Countywide : Road Rally Plugs Low-Polluting Autos

Sleek sports cars and boxy buses powered by electricity and natural gas glided down Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. on Monday in the finale of a three-day road rally designed to increase awareness of cleaner-burning car engines.

Actor Leslie Nielsen of "Naked Gun" fame led the parade through Disneyland in a bright red electric-powered sports car, and Bill Nye, host of a children's science television show, plugged wiser energy use.

"The future of the United States and of the world can't have the same energy use per person as it does now," Nye said. He pointed to an ultrasleek auto covered with hand-sized solar panels on display in the Disney parking lot and more than two dozen experimental cars parked nearby.

"What you see here is not the answer, but it's the kind of pattern that is going to lead to the answer," he said.

More than 100 vehicles participated in the 120-mile rally, which began Saturday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary waved the green starting flag.

The cars took three days to wend their way through Santa Monica, Long Beach and Newport Beach to the final stop at Disneyland in Anaheim.

This is the third World Clean Air Road Rally organized by a nonprofit Seal Beach group called International Electric Grand Prix Assn.

The group is dedicated to promoting cleaner air through research, development and marketing of electric and alternative energy vehicles, executive director Peter Hackes said.

"If you ever tried to breathe in Southern California, you know we need alternative energy," he said.

State law requires that by 1998, 2% of all cars sold in California be "zero emission" or electric vehicles, Hackes said. Cars that use compressed natural gas and propane have extremely low emissions levels and can travel longer distances than the electric cars and will help reduce pollution, Hackes said.

Some cars are hybrids, like a model designed by students at Western Washington University that uses solar-generated electricity for city travel and natural gas for longer hauls on the freeway.

While many of the cars on display seemed futuristic, electric cars are used today by cities and companies for jobs requiring local travel, said a spokesman for U.S. Electricar.

The company manufactures a car that looks like any other, except for an electric cord that is plugged into a socket overnight.

The disadvantages of electric cars right now are that they cannot go long distances without recharging, which takes eight hours, and they are too expensive for most individuals.

Onlookers seemed intrigued by the display of newfangled autos.

"The idea is neat," said David Hughes, 38, of La Mirada, who stopped to admire the red sports car. "If we could get away from using gasoline it would be great."

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