Actor seeks to rev up interest in alternative-fuel technologies

Times Staff Writer

Actor and environmentalist Dennis Weaver, a proponent of hydrogen-powered cars long before the White House jumped on the bandwagon this year, begins his second Drive to Survive in Los Angeles on Thursday after a 10 a.m. news conference this morning on the Santa Monica Pier.

Weaver will lead a caravan of eight alternative-fuel vehicles -- including a gasoline-electric hybrid and a bio-diesel pickup -- on a cross-country drive scheduled to end May 14 in Washington. A hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle from Toyota will be used for a short leg in California, Weaver said, but won’t make the entire trip because of the scarcity of fuel-grade hydrogen.

“This is an educational and media tour,” Weaver said. “We are hoping to help jump-start public interest in these alternative technologies.”

Weaver lives in Ridgway, Colo., where a decade ago he and his wife, Gerry, founded the nonprofit Institute for Ecolonomics (the Weavers’ blending of ecology and economics) that is sponsoring the cross-country drive with a $250,000 donation from the Annenberg Foundation.


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Taking fuel cells beyond powering automobiles

Fuel cells for automobiles get most of the press, but there are scientists working on fuel cells to provide electric power to rural communities as well as homes and businesses.

Some of those projects may provide the breakthroughs that could speed commercialization of automotive fuel cells.


One such project is being developed by University of LaVerne researchers headed by Iraj Parchamazad, chairman of the chemistry department at the private university.

His team last week unveiled a prototype fuel cell system in which the propane that recreational vehicles carry passes through a reformer and a purifier -- both patented by the university.

The system delivers “ultra-pure hydrogen” that one day will be needed for automotive use, Parchamazad said.

The prototype won’t propel the recreational vehicle, but will provide all the power necessary for on-board appliances as well as heat for water and the cabin, he said.