the question remains: How do we get there? That's the topic of OMSI’s Drive Revolution, a program on Saturday, July 19, that will explore many routes toward a sustainable future.

Visitors will “gain a deeper knowledge of the sciences around transportation, and what's available,” says OMSI’s Melony Beaird. Displays will include bicycle makers, utilities, and car sharing companies. Also, some of the newest vehicles will be available for test drives.

There's no single technology to move us away from our oil-dependency, but rather a blend of technologies tailored to each transportation sector. Like tools in a toolbox, different technologies apply best to different transportation needs. Not all the vehicles below will be on hand at Drive Revolution, but a selection is scheduled to be.

Hybrids use an internal combustion engine and regenerative brakes to charge a battery pack. When power needs are low or when the gasoline engine needs help, an electric motor (or multiple motors) moves the vehicle. The Toyota Prius is the most recognized hybrid, but they exist in nearly every market sector from the large Infiniti QX70 Hybrid to the highly refined Honda Accord and Kia Optima Hybrids.

Plug-in hybrids go one step further by initially charging the battery from an external power source such as a home charging station. By using that battery power rather than the onboard internal combustion engine, some plug-in hybrid drivers rarely burn any gasoline at all. The Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Ford “Energi” lineup are plug-in hybrids.

Although GM calls them “extended range electric vehicles,” Chevrolet’s Volt and Cadillac’s new ELR are plug-in hybrid vehicles that rely mostly on electricity, but can switch to a gasoline-powered range extender for longer trips. BMW’s i3 can be equipped with such a range extender, or it can act as a pure battery-electric vehicle.

Battery electric vehicles run purely on electrical power. The Nissan Leaf was the first mainstream electric car, but the marketplace is getting more crowded all the time. With aggressive lease and purchase pricing, the economics of buying an electric get more attractive each day.

Several new and exciting electric cars are poised to enter the Oregon market. The Fiat 500e, Volkswagen E-Golf and Kia Soul Electric are set to bring electric out of the enthusiast market and into the mainstream. Tesla’s sexy Model S is will be joined by the Model X crossover in their lineup.

Compressed natural gas is an alternative fuel that people don't think about — but they should. Honda’s Civic Natural Gas is powered by the domestically produced and relatively inexpensive fuel. With the development of a publicly accessible fueling infrastructure, natural gas becomes a highly viable alternative to gasoline.

Clean diesel is especially popular in Portland, where Volkswagen sells a higher percentage of diesel vehicles than anywhere else in America. Their 2015 Golf features a more refined version of the venerable TDI engine. Recently joining VW in the diesel movement is Chrysler with their EcoDiesel Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

OMSI’s Drive Revolution

What: See the latest in sustainable transportation options including bikes, cars, public transportation and more. Drive some of the latest alternative fuel vehicles in the market.

When: Saturday, July 19, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Where: OMSI, North parking lot, 1945 SE Water Ave, Portland

Cost: Free

For more information: omsi.edu/events/