Topeka Alternative fuel entrepreneurs from around the country converged Monday at the first International Alternative Fueled Vehicle Roundup at Forbes Field.
About 60 vehicles powered fully or partially by ethanol, propane, natural gas and other alternative fuels were on display for the event, which continues until 8 p.m. today, organizers said. Representatives of both self-owned companies and large oil corporations were on hand to explain the advantages of their alternative fuel products.
"We're trying to create awareness for alternative fuel," said John Morelock, alternative fuels coordinator for the Kansas Corporation Commission. The Kansas Energy Research Section of the KCC is one of several sponsors of the event.
"As people are becoming more and more aware of the environment, these things are catching on," he said.
VEHICLES ON display included an airplane powered by 100 percent corn-derived ethanol, a natural gas pumping station, propane-powered cars, and other vehicles and equipment powered by fuels other than gasoline.
Participants said their alternative fuel systems offered advantages over gasoline power.
"This is a beautiful way to go," said Roland Funk, owner of Mid-Kansas Propane of Newton.
"They say it smells bad, but it smells like money to us," said Funk, who has owned a Phillips 66 propane-pumping station in Newton for 22 years.
Funk, standing next to a specially modified car that runs on propane, said motorists could have their vehicles converted to run on propane for about $1,500.
He said the savings in fuel would offset the initial modification costs. Propane, he said, sells for about 75 cents a gallon at many locations.
BOB JOHNSON, owner of Illinois Industrial Equipment of Orland Park, Ill., said natural gas as an alternative fuel will be the wave of the future.
"It's happening all over the country," said Johnson, whose fuel machine can be plugged into a 220-volt electrical socket to produce the equivalent of 100 gallons of gasoline a day in compressed natural gas.
"The methods are safer than they were . . . because we recapture anything that is not used," he said.
The cost to modify a vehicle for compressed natural gas runs slightly higher than the cost to modify for propane, he said. However, he said the cost of natural gas is less than for propane.
The power of vehicles using natural gas or propane may be reduced slightly, but both fuels offer a higher octane rating than gasoline, the alternative fuel advocates said.
ETHANOL, a high octane fuel derived from corn, also was being touted as a good alternative fuel.
"It's a domestically produced agricultural fuel, produced from our own land, and it works," said Jere White of the Kansas Corn Growers Assn. "Obviously, one opportunity that's overlooked is that anyone with a regular car can use a 10 percent (ethanol-gasoline) mixture," he said.
Several hundred people were expected to visit displays at the event.
A speaker, T. Boone Pickens, chief executive officer of MESA Inc., a Dallas-based energy company, predicted Monday that gasoline-powered cars would be converted to alternative fuels by 1998. That is the year low emissions standards created by the federal Clean Air Act take effect.