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Driving Clean & Green

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More than two dozen cars, trucks, buses and utility vehicles displayed the latest in green automotive technology at the Driving Clean & Green event at N.C. State's McKimmon Center on April 15, part of the sixth annual N.C. Sustainable Energy Conference.

Cary residents Julia Taylor and Marguerite Summers came to see the plug-in Prius.

"We love our Prius," Taylor said. "It's efficient, not a bad drive, roomy, and the technology is outstanding."

With the installation of a lithium ion battery, Prius owners can plug their cars into standard outlets. While a standard Prius boasts 48 miles per gallon, a converted one can easily get 70 miles per gallon.

Electric cars took up a large portion of the parking lot, including one model of the 1918 Detroit Electric Car.

The original electric cars began production in 1914, but demand slowly drooped. It was billed as a car that offered "freedom from odors" (imagine all of the lovely smells from sitting behind a horse all day) in the enclosed passenger cabin. It could "take you anywhere that an automobile may go with a mileage radius farther than you will ever care to travel in a day." Between charges, the car could take passengers about 80 miles.

Also on display was the new Ford Focus with two tanks, one for regular and another for natural gas. Mike Kovalchuk of Altech-Eco Corporation said his Focus could go 700 miles before needing to be refueled. A handy switch allows users to go from regular gas to natural at the push of a button.

While his Focus was only getting a few more miles per gallon than a regular Focus, Kovalchuk said there are other benefits. "Natural gas is not only cheaper, anywhere from $0.69 to $1.69 per gallon, but it's also a safer and environmentally friendlier fuel."

The Raleigh event kicked off a clean transportation technology drive across North Carolina sponsored by the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology program at the N.C. Solar Center, with subsequent stops in Greensboro and Charlotte.

For more on clean, green cars, see www.ncmobilecare.org.

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