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GAS IS PASSE AT DISPLAY OF VEHICLES OF TOMORROW

Want a clean alternative to gasoline to fuel your car? Try beer byproducts, garbage, cheese whey or even soybeans.

Many of the vehicles powered by ethanol, electricity, natural gas, hydrogen, propane and other alternative fuels, on display here this weekend, can be bought and put on the road today.Leon G. Schumacher, an agricultural engineer from the University of Missouri-Columbia, has devised a pickup truck that runs on a mixture of diesel fuel and soybean oil.

"It smells like french fries," said Schumacher, standing beside his modified Dodge Ram at the Alternative Transportation Exposition, a show of nongasoline-powered vehicles.

He recommends a 30 percent soybean oil-70 percent diesel mixture for fewer knocks, and warns that soybean oil tends to congeal at 30 degrees or colder.

Still, the truck burns cleaner, requires no engine tampering, gets the same horsepower and stretches mileage by up to 25 percent a gallon, getting more than 22 miles on the highway, Schumacher said.

Then there's that smell. Already, a fleet of vehicles at Lambert Airport in St. Louis run on the soybean stuff.

"A forklift operator told me, `We want it in all of our vehicles. It smells reeeeal good,"' Schumacher said.

Nearby stood a Chevrolet Lumina that runs on clean-burning ethanol derived from garbage, beer sludge and cheese whey.

"Everywhere I go, to the store, to the car wash, I find myself setting up a presentation for people who want to know more," said Cindy Hasenjager of the nonprofit California Renewable Fuels Council, who has driven the car for more than a year.

New California smog-reduction laws require that by 1998 at least 2 percent of the cars major automakers sell in Southern California - about 40,000 cars - must emit no pollution. That figure rises to 200,000 vehicles by 2003.

The Big Three automakers displayed prototype vehicles that should be available in a few years.

Chrysler Corp. featured a methanol-fueled Plymouth Acclaim. Ford Motor Co.'s Ecostar electric van will be available for fleet purchases next year.

The General Motors Corp. entry, tentatively named Impact, is an electric two-seater that glides from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds.

GM already has advised Southern California Edison to have recharging stations and other electric motorist services ready by Jan. 1, 1995.

Selling the car, which goes only 120 miles between charges, means persuading people its short-run features suit their driving habits, said GM marketer-planner David R. Newhouse.

"The vast majority of people don't travel more than 80 or 90 miles a day," he said. "We need to convince them their driving patterns fit in very nicely with an electric vehicle."