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BCC revs up for Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day
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The Kansas Corn Commission brought a flex-fuel vehicle to Bartons AFV Day two years ago. The automobile operates on E-85 ethanol, which utilizes corn for fuel production. Next to the car is a pickup that runs off of biodiesel, produced primarily with soybeans. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

The public is invited to catch a glimpse into future transportation technologies next week at Barton Community College.

Barton’s Automotive Technology Program will host National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day on Thursday, Oct. 15. Vehicle displays will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the college’s newly renovated automotive shop area.

"It’s all about alternative fuels," said Darcy Wedel, coordinator of Barton’s Auto Tech program. "When we think about alternative fuels, we right away might think of ethanol or biodiesel, but we’re also talking about electric cars, hybrids, natural gas and wind energy."

This is Barton’s second year to celebrate AFV Day, which comes around every two years. The college is one of 86 locations in the country this year set to host an AFV Day event and Barton is the only location in Kansas taking part in the celebration.

Experts in various alternative fuels will be on hand during the day to talk about these products. "Right here in the heart of Kansas where agriculture is big, obviously we’re very interested in ethanol, soybean fuel, biodiesel," Wedel said. "At Barton, we have the first college courses taught with electric and hybrid vehicles."

The day is focused on energy independence. The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium started AFV Day to promote cleaner choices in transportation. The day supports the alternative fuel vehicle industry and brings to public awareness the need for easing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Wedel said he’s not singling out any one alternative fuel above the rest. "They’re all good and we need every one of them here in the U.S. to become energy independent." he said.

The Kansas Corn Commission will have an ethanol-fueled vehicle on display along with general information about ethanol and the making of this fuel from corn. Other businesses presenting mini-seminars and displays include EV-Blue of Walton, which takes regular cars and converts them into electric vehicles; Kansas Ethanol Plant of Lyons; and MEG Corporation, consultant in biodiesel.

Also giving presentations will be the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, talking about making hydrogen fuel from natural gas; West Wind Energy, presenting information on wind generation and how it can be used to charge electric vehicles; and Golden Belt Bicycle. Other sponsors of the event include Barton County Farm Bureau and Great Bend Coop.

In the center of the country, Kansas has potential for alternative fuels and energy distribution with wind power, Wedel said. "We’re in a great location economically speaking. We’re one of the top producers of soybeans and corn in the country, and obviously, we have lots of good wind. Kansas needs to get on board with alternative fuel. I think this is extremely important to everyone in Kansas for our well-being and for our economy."

Barton has its own hybrid car to display. Two years ago, local businessman Al Yost donated a new hybrid Toyota Camry to the Auto Tech Program. "Automotive is very hands-on," Wedel said. "Having a vehicle that can show students how the hybrid works, and even give the students a road test, is great for our program." Also in 2008, the college received a technology grant, which allowed the program to purchase a chassis dynamometer. This equipment can give the students a virtual road test. It allows instructors to safely operate a vehicle with all the students around and with all of the test equipment hooked up so the results can be projected on a big screen.

The event also gives the college another chance to show off its newly renovated Auto Tech facility, which nearly doubled in size. An enrollment has grown to 70-plus students in the program.

"AFV Day fits in with what we’re trying to do here, working with business and industry to learn about alternative fuels," Wedel said. "This is not just stuff someone dreamed up. It is current technology."

Biodiesel, for example, is an excellent lubricant. Taking sulphur out of a fuel by putting in a blend of 20 percent biodiesel puts the lubricity back into the fuel, he explained. "If you’re a farmer with a tractor or combine, and you want to learn if this type of fuel is safe to use, by all means come out and participate and become educated."