New exhibit explores alternative transportation
"Running on Empty" showcases vehicles from past and present

For immediate release October 10, 2006


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – Automobiles designed to be highly fuel efficient or powered by alternative energy will go on display in “Running on Empty,” a new exhibit that opens Friday at the State Historical Museum.

“Running on Empty” showcases a 2006 Toyota Prius Hybrid, a 1980 prototype called “The Brooklands” developed by Michael Bogardus of Des Moines and a 1916 Milburn electric automobile owned by former Iowa Governor George W. and Arletta Clark. The Toyota Prius and funding for the exhibit are provided by Toyota of Des Moines. Located at 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village, the State Historical Museum is open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public.

“Iowa has seen many changes in transportation during the last two centuries as the horse and buggy slowly gave way to trains, automobiles and airplanes,” said Anita Walker, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “Now, the 21st century brings the challenge of dwindling supplies and increasing demand. Imaginative Iowans have embraced the challenges of transportation in the past and are seeking new ways to move us into the future.”

Toyota Prius Hybrid

For years, automakers have been trying to perfect new ways to power cars. Alternatives have now made it to the showroom floor and eager consumers are standing in line to buy them. The Toyota Prius is one of the first hybrid cars – powered by a combination of gas and electricity – to gain popularity. Its 60/51 City/Highway miles per gallon tops the EPA Ratings of 2006 Model Gas/Electric Hybrid models.

Toyota began research into this gasoline-electric hybrid in 1993 and started selling it in Japan in 1998. The car made its American debut in 2000, and demand quickly eclipsed supply. Consumers waited months for delivery of their new hybrid, often making the purchase sight unseen. Driven by consumer enthusiasm, supply is now catching up with demand, and manufacturers are offering more variety, including SUVs.

Michael Bogardus Prototype – “The Brooklands”

The gasoline shortages and rising oil prices of the 1970s encouraged Bogardus to design and construct his own fuel efficient vehicle. He unveiled his prototype in 1980 as a two passenger, three-wheeled economy car. Powered by a 500cc Honda engine, it claimed high gas mileage and a thrill to drive. Small and fuel efficient, Bogardus had hoped to market the vehicle to the fuel conscious public. But the 1980s brought stability to the oil market and less opportunity for the vehicle. “The Brooklands” is from the Historical Museum’s permanent collection.

Milburn Electric Automobile

The 1916 Milburn Electric Brougham (Model 22) is an example of a successful electric car of the early 20th century. It has rechargeable batteries and could reach speeds of 15 miles per hour for up to 4 hours on a single charge. Built in Toledo, Ohio, between 1915 and 1923, the Milburn provided the city dweller with a viable option to the gasoline engine.

Gov. Clark purchased the used vehicle in 1918 when he left office and returned to Adel, Iowa. The Governor did not enjoy driving and the Milburn rapidly became Arletta’s pride and joy. She drove the car for the next 23 years, until 1941, when it was presented to the State Historical Society of Iowa.

“It’s the ideal car for a lady to drive,” Arletta Clark said in 1941. “It is very easy to drive and completely silent. I have had a great deal of enjoyment, using it for shopping and making calls.”

The State Historical Society of Iowa is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Please visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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