- Written by webmin
With the OPEC oil embargo against the United States just starting to lead to nationwide gas shortages, the first-ever Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development at first glance seemed rather fortuitously timed.
Yet, as the very name of the symposium stated, its aims were less to reduce oil consumption by making vehicles more fuel efficient and instead were more to promote cleaner vehicles – what we would today call “greener” vehicles – going beyond simply adding emissions controls to existing gasoline/diesel engines. Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (specifically, the EPA’s Office of Air and Water Programs, under the auspices of the Air Pollution Pilot Project of the NATO Committee on the Challenges to Modern Society), the symposium took place October 14-19, 1973, at the Marriott Motor Inn in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And it appeared that any idea was fair game at the symposium, from electric to steam to gas-turbine technology, some of it represented in static displays in the hotel lobby, and some of it represented in functional vehicles in the parking lot.
Fortunately for us, not only did the EPA assign a photographer, Frank Lodge, to cover the symposium on what appeared to be a blustery day, but the U.S. National Archives also held on to Lodge’s photographs and posted them to Flickr late last year, giving us a glimpse of the vehicles and technology presented at the symposium. Chrysler unsurprisingly trotted out one of its sixth-generation automotive gas turbines, a 150hp unit featuring a ceramic regenerator unit and water injection, along with what appears to be a 1973 Dodge Coronet fitted with a gas turbine. But they also exhibited a Plymouth Cricket that featured a Texaco Controlled Combustion System engine, a multi-fuel stratified-charge system apparently developed by the oil company in the 1940s and refined at least through the late 1970s.
GM also made an appearance at the symposium with two of its Urban ES-512 concepts: an open, gasoline-powered version with a 12hp 19.6-cu.in. two-cylinder engine; and a closed-roof, battery-electric-powered version. The Urban cars actually debuted four years earlier and included a third gasoline-electric hybrid version that apparently didn’t make it to the symposium. From Lodge’s photos, we see that Ford didn’t make an official appearance, nor did American Motors, though a 1971 Hornet exhibited at the symposium by the EPA itself did feature a Williams-built 80hp WR-26 regenerative gas-turbine engine, and a Rankine cycle steam reciprocator system engine appears to be installed in a 1971-1972 Ford LTD (along with another Rankine in a 1972 or so Chevrolet Caprice). Rounding out the list of vehicles in attendance are a steam-powered GMC bus exhibited by Lear Systems and the ESB/Exide Battery Sundancer experimental car developed by Bob McKee and powered by an 8hp electric motor.
While we’ve seen several jokes regarding the lack of a second symposium, we’ve actually found mention of two successive Symposia on Low Pollution Power Systems Development: the second, conducted November 4-8, 1974, in Düsseldorf; and the third, conducted December 2-3, 1975, in Rome. We’ve also seen mention of a Conference on Low Pollution Power Systems Development that took place in Fenruary 1971 in Eindhoven. If any photos exist of any vehicles exhibited at those two symposia or at that conference, we’d love to see them.