• David Nergaard drove his Stanley Steamer in the AltWheels caravan from Larz Anderson Park in Brookliine to MIT on Friday, Sept. 17. He parked the steam-powered car in the Kresge Lot with two dozen other alternative vehicles.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • MIT's solar car takes its place in the caravan of AltWheels that travelled to MIT.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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Caravan of 23 enviro-friendly vehicles travel to MIT


New England's first alternative transportation caravan with more than 23 vehicles powered by hybrid and other efficient, sustainable fuel systems wound its way from the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation in Brookline to the MIT campus on Friday, Sept. 17.

The caravan, which was escorted by an alternatively fueled state police car, kicked off AltWheels Festival, a weekend alternative transportation event. This year the event was co-hosted by MIT, which is home to several laboratories working on environmentally friendly vehicles.

The five-mile caravan route ended at MIT's Kresge parking lot, where the public was invited to learn about the latest innovations, as well as some historical examples, in alternative transportation.

"The goal of the caravan and weekend festival is to demonstrate to the public that alternative transportation is being deployed and is flourishing throughout New England," said festival organizer Alison Sander. "Not only is this region a hotbed of research and technology in developing sustainable clean fuel sources, but vehicles deploying these technologies are being put into practice by some of the larger fleets in the region."

Recent traffic studies show that Boston ranks among the 10 most congested cities in the U.S. Massachusetts is rated by the E.P.A. as one of the non-attainment states, where air pollution levels persistently exceed national ambient air quality standards. The idea of clean sustainable fuels is beginning to catch on in New England--from private individuals buying more hybrid-fuel passenger cars, to large public transit providers using eco-friendly vehicles, to major conversions to altfuel fleets by municipalities, universities and businesses.

Major universities such as Harvard, MIT and Tufts have taken steps to reduce auto emissions on their campuses. Public agencies such as Massport, Mass Highway, the MBTA, the City of Keene, the Boston Public Health Commission and others have taken leadership positions in addressing the need to reduce harmful transportation-related pollutants in their fleets.

The AltWheels caravan included the following vehicles:

  • State Police escort from a Ford Econoline E250 CNG (compressed natural gas) van
  • A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle built in New England (designed and built on a $25,000 bet with the EPA)
  • A Mass Highway Ford F-150 pickup truck fueled by CNG (Mass Highway has one of the largest alternative fleets in New England.)
  • A 2004 Toyota hybrid Prius operated by PlanetTran, New England's first alternative taxi service (The Prius is a gasoline/electric hybrid capable of getting up to 52 MPG in city driving.)
  • A Harvard University biodiesel vehicle (Harvard has committed to switching its transit fleet to biodiesel.)
  • A 1997 Ford Crown Victoria cruiser powered by CNG and operated by Sgt. James Rooney of the Somerville Police Department.
  • Boston Public Health Commission's 2002 Toyota Prius (The Commission operates a fleet of 5 Toyota Prius passenger cars.)
  • Project Biobus, a yellow diesel 1991 GMC 71 passenger school bus fueled by biodiesel/used vegetable oil (This bus was converted by 12 Middlebury College students and began a 17-city tour with this Boston visit. A previous bus converted by the group to get back to school last year was featured by CNN, NPR and USA Today.)
  • The Solectria Citivan, an electric delivery vehicle
  • American Honda GX, the top selling CNG vehicle
  • A Massport CNG passenger bus
  • An MBTA Clean Diesel passenger bus (The MBTA has become the largest alternative fuel user in New England.)
  • The Tufts Nerd Girls solar car
  • The MIT Solar Car Club vehicle
  • The New England Aquarium CNG van
  • A Massport electric truck
  • The Keene, N.H. biodiesel F-350 truck representing Granite State Clean Cities
  • Ford's 2005 Hybrid SUV, Escape--one of the first hybrid SUVs
  • The DaimlerChrysler Smart car, one of Europe's best-selling alternative vehicles
  • The William Ellis Corbin Sparrow electric car
  • The Stanley Steamer steam-powered vehicle, circa 1890

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 22, 2004 (download PDF).


Topics: Cambridge, Boston and region, Environment and energy

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