Clean fuels take the raceway

When standing next to a racetrack, a person expects to hear, smell and see certain things. Roaring engines, acrid exhaust and sleek race cars moving by in a blur. While there was plenty of horsepower and heavy metal at Portland International Raceway this week, things seemed just a little off from normal.

Big rigs, garbage haulers, school buses, pick-ups, vans and cars of all shapes and sizes zoomed around the track. It looked more like a hi-speed commute than a NASCAR race. Some of them had a familiar roar of the engine, but others slipped by almost silently–only the sound of the rubber on the road. Instead of choking smoke, the sticky-sweet smell of a backyard barbeque was about as bad as it got. That’s because all of the vehicles on display, being driven by the folks in attendance, were running on clean fuels. This was day two of the Green Transportation Summit & Expo.

Breaker, breaker! It's a Clean Fuels big rig.

Breaker, breaker! It’s a Clean Fuels big rig.

During the Performance Ride & Drive at Portland International Raceway, people who attended saw and felt clean fuels in action. Any myth that clean fuels don’t deliver performance was obliterated on the track’s straightaway–a police car running on propane easily broke triple digits during a closed off demonstration run. The instant torque of the electric motors was a favorite of the 0-60 crowd. It’s amazing to see the variety of clean fuels displayed: electric, biodiesel, biogas and more. A racecar–powered by renewable diesel–didn’t make it on to the track, but was a favorite stop for people taking pictures on their phones.

The two day event was packed with vendors, business people, fleet managers and experts on policy like Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program. The people who design, manufacture, sell and buy the technology came together to talk about the exciting future. Local companies like SeQuential Biofuels, Blue Star Gas and Arcimoto represented the burgeoning clean fuels industry in Oregon, while national and international players like Daimler/Freightliner, Polaris and UnTapped Fuel talked about expanding opportunities in the western U.S. and Canada because of clean fuel standards being adopted.

The event was produced by the Advanced Transportation Technology Center, a division of Linn-Benton Community College. It is a leading center of training for mechanics who will work on the next generation of clean fuels vehicles. ATTC program highlights how the clean fuels boom isn’t just about refiners and engineers, but adding jobs at every level of the economy.

Business and governments with vehicle fleets from 2 to 20,000+ want to make the transition off of expensive, polluting gasoline and diesel to cleaner alternatives. They join sheriff’s offices in Benton and Polk counties which have made the switch, as well as Waste Management, Fred Meyer, Organically Grown Company and Franz Bakery to name a few. Over and over again you heard the benefits: less expensive fuels, longer lasting engines, supply security, happier drivers and cleaner emissions.

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