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MORGANTOWN, WV, March 22, 2004 --/World-Wire/-- Amid skyrocketing gas prices, sluggish American job growth and an uncertain energy security landscape, the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) today announced plans for its groundbreaking National AFV Day Odyssey 2004, a coast-to-coast showcase of the latest in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. These "next-generation vehicles" represent the new design and offerings of passenger cars, pick-ups, SUVs, buses and heavy-duty trucks that are providing workable, performance- and market-driven solutions to pressing energy and environmental challenges.

Taking place on April 2, 2004 at more than 50 sites from Hawaii to Connecticut - plus two sites in Canada - Odyssey is a unique national event that highlights the full range of non-gasoline and super-efficient vehicles available to consumers, fleets, and metropolitan transportation systems. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected at the events, where they will have a wide range of opportunities to experience the new technology first-hand through test-drives of cars and trucks and demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies that will power the next generation of American transportation.

"It wasn't so long ago that next generation vehicles seemed like something for the distant future for most consumers," said Al Ebron, Executive Director of the NAFTC. "However, that's clearly not the case today. Motor Trend recently named a hybrid its Car of the Year. Celebrities arrived at the Oscars in next generation vehicles, and these cars are showing up in the garages of more and more 'soccer moms' and 'NASCAR dads.'"

More Choices/Significant Impacts
Award-winning actor and activist Dennis Weaver, the national spokesman for Odyssey, a hybrid owner and a leading proponent of hydrogen fuel, said this shift has occurred for a number of reasons, but the primary factor has been the wide array of choices available to consumers. "There was once a fear among consumers that they would have to trade efficiency for performance," he said, "but manufacturers have proven that's just not true. Today's hybrids and alternative fuel cars have all the performance, endurance and safety features of traditional models. Indeed, in some cases, performance is even enhanced."

Other vehicles, such as "neighborhood electrics," (NEVs) have created a niche for themselves in the marketplace. Manufacturers' research has shown that once people buy these smaller, low-speed electric cars, they find themselves coming up with new and innovative uses for them. A recent study showed that owners used their neighborhood electrics for two out of three trips that they would have otherwise taken in their regular car - everything from buying the groceries to taking the kids to band practice. Ebron said that every trip people take in a neighborhood electric has a major impact on reducing pollution, just by keeping people from starting up their cars. In 2003, NEV owners traveled 12.59 million zero-tailpipe-emission miles.

"In terms of the cost, the environment and energy security, that's a pretty dramatic impact coming from a small market segment," he said. "It's easy to see how quickly things add up when people make smart choices about their transportation options. And those options are increasing all the time. In addition to hybrids and neighborhood electric vehicles, many other existing vehicles are available. Examples include biodiesel and natural gas transit buses, ethanol and propane cars and trucks. These technologies exist today and are being utilized by fleets and consumers across the U.S."

Creating and Keeping Good American Jobs
The ambitious 2004 Odyssey event - the second in three years - is the brainchild of the NAFTC, an innovative center headquartered at West Virginia University whose mission is to train technicians to service the next generation of vehicles.

"Most people - and to some extent even manufacturers - haven't fully grasped the impact that these new technologies are having on jobs," Ebron said. "Whether it's the farmers who grow the corn to make ethanol for E85 vehicles, or the mechanics who will keep these vehicles on the road, or the engineers required to keep the infrastructure running, these next generation vehicles are creating good jobs across a number of sectors, many of which simply can't be sent overseas."

Experiencing the Excitement/Empowering Consumers
Meg Baughman, co-coordinator for Odyssey, noted that for most consumers, the best part of the event is experiencing something new and exciting first-hand, and knowing their choices really can make a difference. "The people who visit Odyssey sites are there to see what all the excitement's about. They've heard all the buzz and now they want to learn more about how they can benefit - economically and socially - from owning one themselves. Odyssey participants also learn about the real and significant impacts that their transportation choices can have on the environment, on our foreign energy dependence, on their pocketbook and on our world."

This year's events will include a hybrid caravan across West Virginia; participation from state legislators, governors and congressmen; a national kick-off event in Southern California featuring corporate and celebrity speakers and 2005 model year vehicles; and a wide array of other hands-on activities for new car shoppers, families and "anyone who wants to know more about the biggest revolution in car buying since Henry Ford rolled the Model T off the first assembly line," Baughman said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information and a list of Odyssey sites nationwide, visit

CONTACT: Scott Ward - 202/667-0901

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