Neil Young: Detroit’s Dinosaurs Can Go Electric

It seems everywhere there’s a push for smaller, lighter, more energy efficient cars. These days it’s a foregone conclusion that the cars of the near future will be electric. For Neil Young, the venerable singer-songwriter and outspoken environmentalist, that doesn’t mean having to choose between the huge Detroit beast he loves and the toxic gas consumption we all hate. It’s all about walking the talk, right? Neil Young has formed a company, Linc Volt Technology, and is using his beloved 1959 Lincoln Continental as proof.

“Detroit can do without that $25 billion in retooling loans,” Mr. Young says, “It can make electric cars from existing designs with the tools it already has.” In walking the talk, he has combined forces, pulling together an international team to convert his mammoth 5,000 pound Lincoln Continental from a 9-1o mpg fuel hog to a very friendly 100 mpg example of what can be done. On board is UQM of Denver, the company providing the electric engine, and the Australian firm responsible for building the engine that carried an aircraft around the world without refueling. Young’s car would be a hybrid, with a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) motor generating electricity. Young thinks that the car may end up generating more juice than it uses, meaning that when you plug it in when you get back home, it will actually run your home meter backwards. But he concedes that Detroit’s versions would probably benefit from lighter materials.

Young isn’t the only one who wants a bigger Green vehicle. Salesforce.com Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, wants a F-150 converted. Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, is pushing for a government program to retrofit existing trucks and SUVs, giving them a plug-in electric engine. It seems more than a few people want to keep on having big cars AND be Green while they’re at it. We’re not thrilled that it still has a combustion engine in it, but applaud his efforts to go Green and conserve the energy created while the CNG engine is at it.

How does he like his conversion car? “It’s just a lot faster. A lot healthier… It went from being a hog to being a swan.”

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