If you missed the alternative-fuel vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show -- and with just a dozen exhibited, they were hard to find -- don't despair. Check out the one on display at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, in Rabbi Harvey Fields' parking space.
For the last five months, Rav Fields has cruised around town in his silver-gray four-door Prius, a gasoline-electric hybrid from Toyota. With Tu B' Shevat falling days after the auto show's panoply of gas-guzzlers, Fields reflected on the Jewish imperative to take care of our world.
"If I can remove some of the poison from the air, and make out of L.A. a more delightful environment, I believe that's my responsibility [as a Jew]," he said. But this responsibility doesn't require much sacrifice. The car is "very enjoyable to drive in the city. I can turn and manipulate it beautifully.... I fill up just once a month. Plus, there's plenty of room for the grandchildren," said the rabbi from his car phone as he zipped down Wilshire Boulevard.
His only complaint was the long wait to get the car. Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of The Green Car Journal, says the rabbi's experience is not unusual. The automakers' goal "is to mass-market products that allow them to make significant profit, and they don't see that profit with alternative-fuel vehicles," Cogan said.
But government mandates for clean-fuel cars are changing that. Cogan expects there to be a wide selection of hybrid cars, sport utility vehicles and minivans by 2003 and 2004. Even better, by the end of the decade, many vehicles will run on fuel cells, and their only byproduct will be water.
If you're curious about greener-fueled cars but don't feel comfortable asking the rabbi for a test drive, there are other options. EV Rental, for example, sells and rents alternative-fuel vehicles, and will discount your rate if you volunteer for the California Lung Association.
For more information, contact EV Rental, www.evrental.com or (877) EV-Rental; California Lung Association, www.californialung.org or (800) LUNG-USA; Green Car Journal, www.greencars.com or (805) 541-0477; Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, www.coejlsc.org or (818) 889-5500 ext. 103.