It's the law: By 1998 at least 2% of new cars sold in California must be emission-free, which means they will have to run on something other than gasoline.
Will the new fuel of choice be electricity? Natural gas? Hydrogen? Ethanol? Solar? And what will the vehicles look like, clunky monsters?
A preview of life in the non-polluting world will be offered at the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Air Road Rally, March 30-April 1. The fourth annual rally is designed to give alternative-energy vehicles a performance test on the roads of Southern California and to give consumers a look at current and future clean-air technology.
"Our event is meant to preview what's available now as well as what's being planned for the future," says Peter Hackes, executive director of the International Electric Grand Prix Assn., which produces the show.
Sixty entries from around the country range from utility vehicles, such as a Long Beach police car already in use, to concept cars being designed by students in Department of Energy programs at universities.
The vehicles will be on display March 30 at the Los Angeles Zoo. "People can look under the hoods, talk to the designers and drive the cars themselves," says Hackes. "This is a chance to see some of the best alternative-fuel vehicles the world has to offer."
Electric cars are available and natural gas is increasingly important, says Hackes. "We are seeing a lot of hybrids--electric cars with natural gas or methanol generators that work as range extenders."
Most of the cars have a very high-tech look, Hackes says. "There are some sleek, beautiful designs and are lightweight and very aerodynamic. Some have solar cells worked into the body surface. They're not golf carts any more."
He also expects to have the GM Impact and a Ford Ecostar, Detroit's contribution to the clean-air crusade.
On March 31 the rally competition will take the vehicles over a course of Southern California surface streets and freeways that will lead to a finish line at Cal State Long Beach.
Not Easy Being Green: Last year was not a good one for environmental publications.
Both Garbage magazine and Buzzworm's Earth Journal folded. They had been launched shortly before Earth Day, 1990, a year that saw an explosion in eco-publications. Also expiring last year were the Green Consumer Letter and Green Market-Alert. The demise of these respected publications is reported in the current TJFR Environmental News Reporter--one of the eco-press survivors.