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July 25, 2009

The proof of concept stage is complete now and we are moving into the road-ready stage. This is the work that will make our cross-country trip safe.

Lincvolt is currently undergoing re-design and install of some drive train components, most notably the independent rear suspension. These tasks are now being performed at Roy Brizio Street Rods in South San Francisco California by the excellent staff there.

Fine-tuning of the rotary engine system will be done in August at the Brizio facility. Johnathon Goodwin will be accomplishing that important task when he arrives from Wichita.

New custom wheels are being designed and built for Lincvolt by Alan Budnik of Budnik Wheels. These new wheels will improve Lincvolt's safety and stability for the long trip ahead.

The electric power system is being improved with a new battery pack and management system to allow for complete control of the batteries and safe operation. We hope to be making an interesting announcement related to the batteries in the near future. Additionally, some wiring is being upgraded to automotive standards for the long-range journey.

As we move forward and achieve our safety and performance goals, we will be announcing a new schedule for the Lincvolt tour of America.

The Lincvolt team thanks you for your continued support.


July 6, 2009

We have withdrawn Lincvolt from the X-Prize because of the conflict between providing the energy and resources required to develop a viable business plan for the Lincvolt technology, a requirement for X-Prize contestants, versus providing the resources and time required to focus on our main goal.

The development of Lincvolt technology is ongoing. We have always been in a race against Time, not a race against other contestants to win a cash prize.

The Goodwin Young team thanks the X-Prize for the valuable support they provided during the last year. Good luck to all of the contestants!

-- The Goodwin-Young Lincvolt Team.


by Mark Leevan,, July 2009

This $600 car is no toy and is ready to be released in China this year.

The single seater aero car totes VW (Volkswagen) branding.

Volkswagen did a lot of very highly protected testing of this car in Germany, but it was not announced until now where the car would make it's first appearance.

The car was introduced at the VW stockholders meeting as the most economical car in the world is presented.

The initial objective of the prototype was to prove that 1 liter of fuel could deliver 100 kilos of travel.

The aero design proved essential to getting the desired result. The body is 3.47 meters long and just 1.25 meters wide, and a little over a meter high. The prototype was made completely of carbon fiber and is not painted to save weight.

The power plant is a one cylinder diesel positioned ahead of the rear axle and combined with an automatic shift controlled by a knob in the interior.

Safety was not compromised as the impact and roll-over protection is comparable to the GT racing cars.

  • This is a single seated car
  • From conception to production: 3 years
  • Will be selling for 4000 yuan, equivalent to US$ 600
  • Gas tank capacity = 1.7 gallons
  • Speed = 62 Kph, 74.6 Mph
  • Fuel efficiency = 258 miles/gallon
  • Travel distance with a full tank = 404 miles


by Sam Abuelsamid,, April 22, 2009

As more automakers are working on extended range electric vehicles, the issue of NVH is becoming even more of an issue than in existing parallel hybrid vehicles. With vehicles that operate predominantly in electric mode minimizing the impact of starting up the range extender or auxiliary power unit is critical. Companies like General Motors are working hard to make sure the range extenders operate as quietly and smoothly as possible, but small piston engines inherently have some degree of vibration.

Engineering services company FEV has been studying the problem and has decided to propose an unusual solution. FEV has built an experimental range extended electric version of the Fiat 500 that uses a small Wankel rotary engine as the APU. The Wankel has a number of potential advantages, including much higher power density than piston engines and virtually vibration free operation. The high specific power output means that a very small engine can be used that reduces weight and adds packaging flexibility. The downside is that Wankel's traditionally aren't very fuel efficient. However, FEV feels that most ER-EVs will be driven predominantly in EV mode and the limited use of the range extender will limit the effect of the lower engine efficiency. New Wankel engines can also be made more efficient through the adoption of technology like direct fuel injection. It remains to be seen if anyone will adopt a Wankel range extender in a production vehicle, but it's an interesting idea.


By Lindsay Chappell, Automotive News, April 16, 2009

NASHVILLE -- The Renault-Nissan Alliance has added Phoenix to the list of U.S. cities and states that have agreed to develop an electric-vehicle infrastructure to support Nissan EV marketing plans.

Nissan and its French partner Renault plan to market lithium-ion-powered electric vehicles around the world starting in 2010 and have been creating partnerships with government and utility groups to lay the groundwork for vehicle recharging services.

The U.S. list now includes both the Phoenix and Tucson areas of Arizona, San Diego and Sonoma County in California, and the states of Oregon and Tennessee. Earlier this month, the Alliance added Ireland to a list of partnerships that includes the U.K., France, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Israel and Monaco.

Nissan North America said Wednesday night that by adding Phoenix as its sixth U.S. partnership, it hopes to help create an EV-charging corridor that links Phoenix and Tucson, 115 miles away.

Nissan plans to begin selling EVs to commercial and fleet customers starting next year, and to the general public starting in 2012. But the automaker recently said it could launch U.S. retail sales earlier than 2012 if an infrastructure takes shape.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has said that Nissan's EV fleet will consist of several models.

The new Phoenix agreement is with the Maricopa Association of Governments, a government planning and policy entity that represents 31 municipalities and communities around Phoenix.

Building an EV infrastructure will require communities, utility companies, businesses and highway agencies to create public recharging stations along roads and in parking areas. It will also require utility companies to make it easy for consumers to install vehicle-recharging systems in their homes.


by Neil Young, April 11, 2009

Most of us think the world needs change. Change to save the planet. Change to get the economy going again.

I read a story recently about a man who bought new cars twice a year, at least. He was retired and had been buying new cars each year for most of his life. He liked Cadillacs and other big cars. Recently the Cadillac Escalade was his favorite. He loved to go online and "build" custom cars by adding his own feature package and colors. In the old days he would order the car he had "built" online and it would arrive a month or so later. Nowadays, he just "builds" them online and doesn't order. He still has the money, but feels that the big cars are just too much....Too much fuel. Not politically correct. Too hard to explain the purchases to his friends.

The compulsive new and big car habit is ingrained old America. A lot of people are like that and it will be a hard habit to break. This gets to the very reason why we are building Lincvolt. We think change will not come from going against the flow. We say go with the flow.

A lot of people want big cars. Notice the guy in the story I read ONLY buys huge monster autos, the latest and greatest. That buyer is the secret to making change happen. This buying segment will not want a new small car. They will want a big one but won't buy it either in this economy. We think if they could have a big monster Escalade or F250 with a green pedigree and a super new and clean motive power system that delivers BIG power, low emissions and HI MILEAGE efficiency, they would buy it right now. That is how the big change will happen, not by just making 3 wheelers and super-little lightweight cars, whether they have luxury or not. For these car buyers, offering small lightweight electric limited range cars is going against the flow and will mean change will come too slow to matter. However, they WILL buy a new, big, fast and green car that says "this is me" to them. That is the way to get the huge gas guzzlers off the road.

Lincvolt is a Continental. It's built to go a long way in comfort without needing to stop and recharge. Lincvolt charges itself while rolling. Not everyone needs one, but real change will not happen without BIG green cars and trucks. It's the old American way and it will not change overnight. We are in a race against time!

Lincvolt technology demonstrates a way to fill a need. Our goal is 100 mpg. We have achieved 65 mpg to date using domestic fuel. This technology could be utilized in big green American made cars. Imagine a GM Cadillac Escalade or FORD F-series truck that gets 50-75 mpg plus with quiet and efficient electric power.


Danville, VA - Famed rocker Neil Young's motor coach and car collection includes a 'series hybrid' vehicle - a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible. Young and his team recently stopped by VIRginia International Raceway to utilize the Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering and Research's (VIPER) chassis dyno to work on the car's generator engine.

Using VIPER's instruments to fine-tune the single-rotor Wankel engine driving the generator, the stop helped to improve the car's efficiency. Dyno staff led by Victor Seaber helped the team test the generator engine and electric motor output on the chassis dynamometer at VIPER's lab in VIR's North Paddock.

Explaining why he chose to center this project around the huge '59 Lincoln, Young says: "the reason we're using this car is because the car doesn't go against the flow... my theory is you go with flow and then the change will happen quickly. People want big cars. Let's build a big, smart car. What's the problem?"

Young is truly a man who lives his convictions - set about to build a "big American car" that will go down the road in comfort and safety while delivering up to 100 miles per gallon. LincVolt, the name of his car, is the result. "We don't have to change the things that we want to be smart. You can be smart and have the things that you want. Doesn't mean you have to give everything up. [This] is America. Its road's are big. It's a big country. This car's a Continental. It says Continental. That's what it wants, maybe drive to Las Vegas, across the desert, drive to California, pull a trailer."

Young said that with Compressed Natural Gas (CNS) "we got 65 miles per gallon; we switched to gasoline to see what we could do with gasoline." After the engine is warmed up, "we introduce the vaporizer - the vaporizer injects hot fumes into the rotary and since the rotary doesn't go up and down, it goes around, once we get it going on vaporized gasoline fumes, we get better efficiency out of the fumes." To generate hydrogen, LincVolt uses a water-cooled electrical control box to manage the electrical demands. The single-rotor engine drives a 75 kiloWatt UQM electric motor running in reverse, generating power to charge the batteries as neded. LincVolt's engine "runs at only one rpm - it runs at a sweet spot," explained Young, a feature that enhances engine efficiency. The engine is being tested to run on multiple fuel sources, with gasoline, CNG, plus "water gas" -- hydrogen produced via electrolysis from water carried on board.

Pointing to a water-cooled cylinder under the vast hood of the LincVolt, Young described the hydrogen generator: "this thing called a 'slog' - this converts water to a gas through electrolysis. We're working with this gas made from water, which you don't have to refill. It just creates a gas out of water. It's displacing an unknown amount of fuel at this time and that's one thing we're going to figure out here [VIPER]. We've had estimates that it's displacing up to 70% of fuel at this time, but we really don't know. But we know we can get more out of it than we're getting now," explains Young. "The big pie-in-the-sky goal is to eliminate the fuel. 80% of the cost of a gallon of gas comes from distributing and refining it. The cost of making oil to work in a car is what's expensive. So if people had something they could use from home, they wouldn't have to have this distribution system."

Young is not doing this project for commercial reasons: "commercializing is for other people," he says. The LincVolt is entered into the 2010 Automotive X Prize competition, where it must demonstrate fuel efficiency of 100 miles per gallon, Young's ultimate goal.

The LincVolt's performance is impressive for a car of its size and weight, regardless of power source: "we're not as fast off the line as an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) engine is," Neil admits, "but we are fast when you get going - like five to ten miles an hour, you put your foot in this thing and it's just scary."

While working on the car during their three-day stay at VIR and VIPER, Young and his crew enjoyed a lunch buffet with VIR Club members at a club driving day and then had a quiet dinner one evening at the Oak Tree Tavern, VIR's on-site restaurant. During his visit, Young commented to track General Manager Josh Lief that "a lot of love has gone into this place," referring to VIR.


By Don Sherman, New York Times, March 12, 2009

ELECTRIC cars, in one form or another, are taking an increasingly important role in the future of personal transportation. That does not mean the internal combustion engine, our faithful power source for more than a century, is on its way to the scrap heap anytime soon.

But the familiar petroleum-fueled engine is being reconfigured for a considerably different role in the electric propulsion era.

This change will be especially evident in cars like the Chevrolet Volt, a hybrid whose gasoline engine only powers a generator to charge the battery pack -- the engine has no mechanical connection to the wheels. The engine is tuned to operate over a narrow speed range, using the least gas and producing the smallest amount of pollutants.

That is a change of direction from recent developments in engine design aimed at improving power and performance. Conventional methods of raising power output -- adding camshafts and valves to let the engine breathe easier, for example -- have been employed alongside refinements in electronic control systems. Modern engines develop more power, over a wider range of speeds, with little sacrifice of drivability or fuel economy.

But eventually, all the power and flexibility so carefully engineered into today's engines will not be needed. Instead, tomorrow's engines will wait patiently until their services are required to extend an electric car's range. After starting, they will hum quietly while assisting the new heroes of hybrid propulsion, electric motors powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Automakers have already begun previewing the engine of this electric-car future. The 2010 Toyota Prius has no rubber belts under its hood to drive external accessories. All of the accessory equipment, including the air-conditioning compressor and the power steering, is powered by electric motors.

One engine strategy used by the Prius and other hybrids is the Atkinson combustion cycle, which sacrifices some power to gain efficiency. The electric motor's torque more than makes up for the slight reduction in engine output.

While General Motors won't reveal the details of the .4-liter 4-cylinder planned for use as a range-extender in the 2011 Volt, John Bereisa, whose many roles at G.M. include directing advanced engineering and technology development strategy, did offer an overview of the engine that will power this car's generator.

"All we need is 67 horsepower, enough to maintain the batteries' charge when the car is cruising at highway speed," he said. "Since there wasn't time to design an engine from scratch, we looked for the smallest existing engine capable of supplying 67 horsepower, which turned out to be G.M.'s Family Zero design used in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East."

Mr. Bereisa continued: "When you map an engine's power versus r.p.m. versus fuel consumption, the resulting chart looks like the Rocky Mountains. In conventional cars, you're driving all over that map. But in the Volt, we're able to keep the engine operating in what I call its happy valley, where it delivers the power that's required while consuming minimal fuel."

The borders of that valley, Mr. Bereisa said, are still under development, but they may range from a low of 2,000 r.p.m. to a high of 3,000 r.p.m, enough to maintain the battery pack's charge.

Pressed to speculate about how electric car engines will further evolve, Mr. Bereisa acknowledged that G.M. engineers are already considering a clean-sheet design for the car he calls Volt II.

"We'd select a smaller displacement engine for the future, probably less than 1 liter," he said. "We'd position the catalytic converter and route the coolant lines to minimize heat losses."

"The engine for the next Volt will definitely be as simple and as light as possible."


Dave Guilford, Automotive News, March 9, 2009

GENEVA - Electric vehicles were everywhere here at the auto show, ranging from tantalizing roadsters to stubby microcars. But for all the buzz, automakers still have no solution to the longstanding problem of limited range.

EVs arriving in the next few years will be limited-range "city cars."

Whether electric cars will move beyond that small market segment is unclear.

But automakers very much want zero-emissions electrics in their lineups.

Last week, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally said his company will emphasize EVs. "In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles," Mulally said at a conference in California.

Industry attention has turned to two proposed solutions: quick battery recharging and battery-swapping stations.

"In the beginning when the infrastructure isn't anywhere, EVs are going to be predominantly in the city," said Andy Palmer, senior vice president of Nissan Motor Co. "But once you've got the fast-charging stations or the swap stations in place, I don't see them being any different from gas-fired cars, to be honest."

Other executives remain unconvinced. One Daimler executive, for instance, decries quick-charge claims as "fantasies."

Too quick?

Quick-charging advocates say widespread installation of commercial chargers would remove consumers' worries about dead batteries. Nissan, which plans to introduce an electric vehicle for fleets in the United States in 2010, says recharging could restore 80 percent of a battery's energy within 30 minutes.

But Herbert Kohler, Daimler vice president for group research and advance engineering, said quick recharging would cut the 10-year life span that Daimler plans for battery packs.

"Don't believe those kinds of fantasies to say it could be in a few minutes," Kohler said, referring to recharging time.

"Two hours, maybe one and a half, in order to be sure that the lifetime of the battery will stay as announced. Otherwise you will ruin the battery, and those kinds of lifetimes we discussed are never to be realized."

But Nissan's Palmer said that if carefully controlled, "fast charging doesn't have a detrimental effect."

Swap batteries

Battery swapping - promoted by Shai Agassi, founder of the company Better Place - envisions stations where a driver could pull in, have a depleted battery replaced and drive away. Better Place is testing the concept with Renault-Nissan.

Bart Sloep, product group manager for Mitsubishi Motors Europe, said the variety of automotive battery packs poses a major obstacle to swapping.

"It's so complex to have a battery swap system for a large number of cars," Sloep said. "It's impossible because of how many battery packs you will have to keep in stock."

Battery packs weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds) or more, he said, making replacement difficult. And today's batteries likely will soon become obsolete.

"The current technology in batteries is progressing so fast - what is the residual value of a battery pack in five years?" Sloep said. "Who wants to put money in that?"

Sloep said Mitsubishi, which will launch its i MiEV in Japan in June, sees electric vehicles as city commuter cars: "There will not be an electric car for every situation."

Thomas Weber, Daimler's management board member for group research, said Mercedes-Benz tested battery swapping in fleets of electric prototype cars in the 1970s, but it has rejected the idea for the current generation of electrics.

Despite the uncertainty about bringing electric vehicles into the mainstream, interest is intense.

Supplier Magna Steyr built a concept electric vehicle for Geneva to attract customers for its contract manufacturing plant in Graz, Austria.

Erwin Bair, Magna Steyr's chief engineer for powertrain, said automakers constantly ask about electrics.

"Every customer is talking about it," Bair said. "Every one."

Reuters contributed to this report


Editorial, New York Times, January 18, 2009

From plug-in cars to carbon capture to wind farms linked to "intelligent" power grids, many of the solutions pitched to restructure the country's energy system and confront global warming rely on a faith in high tech: we expect, or at least hope, that an Apollo project, the energy equivalent of the revolution or some other burst of creative genius will engineer the problem away.

Obviously, game-changing technologies will play a big role in cutting America's consumption of fossil fuels. They will also be essential to achieving the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that most scientists think will be necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. But as it frames its strategy to deal with both problems, the Obama administration cannot overlook the low-hanging fruit -- the gains to be had from making existing technologies more efficient.

The plain truth is that the United States is an inefficient user of energy. For each dollar of economic product, the United States spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than 75 of 107 countries tracked in the indicators of the International Energy Agency. Those doing better include not only cutting-edge nations like Japan but low-tech countries like Thailand and Mexico.

True, energy efficiency has improved, especially in states like California. But American drivers, households and businesses still use more energy than those in most other rich countries to do the same thing. The United States spends more energy to produce a ton of cement clinker than Canada, Mexico and even China. It is one of the most energy-intensive makers of pulp and paper, emitting more than three times as much carbon dioxide per ton as Brazil and twice as much as South Korea.

Per-capita carbon dioxide emissions by households in the United States and Canada are the highest in the world -- in part because of bigger homes. And the energy efficiency of electricity production from fossil fuels is lower in the United States than in most rich countries and some poor ones, mainly because of the higher share of coal in the mix.

Transportation tells the same story. The United States uses the most energy per passenger mile among the 18 rich economies surveyed by the energy agency. In 2006, the American auto fleet used, on average, a little less than five gallons of gas to travel 100 miles. The Irish went the same distance with under four gallons, the Italians with less than three, basically because they use smaller cars that get better mileage.

The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that switching from an S.U.V. that gets 14 miles per gallon to one that gets 16 would save the same amount of fuel as swapping a 35-mile-a-gallon car for a 51-m.p.g. new generation gas-sipper. This is not an argument for more S.U.V.'s. It simply shows that we can wring savings from modest efficiency gains in products we already use.

A study by McKinsey & Company last year argued that most of the carbon abatement needed between now and 2030 could be achieved with existing technologies, things like insulating homes, improving fuel efficiency, and switching to concentrated laundry detergents to reduce packaging and transport costs. Merely improving transmissions would vastly increase fuel economy.

A quantum jump in energy efficiency will still require political leadership. Cheap energy has kept America from making the necessary investments. Yet they must be made; neither the country nor the atmosphere can wait for high tech to ride to the rescue.


by Karen Howlett and Greg Keenan, Toronto Globe and Mail, January 15, 2009

TORONTO -- Ontario is taking its first baby steps to position itself for the coming revolution in electric cars by backing a California high-tech company that plans to build battery recharging stations.

Better Place, based in Palo Alto, will unveil a pilot project at a news conference in Toronto today to build a recharging station in Ontario, sources said.

This will be the first foray into Canada for the company, which is working with partners to build recharging stations in the United States, Israel, Denmark and Australia. Better Place is setting up shop here just as the embattled Detroit auto makers are betting their futures on hybrid and battery-powered vehicles, which will arrive as soon as next year.

Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of International Trade Sandra Pupatello will be on hand for the announcement to signal the province's support for ventures aimed at getting the next generation of cars onto the province's roads. While there will be no government money attached to today's announcement, sources said that will come at a later date.

The McGuinty government has earmarked a total of $1.15-billion in funding for ventures that will help the province weather the economic downturn by creating jobs of the future. Better Place is an ideal candidate for funding because much of the government's focus is on encouraging the auto sector to build cars that are more environmentally friendly.

Better Place, which was founded in 2007 to help the auto sector reduce its dependence on oil and its carbon footprint, would allow drivers to exchange a depleted electric vehicle battery at one of the company's stations for a fully charged one. Its first recharging station is slated for San Francisco, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a big push for cars with lower emissions.

Plug-in hybrids, or extended-range electric vehicles, run mainly on battery power with a small gasoline engine for backup if the battery runs out of juice before the vehicle reaches its destination.

They were the main focus at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week as the car companies unveiled future vehicles. But persuading consumers to pay the thousands of dollars more for these cars will be a tough sell. The batteries alone can cost as much as $8,000.

The Detroit Three car makers and their rivals unveiled fleet after fleet of gas-electric hybrids or battery-powered cars. Ranges vary, but General Motors Corp. is aiming at a 60-kilometre distance for its Chevrolet Volt, which is due out late next year.

A new completely battery-powered compact from Ford Motor Co. is designed to have a range of about 160 kilometres and will run on lithium ion batteries that can be recharged overnight from home electricity outlets. Ford has formed a strategic alliance with Canadian parts maker Magna International Inc. to develop that vehicle and aims to have 10,000 of them on the road in 2011.


by Neil Young, January 5, 2009

A Perfect storm for innovation is gathering in Washington. With the government's recent financial assistance to GM and Chrysler, the Big 3 now have until the end of March to make the case that shows how they will survive. Survival is not enough though.

America now has a chance to lead the world in power and fuel efficiency. The Big three will still be looking for help at the end of March. As the major shareholder, the US government would have an opportunity to DEMAND the type of cars that will lead the world toward saving the planet for future generations.

If the Big three cannot agree to make only cars that are fuel efficient enough to get at least 50 MPG by 2011, 75 MPG by 2013 and 100 MPG by 2015, then they should go into bankruptcy and fend for themselves like all the other businesses that are having trouble. The truth is this can be done and innovators know the way to do it.

Better Place is a new model for power distribution to replace the old model of gas stations that supported the evolution of the automobile to this point. Better Place is taking hold in countries around the world and in some areas of the US. Better Place's revolutionary concept for distribution of power to vehicles actually lowers the price of the vehicle by making the battery free to the consumer and automaker, while a subscription allows the user to only pay for miles travelled. There is a great opportunity for innovative solutions with Better Place.

The Automotive X Prize is a race of 100MPG vehicles across America in 2010 sponsored by the Progressive Insurance Company. There are many entries. These cars must be safe and have a business plan that allows for at least 10,000 units per year. Automotive X prize contenders need to share their knowledge with the Car Czar. How will they get their cars to the magic 100mpg? There are some good ways to do it. Now is the time to share.

Innovators should swarm like locusts on Washington in January, February and March to show the Car Czar how to make fuel-efficient cars.

A Car Czar who knows how it can be done, and a government in control of the automakers while they stabilize will be key to demanding all autos made in the USA have a minimum mileage rating of 50MPG. This includes cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks. Now it is time for America to take back the reins of innovation and show the true wave of the future. It is a window for a sea change and a new opportunity for America to lead the world.

Lincvolt, an X Prize contestant, is a 2.5 ton, 19.5 foot American classic now attaining 65 MPG utilizing electricity and domestic fuel. The converted 1959 Lincoln Continental MK IV demonstrates that today's big sedans SUVs and pick-up trucks can get at least 50 MPG if they are fuel-efficient and use electric power, making it obvious that smaller cars could do even better than that. Ultimately, the Lincvolt team aims to demonstrate a Lincvolt hydro bio-electric series hybrid that will attain 100MPG with domestic fuels and very low emissions.

In February, Lincvolt will begin an historic drive to Washington to showcase "the people's fuel", and show the President, the Car Czar, Congress and the Senate how innovation happening right now in America can be a beacon of change to the world.

The Lincvolt team invites the other contestants in the Automotive X Prize Race, Better Place, and innovators from around the world to join us in Washington during the first 100 days of the new administration.


by Michael Wittman,, December 31, 2008

Cool break for biotechnology!

On Tuesday, an Air New Zealand airplane successfully completed a flight that used a hybrid veggie oil fuel.

This biofuel could lower airplane emissions and cut costs, according to airline reps.

One engine of a Boeing 747-400 airplane was powered by a 50-50 blend of oil from jatropha plants and standard A1 jet fuel.

There's been a real push this year for alternative fuels by airlines, which were slammed by super high oil costs earlier in the year.

Coupled with the massive economic crisis at hand it's not surprising that cost-saving innovations are being embraced.

An Air New Zealand rep couldn't say if the veggie oil blend would be cheaper than standard jet fuel, since jatropha is not yet produced on a commercial scale.

Biofuels were once dismissed for use in aviation because most freeze at the low temperatures up in the skies.

But this new test shows jatropha, whose seeds yield an oil already used to produce fuels like biodiesel, has an even lower freezing point than jet fuel.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Rob Fyfe said to the media, "Today we stand at the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development and an important moment in aviation history."

The company has also stated that their goal is to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline.

We hope they reach that goal and that the others follow suit!


November 26, 2008

A pre-Thanksgiving thought from Detroit on old songs and an industrial muse...

It's a cold night in Detroit tonight, an uncertain future grips us all, holidays stretched out in front of us but with no idea what comes in behind them... it's tough to really enjoy them...

A night spent listening to old songs - good songs, great songs truly, but from another era.

They make me sad in a way that cannot be described; only felt and only inferred. Tied, in an oddly emotional way, to a stumbling industry and a nation in need of sweeping changes.

Not nostalgia certainly, not a yearning for the past. Real Detroiters don't really fall victim to that kind of emotion unfortunately - too cold, too tough here for that.

Only a series of questions - How did we get to this place? How did things get so contorted and unrecognizable? What was my role in allowing this all to get to this point? Is it time taking its toll? Or is it something more significant?

One only need look to the same recordings to find the answers, if any truly exist.

The old songs, like the uncertain future of the automotive industry that we face in North America, are what once existed and still do, though in an artificial, synthesized kind of way. Frozen in time.

We recognize the words, the melody and can even recall where we were when we first heard it, maybe who we were with. And yet, it isn't the same.

But it's not enough to simply be sad, to consign oneself to the past.

Unfortunately though, I am afraid that this is the current state of the automotive industry. The corporations have fallen victim to laziness, to a desire to listen to the same old songs, comfortable as they are, and not write any new ones. Not even try, apparently.

We are not without the skills to do so though, and, with any guidance, divine or otherwise, we will write the new songs that must be written simply as an extension of who we are and what we must do to be living in the moment. An industrial muse, if you will.

With new tools, reignited imaginations and verve. With minds aglow, hands that know what to do simply from memory, with backs that still don't mind hard work.

And with a continued appreciation and thankfulness for all that we still have and an empathy for those that we are compelled to extend a hand to in kindness in these turbulent times.

Whatever direction the bailout discussions go in the next month or two, we still have much to be thankful for - enjoy your families, enjoy your time and think positively - there are new songs on the way...

- - your friend in D-town


November 20, 2008

Congressman X:

"Mr. Wagoner, we have not discussed this up to this point but, could I see your plan for how GM will use the $10 Billion it seeks in Federal assistance via a bail-out loan?"

Mr. Wagoner:

"Uhhhh, it's really quite funny Congressman X, ah, you see, ah, I was running to catch my flight to Washington on Tuesday and I, ah, well, I think it may have fallen out of my jacket somewhere along the line..."

I make roughly 0.000000000013% of what Rick Wagoner (or any of the other automotive CEO's in Washington this week for that matter) makes annually, yet I can say without hesitation that I always assume that when I ask for resources from the owner of my company, well, I assume that he will want to know what exactly his money is going to buy and just how much it will benefit the company.

And as a result, I provide full documentation. I learned this invaluable lesson as a young engineer of 22 years old - being caught flat-footed, suffering the embarrassment that came with my ill-preparedness was an invaluable lesson. But, again, I was 22 and a junior engineer; not the middle-aged CEO of a multi-national conglomerate.

Why would educated, seasoned professionals walk into a series of critical, life-extending meetings, unarmed with no plan, no forethought, no nothin'?

The answer is simple; they have no plan.

They fully expect that because they are who they are, in the corporate sense that they will be granted whatever they desire. Unchecked arrogance.

They are the leaders of some of the largest companies in the world, thus, it is their birthright, why can't we get that fact through our sub-standard brains?

No dreams of ultra-high fuel economy via alternate technologies, no out-there concepts for business model development, no hat-in-hand admission that what has transpired to get them all to this point was an unmitigated failure!

Plans boys, I want to see plans!

Plans: grandiose and ground-breaking. And I want you to show all your work on how you got to the summary of your submitted plan - copiers will not be tolerated.

My bet is that you can't produce adventurous and innovative thought required to draft a plan that is contemporary and viable, my bet is that unless it involves the status quo and small block, internal combustion engines, you'll be left standing with your "plan" in your hand as the legislators head for the holiday break...

- - your friend in D-town


Pelosi: "Until they show us a plan, we can't show them the money."
by Harry Stoffer, Automotive News, November 20, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders of Congress today blocked action on legislation that would provide $25 billion in emergency federal loans to the Detroit 3.

Instead, the leaders directed General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC to submit plans showing how they would use the aid. They scheduled hearings on the plans for the week of Dec. 2, and said Congress would return Dec. 8 to consider aid measures.

The announcement upstaged moves by a bipartisan group of senators to get action this week on a compromise that would redirect $25 billion in funds already approved to help automakers build more fuel-efficient vehicles. Instead, they would let the Detroit 3 use the money to bridge their cash crises, but with extensive conditions.

Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both Michigan Democrats, scheduled an afternoon news conference with Republicans from automaking states to discuss the compromise.

But before they arrived at a Capitol studio, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and seven other Democratic leaders entered the room and announced their decision to demand viability plans from the Detroit 3 and hold more hearings.

"It's their agreement," Reid said of the compromise's supporters.

Added House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: "Until they show us a plan, we can't show them the money."

Pleased by bipartisan effort

But during their news conference, Levin and other lawmakers said they were pleased with the compromise and hoped it could form the basis of a deal in December. They said they were disappointed by the decision by the Democratic leaders to postpone action for at least two weeks.

"There's risks in this delay" for the teetering companies, Levin said.

Under his bill, the Commerce Department would consider the Detroit 3 viability plans. Under the leaders' plan, the review would be Congress' job.

"That's taking on a huge responsibility," Levin said.

Stabenow said she is encouraged that the leaders acknowledged the critical importance of the auto industry and "are not shutting the door" to aid.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said millions of Americans who depend on the industry are worried about their livelihoods. A vote on the compromise "would have been a wonderful Thanksgiving present" for them, he said.

Voinovich complained that the Democratic leaders have established no criteria for the plans automakers are to submit to Congress.

Automakers react

In a statement, Ford Motor Co. said it would forward a plan to lawmakers.

"Ford welcomes the opportunity to provide our plan to Congress," the statement said. "We have a great plan that will continue Ford's transformation into a lean, profitable company that delivers the safe, fuel-efficient, high-quality new products that our customers want and value."

In a separate statement, GM said it would "deliver a plan to Congress that shows them a viable General Motors. We agree completely that there must be accountability to U.S. taxpayers for government support that enables automakers to continue their restructuring and to ensure a stronger, more competitive auto industry.

"We will continue to work vigorously with the Congress and the administration during the next few weeks to address their concerns and to arrive at a solution that provides immediate aid to the auto industry," GM said.

Congress vs. White House

Democratic leaders support carving out $25 billion in loans to the Detroit 3 from the $700 billion federal bailout fund for financial institutions. President George W. Bush and GOP lawmakers have rejected that approach.

Reid said the CEOs of the Detroit 3, who testified before House and Senate committees this week, did not convince Congress that their companies could be made viable with more aid. He said he would look for accountability in the companies' plans.

Pelosi also expressed doubt that federal aid would make the Detroit 3 viable, But she rejected suggestions that the companies should file for bankruptcy protection.


By Peter M. De Lorenzo, The Autoextremist, November 19, 2008

Detroit. In the last week I have done several live and taped radio interviews across the country and with the BBC in London, a spirited interview with Diane Tucker appearing in The Huffington Post entitled, "Journalist to GOP: You're 100 Percent Wrong About U.S. Automakers," and I have several national and international TV appearances slated for the next few days too. The subject? The looming implosion of Detroit, of course. People want to know the who, what, when, where, why of this whole thing, and they want to know about the cost, both in terms of taxpayer money needed and the real cost to the economy if the Detroit automakers don't receive these bridge loans.

The din out there in the media right now is so anti-Detroit, anti-"bailout" that I welcome the opportunity to present the other side of the debate, even if it appears with each passing day that Detroit is running out of time and unable to break through the negative media clutter that envelopes the industry at every turn. And after that death march of a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, I'm even more pessimistic.

When Alan Mulally, Rick Wagoner, Bob Nardelli and Ron Gettelfinger sat down in front of the microphones, I knew it wasn't going to be good, especially when Peter Morici - the relentlessly self-promoting economics professor from the University of Maryland - sat down next to them (more on him in "On The Table" this week - ed). Which Senator was responsible for inviting him is anyone's guess, but it was clear that this was a setup from the get go.

We then had to watch as each of these U.S. Senators spewed their particular brand of inaccuracies and flat-out misconceptions about the automobile industry in their opening statements. A very few were actually worth listening to - and I mean like two - while most of the others were so blatantly self-serving and out of touch with reality that it was painful to watch. And then some acted like they were just hatched yesterday and were so resolute in their lack of awareness about what was going on and why they had to be there in the first place that it was simply appalling .

I can't help but think that when enlightened Americans watched these people in action - the people who were actually elected by us to be in office - that they recoiled in horror at the absolutely stunning lack of knowledge, awareness, sense of place, sense of well, anything that was displayed by these Senators yesterday. Is this really the best we can do? I certainly hope not.

At any rate, the message in that hearing room was clear: Detroit put itself in the shape it finds itself in by building bad, low-tech cars that nobody wants. That they were regurgitating the now-obligatory woeful misperception of Detroit that has spread across the country - a Detroit that hasn't existed for the better part of a decade, by the way - was obvious. The fact that these Senators weren't aware of the kind of ultra-competitive products that these companies have out now was predictable. And the fact that they weren't aware of the kind of leading edge technological development that Detroit is actively engaged in was predictable too.

Being clueless in Washington isn't all that uncommon, unfortunately, but when misconceptions, half-truths and flat-out lies get hoisted up the flagpole as Fact, then it's no wonder that the leaders of these Detroit car companies were on the defensive and unable to score points with the judges.

Proof of that was on display yesterday when the senators in that hearing room kept talking about restructuring, as if it was a new-fangled idea that these Detroit CEOs weren't aware of. And they had to be reminded over and over again that Detroit has been restructuring and revamping since 2000, that Detroit hasn't been operating in a vacuum, that Detroit does build competitive and class-leading products, that Detroit has pioneered new technologies, that Detroit is a viable, relevant, strategic industry that's part of the crucial fabric of America's manufacturing base, that the worst financial crisis in seven decades has wreaked havoc on their ability to do business, and on, and on, and on.

Back when things were booming for the domestic automobile industry, the importance of lobbying in Washington and having a consistent and focused image strategy that presented these companies' positions and outlined their contributions to the American economy wasn't a top priority. Now that it is, and the Detroit Three are playing catchup - while taking body blows and backed up against the ropes - the Old Detroit is still slamming the New Detroit to the ground.

The Perception Gap that exists out there for the Detroit automakers isn't narrowing, it's actually growing wider. Because when Americans get what minimal news they're willing to digest - and only because it's pre-packaged in carefully doled-out sound bites - then the Old Detroit will perennially overshadow the New Detroit, hands down.

Detroit may get help from Washington, but left to their own devices - and timetables - it's looking like the politicians will come up with something that's too little and too late to actually make a difference.

And that's a giant bowl of Not Good.

Thanks for listening.


by Neil Young, November 19, 2008

President-elect Obama's plan to put a million electric vehicles on the road in 10 years is do-able and should be surpassed by its own momentum. As people discover the many advantages of electric vehicles (EVs), this momentum will build. Not only are these cars green and responsible, they also enhance National Security. From all we've been told about EVs we know a little. They are cleaner. We've heard about plugging them into our homes to recharge overnight. But most of us don't know much about electric cars yet.

The momentum of the Electric Vehicle Age will stem from enhanced performance, smoothness of acceleration, quietness, and superior control. The way an electric car can be tuned to behave a certain way for a certain driver allows for a whole new feeling in the driving experience. People just don't know how cool these cars are.

Existing designs can be manufactured as electric cars with no change to the tooling of the existing designs. Adapting kits are possible. Build electric versions on these existing tools to keep people working and get people interested in buying again. The technology to make these new electric vehicles exists today right here in this country.

From Wichita Kansas we get this report: A 1959 Lincoln Continental repowered to be a self charging electric vehicle by a small group of engineers and local services, is now achieving up to 65 mpg in informal tests. Work there continues. The goal of the project is to attain up to and beyond 100mpg for the biggest and heaviest car made in 1959. The car has been driven in California and Kansas and shown to over 15,000 people. In an audience of 12,000, one tenth of the people raised their hands when asked if they would like to have a car like that. That Lincoln represents a future for Detroit. It is the possibility of Big Clean cars that do not promote Global warming. Let's build them now, as well as economical small clean and green electric cars and let's put people to work. We already have the existing tooling and the facilities and manpower.

From Detroit we get this report: "We have devoted significant resources to this project: Over 200 engineers and 50 designers are working on the Volt alone, and another 400 are working on related subsystems and electric components. That's how important we think this is, and that's how much stock we place in the future of extended-range electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt."-- Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director - E-Flex Systems and the Chevy Volt, GeneralMotors Corp. The GM, FORD and Chrysler CEOs then each boarded private personal business jets to be paid for by taxpayers money, and flew to Washington to ask tax-payers to give them a 25 Billion dollar infusion to save hard working American's jobs. Have they changed direction but it's just too early for our senators and congress representatives to see it yet? I don't think so. Maybe introducing a new high-performance fossil fueled Shelby Mustang and jumping into a private jet to go to Washington for a bailout was not such a good idea.

Efficient technology can power the existing designs we have today.

We don't need a car that looks different with a new sunroof over the back seat creating an air conditioning challenge as a feature.

We don't need new tooling to start building electric cars now.

We need kits to adapt what we are currently making to today's demands.

We need new thinking from new leaders and we need new perspectives from unions.

Today the news is Hybrids. Everyone is making them. Some of these hybrids offer very poor mileage in the 20-30 mpg range. They may be already on their way out because of the inherent inefficiency of their design. An electric motor and an internal combustion engine both driving the wheels in one car may not be the most efficient approach. Forward thinkers are wondering about that inefficiency and working on ways to solve it. Plug in Kits are now available for Prius and Ford Escape, allowing these vehicles to plug in for a re-charge, increasing their efficiency and reducing their negative impact on the environment. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) look like the future, but are they the future?

There are huge limitations. The battery is the biggest. An average EV is only good for a short trip before it needs a charge. Maybe 40 miles or so is a good estimate. Some electric cars get a long range like 100 miles before they lose power and have to recharge. The Tesla (a super light sports car) goes over 150 miles on a charge. Two things that all basic EVs have in common is they are small in size and they have to stop and re-charge. If you run out of power you are down. Just like gas.

To re-charge, you need a power source. It may be your home, or it may be your parking garage at work. It might be a charging system that is privately owned and is a business enterprise (Better Place), or it may be a public utility service (PG&E). You may have a cable to plug in that identifies you so your account can be automatically charged. One thing is for sure. You need to re-charge. So you are going to be more conscious of your energy use.

Not every EV has to plug in. For some, it's optional. Cars like the Chevy Volt have an onboard generator to re-charge batteries or power the car. These cars are Self-Charging EVs (SCEVs). That means on long trips you use gasoline. A long trip is over about forty miles in a Volt, on level ground. When the battery starts to die, an onboard generator rescues it and powers the electric motor, while slowly recharging the battery. This sequence cycles on and off while you take a long trip. Mostly the generator is on..... using gasoline, a fuel widely seen as a National Security disadvantage. The Volt generator will charge the batteries faster if the car is not moving, by using gasoline. On short trips, you won't even use the generator. You will go the first 40 miles on plug-in power. An average commute in the USA is about 35 miles.

Efficiency in the self-charging electric car is the big decider. If the efficiency of your charging system allows you to make electricity with less financial cost than buying it from the grid, then your car can power your house and turn the meter backwards to reduce or eliminate your electric bill. Potentially, you may even be able to sell electricity to the grid someday. That would be a good reason to buy a SCEV with a highly efficient self-charging system. These cars are mobile power plants.

Big electric cars are left out of the story so far by major manufacturers. They have made some very poor hybrid SUVS. SUVs, big sedans, pick-up trucks are all by the wayside. They have been relegated to dinosaur status. But don't count them out. A big Self-Charging SUV with a super efficient self-charging system would create enough power to support 6 homes. You could be part of a distributed power system by using the grid backwards, selling power back to your Utility Company. In this approach, power enters the grid from plugged-in vehicles, avoiding the loss found in the lines when power comes to you from a central Power Plant located miles away. Imagine a big electric car that earns you income.

But you just wanted a big electric car. You may be surprised to know why size is important. Big SCEVs, while taking big power to run, and requiring large battery banks and big electric motors, will undoubtedly be getting up to 100 mpg or more in the near future. A big developmental car, Lincvolt, seen at , is proving this technology. Big SCEVs may well be earning you money while you are charging the grid. They may be re-charging with super efficient self-charging systems, and even using Domestic Green bio-diesel fuel, a fuel that does not contribute significantly to Global Warming. Big may be an unexpected Green alternative.


by Neil Young, November 15, 2008

Find a new ownership group. The culture must change. It is time to turn the page. In the high technology sector there are several candidates for ownership of a major car and truck manufacturer. We need forward looking people who are not restricted by the existing culture in Detroit. We need visionary people now with business sense to create automobiles that do not contribute to global warming.

It is time to change and our problems can facilitate our solutions. We can no longer afford to continue down Detroit's old road. The people have spoken. They do not want gas guzzlers (although they still like big cars and trucks). It is possible to build large long-range vehicles that are very efficient. People WILL buy those vehicles because they represent REAL change and a solution that we can live with.

The government must take advantage of the powerful position that exists today. The Big 3 are looking for a bailout. They should only get it if they agree to stop building autos that contribute to global warming now. The stress on the auto manufacturers today is gigantic. In order to keep people working in their jobs and keep factories open, this plan is suggested:

The big three must reduce models to basics. a truck, an SUV, a large family sedan, an economy sedan, and a sports car. Use existing tooling.

Keep building these models to keep the workforce employed but build them WITHOUT engines and transmissions. These new vehicles, called Transition Rollers, are ready for a re-power. NO NEW TOOLING is required at this stage. The adapters are part of the kits described next.

At the same time as the new Transition Rollers are being built, keeping the work force working, utilize existing technology now, create re-power kits to retrofit the Transition Rollers to SCEVs (self charging electric vehicles) for long range capability up to and over 100mpg. If you don't think this technology is realistic or available, check out the Progressive Insurance Automotive X prize. Alternatively, check out or other examples.

A bailed out Auto manufacturer must open or re-purpose one or more factories and dedicate them to do the re-power/retrofit assembly. These factories would focus on re-powering the Transition Rollers into SCEVs but could also retrofit and re-power many existing vehicles to SCEVs. These existing vehicles are currently sitting unsold at dealerships across America.

Auto manufacturers taking advantage of a government bailout must only sell clean and green vehicles that do not contribute to global warming. No more internal combustion engines that run exclusively on fossil fuels can be sold period.

No Big Three excuses like "new tooling takes time". New tooling is not a requirement for SCEV transition rollers.

Build only new vehicles that attain the goal of reversing global warming and enhancing National Security.

Government legislation going with the bailout should include tax breaks for purchasers of these cars with the new green SCEV technology. The legislation accompanying the bailout of major auto manufacturers must include directives to build only vehicles that attain the goal of reversing global warming while enhancing National security, and provide the financial assistance to make manufacturing these cars affordable in the short term while the industry re-stabilizes.

Eventually the SCEV technology could be built into every new car and truck as it is being assembled and the stop gap plan described above would have completed its job of keeping America building and working through this turbulent time.

Detroit has had a long time to adapt to the new world and now the failure of Detroit's actions is costing us all. We pay the bailout. Let's make a good deal for the future of America and the Planet. Companies like UQM (Colorado) and others build great electric motors right here in the USA. Use these domestic electric motors. Put these people to work now. This plan reverses the flow from negative to positive because people need and will buy clean and green cars to be part of World Change. Unique wheel covers will identify these cars on the road so that others can see the great example a new car owner is making. People want America to win!

This plan addresses the issue of Global warming from our automobiles while enhancing our National Security and keeping Detroit working.


Like the mystic Paiute leader Wovoka, Rick Wagoner, through his tried-and true visionary powers as a corporate shaman, plots an automotive "Ghost Dance" movement. A prophetic, last stand for an industry which, like the native American tribes of the 19th century, stands at the brink of extinction

His belief (fueled by lack of funds) being that if he can just get all of the tribes together, dancing all day and all night for five days, maybe the former days of old technology / high profit SUV's and $1.00 per gallon gasoline prices will somehow, through the spirit world and their support of his righteous vision quest, come back. In the process, preserving and extending the life that he and his tribe once lived...

And, like Wovoka's vision and his misguided plea to his people to simply dance to bring back the former way of life, Rick's vision is based on desperation and on naive belief alone. The results of Wagoner's efforts, like those of Wovoka, could be met with an automotive version of the Wounded Knee Massacre, as early as this week.

- - your friend in D-town


November 12, 2008

An open letter to all of the LincVolt followers, technology freaks, gear heads, environmentalists and patriots...

Let's assume that 'Detroit' is a media term that is synonymous with the American automotive industry in total - just for speaking purposes. Because, let's face it - it is not just Detroit that is threatened currently by the precarious state that the automotive industry finds itself in. It's all of North America. Many statistics and facts are thrown around loosely but in real terms, the threat that the industry faces currently - extinction really, will affect all of us.

Don't think so? Go to a bar in Janesville, Wisconsin or a restaurant in Lordstown, Ohio or an appliance store in Shreveport, Louisiana. Many of the faces that you will encounter are those of you and me; consumed with worry and despair, full of uncertainty. We may live in pockets seemingly insulated from the reality, but in fact, we are not insulated nor removed. We are amongst it; we live it or will live it.

These are the times we live in, but, these are also the times that we, as an American mass, can redirect and redesign the moment to fit a new era of economics, technology and need. It may be one of the biggest opportunities any of us have to truly make a difference within our lifetimes!

Write your legislators, demand support of the industry that was once a model for the world - it can be again. But it will take ingenuity (as we see endeavors like the LincVolt effort), it will take diligence and, most importantly, it will take action on the part of all of us. Nancy Pelosi will be pushing the issue next week; your input to the decision makers in this effort will be a critical push but it must come NOW. Congresswoman Pelosi's goal is to include a specific and defined set of bail-out parameters under the provisions of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP) which is currently being utilized within the financial market sector of banks and Wall Street brokerages.

The recent Presidential election and the changes that will result was only the first step; your job, my job, is not complete yet by any stretch of the imagination.

We must let Washington know that we are pissed off, that we do want a thriving economy once again within a sustainable environmental platform and that we recognize that the U.S. auto industry must be a major driving force within that new economy.

Let the Congress and the Senate know that you are aware that revised 'The Detroit Three' term used for the current trio of Ford, GM and Chrysler is no longer acceptable, and in many ways, blasphemous to the memories of those that so fully committed themselves to making it what it once was - the incredibly smart, creative and hardworking people that gave us legacies like the '59 Lincoln that is the basis for LincVolt. Machines steeped in elegance, creativity and innovation. And profitability.

Let them know that we must regain a position of prominence once again in the global automotive community for our combined futures as well as the futures of our kids and grand kids and, of course, our planet.

Not that long ago, the American automotive scene was known as 'The Big Three', before the diluted 'Detroit Three' tag now referred to; it was an unintentional acknowledgement of that very world prominence; not only by Americans but by all around the world.

It was unquestioned and undeniable. We must return to this leadership role through technology, intelligence and action.

Write and demand support but, with it, also demand change through defined requirements and advancements in technology, requirements for energy independence in the long-term and sound financial governing of an American taxpayer - funded, re-born industry!

We are here, waiting, with skills and creativity that is unsurpassed. We can do it and we will do it. But, we need your support - we are 'The Big Three.'

- - Disheveled in D-town

Now if we can just get corporate leaders to emulate the new presidential thought process in the coming months we just might make some headway as a nation and a leader (once again) amongst the world's nations, technologies, etc.

-- your friend from D-Town


by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, November 9, 2008

Barack Obama's election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we've seen recently that the converse -- a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance -- doesn't get very far either.

We can't solve our educational challenges when, according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth of Americans believe that the sun orbits the Earth.

Almost half of young Americans said in a 2006 poll that it was not necessary to know the locations of countries where important news was made. That must be a relief to Sarah Palin, who, according to Fox News, didn't realize that Africa was a continent rather than a country.

Perhaps John Kennedy was the last president who was unapologetic about his intellect and about luring the best minds to his cabinet. More recently, we've had some smart and well-educated presidents who scrambled to hide it. Richard Nixon was a self-loathing intellectual, and Bill Clinton camouflaged a fulgent brain behind folksy Arkansas aphorisms about hogs.

As for President Bush, he adopted anti-intellectualism as administration policy, repeatedly rejecting expertise (from Middle East experts, climate scientists and reproductive health specialists). Mr. Bush is smart in the sense of remembering facts and faces, yet I can't think of anybody I've ever interviewed who appeared so uninterested in ideas.

At least since Adlai Stevenson's campaigns for the presidency in the 1950s, it's been a disadvantage in American politics to seem too learned. Thoughtfulness is portrayed as wimpishness, and careful deliberation is for sissies. The social critic William Burroughs once bluntly declared that "intellectuals are deviants in the U.S."

(It doesn't help that intellectuals are often as full of themselves as of ideas. After one of Stevenson's high-brow speeches, an admirer yelled out something like, You'll have the vote of every thinking American! Stevenson is said to have shouted back: That's not enough. I need a majority!)

Yet times may be changing. How else do we explain the election in 2008 of an Ivy League-educated law professor who has favorite philosophers and poets?

Granted, Mr. Obama may have been protected from accusations of excessive intelligence by his race. That distracted everyone, and as a black man he didn't fit the stereotype of a pointy-head ivory tower elitist. But it may also be that President Bush has discredited superficiality.

An intellectual is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals read the classics, even when no one is looking, because they appreciate the lessons of Sophocles and Shakespeare that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions, and -- President Bush, lend me your ears -- that leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity.

(Intellectuals are for real. In contrast, a pedant is a supercilious show-off who drops references to Sophocles and masks his shallowness by using words like "fulgent" and "supercilious.")

Mr. Obama, unlike most politicians near a microphone, exults in complexity. He doesn't condescend or oversimplify nearly as much as politicians often do, and he speaks in paragraphs rather than sound bites. Global Language Monitor, which follows linguistic issues, reports that in the final debate, Mr. Obama spoke at a ninth-grade reading level, while John McCain spoke at a seventh-grade level.

As Mr. Obama prepares to take office, I wish I could say that smart people have a great record in power. They don't. Just think of Emperor Nero, who was one of the most intellectual of ancient rulers -- and who also killed his brother, his mother and his pregnant wife; then castrated and married a slave boy who resembled his wife; probably set fire to Rome; and turned Christians into human torches to light his gardens.

James Garfield could simultaneously write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other, Thomas Jefferson was a dazzling scholar and inventor, and John Adams typically carried a book of poetry. Yet all were outclassed by George Washington, who was among the least intellectual of our early presidents.

Yet as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I'm hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country. Maybe someday soon our leaders no longer will have to shuffle in shame when they're caught with brains in their heads.


Further proof below that the volatility of the crude oil market can, and will, result in production output being manipulated to suit the pricing objective for the product by the exporters and producers.

If legislators were smart, despite popular opinion, we would react with our own pricing manipulation via taxes which would keep the oil at a steady, albeit, higher level for gasoline - say $6.00 per gallon. Increased revenue to put into R & D through the collected taxes, decreased usage to assist with CO2 levels.

Then the public and myopic vehicle manufacturers would be forced to stay on a course that would be, yes more financially painful in the short-term, yet more beneficial to the citizenry in the long haul through energy independence and well-conceived, efficient vehicles and infrastructure.

Just my thoughts; I'm an engineer not an economist, so I have a limited "big picture" perspective of the impact of such proposals economically but I do have a vested interest in seeing a rekindled automotive industry where smart is the new cool thing instead of the dumb we've all been working with and trying to pass off as hip.

My own livelihood, the lives of those working for me and memories of hard working people that toiled successfully within the industry for years before me (like my father and my grandfather) are a considerable reminder and prime motivator!

- - Desperate in D-town


from Automotive News, November 4, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Oil prices jumped nearly 11 percent today on signs Saudi Arabia had made substantial cuts in its crude exports and as global financial markets rallied.

Saudi Arabia has reduced exports after OPEC agreed last month to lower output, according to trade sources, with some estimating the world's top exporter had cut shipments by around 900,000 barrels per day from a peak in August.

U.S. crude rose $6.97 at $70.88 a barrel by 1:31 p.m. EST. London Brent crude was up $6.51 at $66.99 a barrel.

Crude prices have plummeted from a record above $147 a barrel in July as the global credit crisis has hit the wider economy, dampening fuel demand in major consumer nations, including the United States.

The steep drop prompted the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to agree to reduce output by 1.5 million barrels per day at an emergency meeting last month, and some members have called for additional reductions.

"Saudi Arabia has told major oil companies that it will restrict the volume they can load this month, answering skepticism about the kingdom's compliance with OPEC's October 24 deal to cut output," Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president at MF Global, wrote in a research note.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, other OPEC members were also showing signs of throttling back output.

The United Arab Emirates has reduced its production to around 2.3 million bpd from around 2.5 million bpd, a top state oil company official said.

Algeria was reducing oil output by 71,000 bpd in line with OPEC's supply cut decision, the Algerian official news agency APS said, quoting the country's Energy and Mining Ministry.

Qatar has cut exports to Asia by about 40,000 bpd, effective this month, Energy Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah told Reuters.

A poll of analysts ahead of U.S. weekly government inventory data forecast U.S. crude oil stocks rose by 1.1 million barrels last week. The analysts predicted a rise of 1.3 million barrels in distillate inventories and a decline of 1 million barrels in gasoline stocks.


by Rob Sass, The New York Times, October 30, 2008

FORTY years ago, a panel of auto journalists picked the NSU Ro80 as European Car of the Year. Now mostly forgotten, the Ro80 was a German sedan with an aerodynamic shape that presaged the Audi 5000 and Ford Taurus of the 1980s. As important as its trend-setting styling, though, the Ro80 featured the first Wankel engine in a mass-produced car.

Potential game-changers in the auto industry have often ended up as blind alleys. Dinosaurs at least have birds as their living legacy, but innovative cars like the Tucker, Corvair and Citroen DS can be found only in the automotive fossil record. Carmakers have learned that it doesn't always pay to innovate.

But for a brief time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it looked as if real innovation was taking hold in the form of a new powerplant that was lighter, smoother, simpler than a reciprocating piston engine and also capable of producing more power for its size. Companies from American Motors to Mercedes-Benz rushed to license Wankel engine technology.

Felix Wankel, an engineer at NSU, had been experimenting since 1954 with a simpler internal-combustion engine. His elegant design consisted of a rounded triangular "rotor" that spun in an oval combustion chamber. As the rotor moved in its eccentric orbit around a central shaft, the area of the three combustion chambers (one for each side of the triangle) contracted, creating compression and thus power.

But an obstacle to engine longevity emerged: it was hard to get a good seal on the combustion chambers where the rotor tips, or apexes, met the inside of the chamber.

Before the Ro80, there had been attempts at Wankel-powered cars -- NSU's own Wankel Spider and the Mazda Cosmo sports cars -- but the Ro80 was the revolutionary engine's first shot at the big time. If things had gone as planned, BMW wouldn't be the only prestigious three-letter brand of German cars today.

Initial orders for the 1968 NSU Ro80 were brisk. Soon, however, NSU was dealing in damage control.

In late 1968, the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport reported that half of the 191 Ro80 owners it had surveyed said that engines had been replaced under warranty. In neglecting to test the cars in real-world stop-and-start driving conditions, NSU snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The culprit turned out to be bad bearings and ineffective rotor tip seals; the warranty claims that resulted nearly drove the company to bankruptcy. NSU eventually merged with Volkswagen.

However, in a protracted deal involving a cast of many -- including Felix Wankel and, oddly, a group of Israeli bankers -- several former NSU shareholders retained control of licensing rights to the engine. Still, it fell to the Japanese to perfect the power plant.

Toyo Kogyo, the parent company of Mazda, was one of about 18 NSU Wankel licensees. In the late 1960s, Mazda decided that its future lay in differentiating itself from Toyota and Nissan. It cast its lot with the Wankel, which the company called the rotary engine. The first rotary-powered Mazda to make an impact in the United States was the RX-2, introduced in 1970.

The RX-2 was a small coupe roughly the size of a Toyota Corolla, but with the pep of a small V-8. Enthusiasts gushed over the smooth and ample power.

C. J. Batten was the first design engineer that Ford hired for its Wankel development program in 1971. In a recent interview, Mr. Batten said that Ford began looking at the Wankel because its archrival, General Motors, "had one that was nearly production-ready" for its Chevrolet Monza coupe.

In an interview, Mr. Batten recalled evaluating a Mazda and being impressed. "The RX-2 with a little over 100 horsepower would run like a 200-horsepower Mustang," he said. Mr. Batten reckons that the advantages in packaging and smoothness weren't enough to overcome the reciprocating engine's advantage of incumbency.

G.M.'s president, Ed Cole, was a proponent of the Wankel. In the early 1970s, G.M. showed several Wankel-powered midengine Corvette design studies that would have been world-class sports cars. Car magazines said the sleek midengine 'Vette was a sure bet for production. Cole also planned to use the Wankel in mainstream cars.

Mr. Batten recalls that as wishful thinking. He said the accountants who held the purse strings pointed out that Chevrolet could already sell every Corvette it could build. Why was a more advanced, more expensive car needed? The logic was hard to dispute, and the Corvette would soldier on until 1984 with its 1963-vintage platform.

Not much later, Cole retired and the Arab oil embargo underscored how thirsty the early Wankels were. G.M.'s Wankel program came to a sudden halt. Ford ended its development program.

The cancellation of G.M.'s Wankel even had a ripple affect on American Motors, which had engineered its futuristic, glassy Pacer to take a G.M.-built Wankel. Instead, A.M.C. had to make do with a heavy cast-iron 6-cylinder.

The only automaker other than NSU and Mazda to market a Wankel-powered production car was Citroen, a company that celebrated eccentricity. But Mercedes-Benz expressed an interest, teasing enthusiasts in 1970 with the brilliant C111-II research car that had gullwing doors and a 370-horsepower four-rotor Wankel that could reach 180 miles an hour.

The 1974 Arab oil embargo hit Mazda hard. Its small RX-2 could barely manage 15 miles a gallon, about half as much as the comparably sized Corolla. The RX-3, a larger successor, added a wagon body style. But that car was bigger and heavier and had even worse mileage.

Mazdas piled up at dealers and at the ports, so the company hedged its bets with piston-engine cars while it improved the rotary's cleanliness and efficiency. In 1978, it introduced the car that made the best use to date of the rotary's distinctive qualities. The 1979 RX-7 was a milestone; at a time when sports cars were growing flabby, the RX-7 was light, nimble and basic with an engine so rev-happy that a buzzer had to be installed to let the driver know when the engine speed had reached the danger zone.

Mazda's new strategy was to reserve the rotary for its specialty cars, while using piston engines in the rest of its line. Mazda's rotary design reached its pinnacle with the Renesis engine introduced in the 2003 RX-8, the most powerful, efficient and cleanest naturally aspirated Wankel yet. And because it is also well-suited to run on hydrogen, it may have a future beyond the odd four-door coupe that it currently lives in.

Early Wankel cars seldom appear for sale in the United States. The Ro80 is somewhat popular as a collectible in Britain, though many have been refitted with more reliable Mazda engines. Prices run around $15,000. A Wankel Spider recently sold on eBay for $17,000.

First-year Mazda RX-7s are bargains at $4,000 to $6,000. The 1967 Mazda Cosmo is the most collectible early Wankel car. In 2007, a seller at an auction in Australia turned down an $83,000 bid.


First, the downside

From Ford comes word of the new Fusion / Milan hybrids that will hit production in December of this year. Pretty impressive numbers in what is an iterative process. The only downside is that they, like my Prius, use NiMH batteries which take a significant toll on the environment; the nickel is mined up in Sudbury, shipped to China for refining since the process is so dirty it can't be done here or in Canada purportedly, thus adding pollution from the ships carrying it as well as requiring fuel for those ships, its then typically shipped to Japan for manufacture into batteries and then they are in turn shipped in their final form back to North America where folks like Ford put them into their vehicles.

-- Your friend from D-town


by Richard Truett, Automotive News, October 29, 2008

DETROIT -- The hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans that start production in December should give drivers who like electric cars a nice jolt.

The sedans will be able to reach a top speed of 47 mph on electric power alone -- twice as fast the current Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrid crossovers -- and can travel as far as eight miles on battery power before the gasoline engine engages.

In a preview of the two vehicles today, Ford executives gave reporters a close look at the two vehicles and explained how they work. They also showed a smaller but more powerful battery pack that will cost less than the one now used in the Escape, Mariner and Mazda Tribute crossovers.

These two hybrid sedans may be the most technically sophisticated regular production vehicles Ford Motor Co. has ever made. They feature:
>> An electric air conditioning system that keeps the car cool even when the gasoline engine is off
>> A multilayered powertrain information system that uses two programmable screens on either side of the speedometer to "coach" the driver on how to get better fuel economy
>> A smaller but more powerful nickel-metal hydride battery pack that uses a simpler cooling system than the one Ford developed for its first hybrids, the Escape and Mariner
>> A new energy management system that varies the voltage to the electric motor and battery pack for more efficient operation.

Best in class

Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of sustainable mobility and hybrid programs, said the hybrid versions of the Fusion and Milan will deliver best-in-class fuel economy.

"We are at least 5 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid in city driving, and we'll beat Camry on the highway," she told reporters.

Ford did not give the EPA figures for the Fusion and Milan hybrids, but the EPA rates the Camry at 33 mpg city and 34 highway.

Ford says both cars will be able to travel more than 700 miles in the city on one tank of gasoline. The engine for the Fusion and Milan hybrids is a 155-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission.

When the Fusion and Milan reach full production next year, Ford aims to double its annual output of hybrid vehicles from 25,000 to 50,000. Ford executives would not say how many Fusions and Milans would be built, but the Fusion will make up the majority of production, said J.D. Shanahan, chief engineer for the Fusion and Milan.

Eye on profit

The boost in production coupled with the new battery pack could enable Ford to turn its first profits on hybrids. In the past, Gioia has said the path to profitability for hybrids is to boost volume while reducing the cost of components.

The new battery pack uses 17 percent fewer cells yet is 20 percent more powerful than the batteries in the Escape and Mariner. It also is 23 percent lighter and uses 30 percent less space than the pack now in the Escape and Mariner hybrids. A new cooling system also is less expensive. Instead of using the vehicle's air conditioner to keep the batteries cool, the new pack uses air from the car's interior.

Ford also showed other versions of the 2010 Fusion and Milan. A new performance-oriented model of the Fusion, the Sport, will offer a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 263 hp. All versions of the 2010 Fusion and Milan will offer six-speed transmissions.

The four-cylinder entry-level versions will be available with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. The V-6 versions will come with a six-speed automatic only. Shanahan said all versions would deliver class-leading or class-competitive fuel economy in their segments.


The loans in the following article seem to heavily favor the car makers with no stipulations for true progress for vehicle development beyond the weak standards that were recently approved for fuel economy and required timing.

The lack of progressive thought (from the car makers or from the government!) will kill the US automobile industry at this rate without public demand - LincVolt is part of that educational process. God's speed and good luck - we're all counting on you.

-- Your friend from D-town


by Justin Hyde, Detroit Free Press, September 28, 2008

WASHINGTON -- When a senator at a recent hearing asked General Motors Corp. Chairman Rick Wagoner whether she should wait for the price of the Chevrolet Volt to go down before buying one, Wagoner had a ready answer: "The good news is we're going to subsidize your purchase."

So will the American taxpayer.

With the approval of $25 billion in low-interest loans Saturday, the U.S. auto industry has won the help it urgently needs to rework its vehicles.

But the loans are one of several government aids -- from research funds to consumer tax credits -- that automakers will increasingly rely on to build the technology they need to survive.

The industry and its supporters say rising fuel economy standards, the drive to reduce consumption of foreign oil and increasing efforts by foreign countries to boost their industries will require ever closer ties between Detroit and Washington.

"For them to do what they need to do, we're going to have to have a major government commitment," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. "We have to change the way we look at industry in America."

The $25 billion in direct federal loans, the largest federal aid ever offered to the U.S. auto industry, won final approval from Congress after a three-month industry blitz that included visits by top executives and some peeks at future technology, such as Chrysler LLC's electric-vehicle concepts that were revealed publicly this week.

Industry officials say the loans will help them retool factories to build more efficient models, such as the Chevrolet Volt. Wall Street firms have estimated that the loans could also sharply reduce the cash needs of GM in 2009, and at Chrysler to a lesser degree. Michigan lawmakers have pledged to seek an additional $25 billion after the elections, citing the industry's financial woes.

"This is an important first step to providing access to capital for important investments in the future at a time when the capital markets are distressed," Ford Motor Co. officials said in a statement.

No rules yet

Detroit automakers will burn through billons of dollars in cash this year because of a downturn expected to last through 2010.

Under the loan program, automakers and suppliers could borrow at interest rates close to what the U.S. Treasury does -- roughly 5% -- rather than the 15% they would have to pay on financial markets. On a loan of $1 billion, that's a savings of $100 million.

While lawmakers added requirements to the loans to speed the process of handing out funds, the U.S. Department of Energy warned this week the process could take up to 18 months after the bill is signed, which Michigan representatives have vowed to correct.

Perhaps no other vehicle symbolizes Washington's role in the auto industry better than the Volt, the extended-range electric vehicle that GM plans to launch in 2010.

While the rules for the loans have yet to be written, GM's $336 million cost to retool the Poletown plant where the Volt is to be built seems to meet all possible criteria for a low-interest federal loan.

Better mileage

The law will require models to get 25% better fuel economy than their direct competitors in order to qualify -- a bar that GM and other automakers said would be tough for many new vehicles to clear.

The law also says preference for the loans should be given to older plants and those at least 20 years old, even if they're closed. GM's new engine plant in Flint announced this week would likely not qualify, but other Flint-area plants might.

Detroit's automakers' first forays into hybrid vehicles were spurred by the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a 1990s program that spent $1.3 billion on research.

The U.S. Department of Energy spent $213 million in fiscal 2007 on basic vehicle research, and both of the Volt's possible battery suppliers have received small research grants funded in part by the DOE.

Research spending

And while Congress passed the auto industry's loans, it was still struggling to approve a tax credit of up to $7,500 for plug-in hybrid vehicles -- which the Volt and its expected $40,000 price tag would qualify for -- and $300 million for advanced battery research.

The government's research spending pales in comparison to the $16 billion that GM, Ford and Chrysler will spend developing new products this year despite their weak balance sheets.

But the automakers tend to focus their spending on immediate needs, such as new models, rather than basic science that could lead to breakthroughs several years from now.

Automakers and the UAW contend the United States has been falling behind other countries in vehicle and battery research. Germany has pledged to spend 1.1 billion euros ($1.6 billion) over the next 10 years on advanced vehicle technologies, while Japan announced last year it would spend $215 million on battery research.

"If there's going to be this technology in the United States, there's got to be some public funding," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

The industry's prospects for additional aid appear brighter regardless of who's in the White House come January. But the helping hand also may come with additional requirements, and should the industry fall short in its energy-saving plans, Washington will have little sympathy.

"We certainly look forward to working with Congress on continuing this effort ... to drive technology forward, and just as importantly, to have the capacity in this country to produce and deploy those kinds of technologies," said John Bozella, Chrysler's chief lobbyist.


by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, September 27, 2008

Many things make me weep about the current economic crisis, but none more than this brief economic history: In the 19th century, America had a railroad boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many lost money. But even when that bubble burst, it left America with an infrastructure of railroads that made transcontinental travel and shipping dramatically easier and cheaper.

The late 20th century saw an Internet boom, bubble and bust. Some people made money; many people lost money, but that dot-com bubble left us with an Internet highway system that helped Microsoft, I.B.M. and Google to spearhead the I.T. revolution.

The early 21st century saw a boom, bubble and now a bust around financial services. But I fear all it will leave behind are a bunch of empty Florida condos that never should have been built, used private jets that the wealthy can no longer afford and dead derivative contracts that no one can understand.

Worse, we borrowed the money for this bubble from China, and now we have to pay it back -- with interest and without any lasting benefit.

Yes, this bailout is necessary. This is a credit crisis, and credit crises involve a breakdown in confidence that leads to no one lending to anyone. You don't fool around with a credit crisis. You have to overwhelm it with capital. Unfortunately, some people who don't deserve it will be rescued. But, more importantly, those who had nothing to do with it will be spared devastation. You have to save the system.

But that is not the point of this column. The point is, we don't just need a bailout. We need a buildup. We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering. We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream -- a house with a yard -- because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a "liar loan" from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement.

When I need reminding of the real foundations of the American Dream, I talk to my Indian-American immigrant friends who have come here to start new companies -- friends like K.R. Sridhar, the founder of Bloom Energy. He e-mailed me a pep talk in the midst of this financial crisis -- a note about the difference between surviving and thriving.

"Infants and the elderly who are disabled obsess about survival," said Sridhar. "As a nation, if we just focus on survival, the demise of our leadership is imminent. We are thrivers. Thrivers are constantly looking for new opportunities to seize and lead and be No. 1." That is what America is about.

But we have lost focus on that. Our economy is like a car, added Sridhar, and the financial institutions are the transmission system that keeps the wheels turning and the car moving forward. Real production of goods that create absolute value and jobs, though, are the engine.

"I cannot help but ponder about how quickly we are ready to act on fixing the transmission, by pumping in almost one trillion dollars in a fortnight," said Sridhar. "On the other hand, the engine, which is slowly dying, is not even getting an oil change or a tuneup with the same urgency, let alone a trillion dollars to get ourselves a new engine. Just imagine what a trillion-dollar investment would return to the economy, including the 'transmission,' if we committed at that level to green jobs and technologies."

Indeed, when this bailout is over, we need the next president -- this one is wasted -- to launch an E.T., energy technology, revolution with the same urgency as this bailout. Otherwise, all we will have done is bought ourselves a respite, but not a future. The exciting thing about the energy technology revolution is that it spans the whole economy -- from green-collar construction jobs to high-tech solar panel designing jobs. It could lift so many boats.

In a green economy, we would rely less on credit from foreigners "and more on creativity from Americans," argued Van Jones, president of Green for All, and author of the forthcoming "The Green Collar Economy." "It's time to stop borrowing and start building. America's No. 1 resource is not oil or mortgages. Our No. 1 resource is our people. Let's put people back to work -- retrofitting and repowering America. ... You can't base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America."

The Bush team says that if this bailout is done right, it should make the government money. Great. Let's hope so, and let's commit right now that any bailout profits will be invested in infrastructure -- smart transmission grids or mass transit -- for a green revolution. Let's "green the bailout," as Jones says, and help ensure that the American Dream doesn't ever shrink back to just that -- a dream.


by Jad Mouawad, New York Times, September 23, 2008

ON a strip of Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, a futuristic experiment posing as an ordinary fuel station may be bringing the world one step closer to the hydrogen age.

From the moment engineers started dreaming about hydrogen as an alternative to oil, they faced a nagging question: What should come first -- the fuel-cell car or the hydrogen pump?

Carmakers have argued that without a network of hydrogen filling stations they couldn't roll out fuel-cell vehicles from the research lab to the dealership. Energy companies, on the other hand, said that without large numbers of fuel-cell cars available at reasonable prices, they saw little point in building a costly new fueling infrastructure.

This classic chicken-or-egg dilemma has long hobbled the development of most alternative fuels and has assured the supremacy of oil. Thanks to low prices and abundant reserves just a few years ago, energy providers and automakers simply had little incentive to end the petroleum age. But, faced with the perils of global warming and soaring prices, automakers and oil companies have begun a hasty search for alternatives and have been working together to break the hydrogen logjam. Their answer is to introduce both cars and new fuel stations, clustering them in urban centers like Los Angeles, Berlin and Tokyo.

"The game now is about clustering; it's the only way to take this next step," said Duncan Macleod, vice president of Shell Hydrogen.

Shell's Santa Monica Boulevard station -- which has conventional gasoline pumps as well as an odd-looking nozzle with bright blue "hydrogen" labels -- is part of this strategy. So is Honda's decision to lease about 200 of its newly developed FCX Clarity cars over the next three years to selected customers in Southern California, who will be able to fill them up at the new Shell station and others. The FCX Clarity uses a fuel cell to power an electric motor; the cars are being leased for $600 a month, a fraction of what they would cost to buy.

But the experiment underscores the tremendous path that hydrogen must travel before it can nudge petroleum off our roads and highways. Given the prohibitive cost of a fuel-cell vehicle -- they are custom-made, not mass-produced -- no automaker will be selling them to the public for at least 10 years. And many energy companies remain skeptical of the long-term prospects for hydrogen, arguing, among other things, that even with government help the infrastructure costs would be enormous. Automakers also recognize that there are other ways to wean cars from oil, like using biofuels or batteries. But hydrogen offers a plentiful and clean form of energy and cannot be ignored, experts said. And the public is interested in the technology: when Honda announced its leasing program, more than 50,000 people registered for it online.

So carmakers are stepping up their efforts to develop hydrogen cars. Honda plans to have a model in mass production by 2018. G.M. aims to put 100 fuel-cell cars on the roads over the next few years, mostly in Southern California, as well.

Other carmakers, including Ford, BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler, are working on prototypes. The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recently estimated that automakers could be selling as many as two million hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars by 2020, which would represent only 1 percent of all vehicles on our roads. After that, the numbers could rise quickly, reaching 60 million by 2035 and 200 million by 2050.

"In the long term, hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles look like a major part of the solution," said Larry Burns, G.M.'s vice president for research, development and strategic planning. "The dilemma is, how do you manage the transition? We don't have a hydrogen infrastructure like we have a petroleum infrastructure."

More than 170,000 fuel stations now distribute gasoline around the country, and millions of miles of pipelines and thousands of tanker trucks feed into a huge system that took more than a century to develop.

Replacing that infrastructure entirely is unrealistic. Instead, G.M. believes that a hydrogen network can be built at a fraction of the cost by concentrating on select urban centers.

In a study released in December, the company said that if 12,000 hydrogen stations were built in the largest 100 cities, that would put a station within two miles of 70 percent of the American population. That number of stations would be enough to fuel one million cars.

"We don't think about this as a nationwide deployment on Day 1, where everything has to be covered immediately," said Britta Gross, G.M.'s manager for hydrogen and electrical infrastructure. An initial network of 40 hydrogen stations in Los Angeles would cost $80 million and cover the needs of that city in the early years of hydrogen deployment, Ms. Gross said.

The government is backing this new approach, said Steven Chalk, deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy at the Department of Energy. "Five years ago we would have said that we need to launch hydrogen nationally but we now think that this cluster idea is the way to go," Mr. Chalk said. "The way to do that is to concentrate in areas where you have critical mass."

Hydrogen holds the promise of turning the internal-combustion engine into a relic while helping to solve the transportation sector's carbon emissions problem. More than 95 percent of the nation's cars now rely on petroleum, and transportation is responsible for a third of carbon-dioxide emissions.

Hydrogen can be produced in a variety of ways, from natural gas or from electricity. Used in a fuel-cell -- an electrochemical device that produces electricity -- it emits no carbon dioxide, only water. Fuel-cell cars also possess advantages over those that rely primarily on batteries: they have greater range and take only minutes to refuel, compared with several hours to recharge batteries.

Governments around the world have given billions in subsidies for the development of hydrogen technology, with little to show for it. In the United States, the Energy Department has spent $1.2 billion in research and development grants for hydrogen over the past five years. Still, more work is required to increase the durability of the fuel cells and reduce their costs.

"Hydrogen was forever 20 years away, but now, for the first time, you see some of the milestones moving closer, not away anymore," said Mike McGowan, the chairman of the National Hydrogen Association, the industry's trade group. "There is now almost a sense of urgency about the infrastructure."

The largest obstacle remains the size and cost of the infrastructure needed to produce and distribute the hydrogen. The nagging issue is how to replicate a model that has served the petroleum age so well, and that was developed over a century.

"The transition is the key question," Mr. Chalk said. "How do you shift from oil to hydrogen? I don't think you'd necessarily do it exactly the same way. The hydrogen infrastructure does not need to be rolled out just like the current gasoline infrastructure."

Most transportation experts say the automobile industry is inevitably going to shift toward the electrification of the car. The success of the Toyota Prius hybrid, which has both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, has stunned the industry. Now most carmakers offer hybrid models and are furiously working on the next generation, like plug-in hybrids that rely even more on electrical power. The question is where hydrogen will fit into this picture.

"There are three horses in the race to replace petroleum -- biofuels, electricity and hydrogen -- and at various times you see the fortunes of these various horses ebb and flow," said Roland Hwang, an automobile expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

Ten years ago, hydrogen was in the lead, he said, but lately electric cars and biofuels have taken off because of new, longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries, and large subsidies for alternative fuels like ethanol.

"Hydrogen has probably fallen back," Mr. Hwang said. "That's because hydrogen is the most challenging in terms of fuel production, vehicle technology and infrastructure deployment."

But as automakers charge ahead, they are also complaining that oil companies are dragging their feet.

"The message we're sending to the energy companies is stop thinking of the chicken-and-egg problem and look at what we're doing and listen to what we're telling you, and look at the number of vehicles we're talking about in the future," said Stephen Ellis, Honda's sales and marketing manager for fuel-cell cars. "The process is taking too long. The energy companies are not being as aggressive as they could be, or as they should be."

The cost of developing such an infrastructure may prove prohibitive without far larger government incentives. A study by the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that the automobile industry would sustain billions in losses from fuel-cell cars until at least 2022.

The National Research Council said that the total cost of deploying a national hydrogen network could be as high as $200 billion, including $55 billion in government aid through 2023. Some experts, like Mr. Hwang, expect the cost to be more than twice that.

In fact, given the uncertainties about which fuels will emerge as real alternatives to oil, energy executives still appear extremely cautions about hydrogen.

"They need to feel confident that these tens and hundreds of thousands of vehicles will be coming," said Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, an association of private companies and government agencies promoting hydrogen. "Meanwhile, the automakers feel like they're running into a brick wall. There is definitely a sense of urgency on their part."

BP recently dropped its commitment to hydrogen, and Exxon Mobil is focusing its efforts on technology that allows hydrogen to be produced directly on-board fuel-cell vehicles, without the need for a new infrastructure. Shell says auto companies are setting unrealistically high goals for fuel stations given the limited numbers of fuel-cell cars.

"When people talked about the hydrogen economy, hydrogen was the answer to everything," said Mr. Macleod, of Shell. "I don't think they had thought about all the pieces of the story. Hydrogen is one pathway. There will be many. It is part of the story."

Puneet Verma, director of Chevron's hydrogen research and development efforts, said basic issues like hydrogen storage still needed to be ironed out.

"There is a significant economic hurdle in hydrogen," he said. "We can't provide it on a retail fueling basis to be cost-competitive with gasoline, not today."

However, G.M. and other automakers say such concerns should not deter energy providers from making the necessary investments. "It is really a matter of collective will between policy makers, carmakers and oil companies," said Mr. Burns, of G.M. "We all need to get on the same page, and on the same blueprint, and start in the same cities."


Automaker considers Dodge sports car, Town & Country and Jeep Wrangler electric vehicles
by Bradford Wernle & Richard Truett, Automotive News, September 23, 2008

DETROIT -- Chrysler LLC introduced three electric vehicles today and promised to have one of them on the market by the end of 2010.

The announcement posed a direct challenge to U.S. rival General Motors, which plans to bring its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid sedan to market in 2010.

The three vehicles are:

  • The Dodge EV all-electric sports car, developed in partnership with England's Lotus Cars Ltd.
  • The Jeep EV, a Wrangler-based extended-range electric vehicle.
  • The Chrysler EV, a Chrysler Town & Country-based extended-range electric vehicle.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said the company had no option but to develop electric vehicles. He said the automaker may face "gut-wrenching" decisions if the federal government does not approve a loan package to help car companies develop electric propulsion technology at an affordable price for consumers.

If the resources aren't available, Nardelli said Chrysler might have to face further layoffs and production capacity cutbacks.

Meeting with Wagoner, Mulally

Nardelli said that he, Ford CEO Alan Mulally and General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner visited lawmakers in Washington last week and were encouraged by progress on the package. Chrysler officials denied they wanted to show off the electric vehicles while Congress is debating the loan package and energy legislation.

Chrysler's ENVI electric vehicle r&d organization developed the three vehicles. Development of the vehicles had begun before Cerberus Capital Management LP bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler in August 2007.

Frank Klegon, Chrysler's executive vice president of product development, predicted that by 2020, 50 percent of cars sold in the United States would have electric powertrains. Chrysler executives say they will eventually make versions of all vehicles available with some form of electric power.

The strategy contrasts with that of GM, which is concentrating on specific vehicles -- particularly the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid -- available in 2010.

Nardelli said Chrysler's decision not to design all new vehicles was deliberate.

"We elected to put our money and resources into the technology and not into the platform and body," he said.

"As any new technology comes out, there is a cost. Our goal is to work with battery suppliers to keep the cost down," said Klegon. Chrysler is already working with suppliers of electric motors and batteries. Chrysler has issued no purchase orders yet, but it working with them on development agreements.

Cheaper than the Tesla

The electric sports car would be powered by a lithium ion battery pack, have a range of about 150 miles on a charge and could be brought to market for less than the $109,000 Tesla electric sports car, which also uses a Lotus-designed chassis.

The electric versions of the Chrysler Town & Country and Wrangler, would have a 40-mile all-electric range, same as the Chevrolet Volt. Both use a very small gasoline engine to power a generator to make electricity for the electric motor, similar to the way the Volt operates.

But the Chrysler engine is tiny, just 900cc, or about the size of a motorcycle engine.

Doug Quigley, Chrysler's product engineering executive for electric powertrains, said the size of the engine could be scaled up or down as needed. The performance of the electric version of the Town & Country would not suffer when being driven in the gasoline engine mode, Quigley said, and that it would get 50 mpg or more while emitting less than half of the carbon dioxide emissions of a regular Town & Country.

Global Insight analyst Aaron Bragman said Chrysler "stunned" the industry with its electric vehicle initiative.

"Perhaps the best-kept secret in the auto industry, Chrysler's electric car bombshell is an attempt to prove to the public and media that the company is indeed working on future vehicles, and that it still has life left in it," he said in a written report.

"In terms of which vehicle will enter production, the most likely candidate is the Dodge EV sports car, as it seems to be based on an already existing platform (the Lotus Europa) and likely requires the least amount of development."

Lotus is expected to make an announcement today on its possible linkup with Chrysler.

"We will apply the technology to front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive body on frame" vehicles, said Tom LaSorda, Chrysler co-president. Chrysler has made no decision on where it will manufacture its electric vehicles, he said.

So far, California's Tesla Motors Inc. has taken more than 600 orders for its electric sports car. On May 1, the company's first dealership opened. As of early September, 27 customers had taken delivery of the vehicle.


from Automotive News, September 22, 2008

LONDON (Reuters) -- Oil prices today soared nearly 16 percent to over $120 a barrel -- the biggest one-day gain on record -- in a rally sparked by the expiry of the front-month futures contract and weakness in the U.S. dollar.

The gains extend oil's climb from a low near $90 last week after the United States unveiled a sweeping rescue plan for its battered financial sector, improving the outlook for energy demand in the world's biggest consumer nation.

U.S. crude for October delivery, which expires Monday, settled up $16.37, or 15.7 percent, at $120.92 per barrel. The contract for delivery in November, which was much more actively traded, was up only $6.62 at $109.37.

London Brent crude settled up $6.43 at $106.04.

"The market went crazy here and it looks like the weakness of the dollar was a fuel for the sharp price increase. NYMEX October crude was also expiring and that provoked short-covering," said Amanda Kurzendoerfer, commodities analyst at Summit Energy in Louisville, Ky.

The U.S. dollar fell 2 percent against the euro, weighed down by worries about the fiscal impact of the U.S. government's $700 billion bailout plan aimed at addressing the global credit crisis.

A weaker dollar boosts the purchasing power of commodity buyers using other currencies.

The U.S. government measures to rescue the financial system have also restored confidence in the energy markets that U.S. fuel demand may not decline as quickly as initially feared.

"The key driver continues to be the U.S. rescue package, which has changed the sentiment in the oil market," said Bank of Ireland analyst Paul Harris.

Oil prices had tumbled from record highs above $147 a barrel in mid-July, weighed down by growing evidence that high energy costs and economic woes were undercutting global fuel demand.

The slow recovery of the U.S. oil sector after Hurricane Ike also supported prices Monday, after causing the biggest disruption to the nation's energy supplies since 2005.

Nearly 80 percent of oil production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, home to a quarter of all U.S. oil output, remained shut along with seven refineries.

Oil prices were also supported by news China increased crude imports 11.54 percent in August from a year earlier, recovering from a steep July fall, the General Administration of Customs said on Friday, confirming earlier data.

"The Chinese import news is a sign of recovery, and a good indication that oil prices could get back up again," said Christopher Bellew of Bache Financial.

Industry sources also said on Monday that top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has trimmed oil supplies to major international oil companies and U.S. refiners since the start of September.


by David M. Herszenhorn
New York Times, September 17, 2008

WASHINGTON -- After a series of government interventions in the private markets, one seemingly more astonishing than the next, lawmakers found themselves confronted on Wednesday with the question of when and where to draw the line on future aid.

But with billions of dollars in financial backing already authorized for Wall Street, and with Election Day fast approaching, Congressional leaders seemed uninterested in denying help to large employers of blue-collar Americans.

Even as lawmakers in both parties unleashed a barrage of questions about the wisdom of a government rescue for the American International Group, support seemed to be growing quickly on Capitol Hill for $25 billion in loan guarantees to assist the ailing auto industry.

Both presidential candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, have voiced support for the loan guarantees -- an unsurprising stance given the critical importance of the main auto-producing states, Michigan and Ohio, to the electoral map this fall.

The chief executives of the three big American automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- met on Wednesday afternoon with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When they emerged, they expressed optimism that the loan guarantees would be included as part of a budget resolution that is needed to finance government operations through the end of the year.

"The support that we got was again very encouraging," said Robert L. Nardelli, the chairman of Chrysler. "The conversations I have had all day on the Hill have been very encouraging, very candid, very straightforward and so as we conclude the day, I would say it was successful."

Alan R. Mulally, the chief executive of Ford, was even more upbeat. "It was a great day," he said. When a reporter asked what Mr. Mulally might say to people who viewed the loan guarantees as a bailout, he replied in a chipper voice, "I would characterize it as an enabler."

Ms. Pelosi sharply criticized the Bush administration on Wednesday over the $85 billion bailout of A.I.G., saying it was evidence of mismanagement by President Bush. But she expressed strong support for the automakers' loan guarantees, which would be used to help the companies meet new fuel efficiency standards that Congress adopted last year.

"We see that as a way to rebuild and strengthen the technological base of America," Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference in the Capitol. "It would certainly help people in the auto industry, but it's not only about the auto industry, it's about the auto industry, it's about our economy, it's about America's work force."

She added: "We consider this a major investment in innovation."

Republican Congressional leaders, too, said they were in favor of helping the automakers. Representative Adam Putnam of Florida, the third-ranking House Republican, said at a news conference that it was up to auto executives to convince lawmakers of the need for government assistance.

"It's incumbent on them to make the case to Congress that it is a loan guarantee, that it is a wise investment of taxpayer dollars, and I think that they are on the Hill this week making that case," Mr. Putnam said. "The reports that I have heard from my colleagues is that they have been fairly persuasive."

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, expressed his own support for aid to the automakers at a news conference on Wednesday morning. Mr. Reid said the loan guarantees, which would cost taxpayers $7.5 billion, were needed.

"I think it's extremely important that we try to do something," he said. "These are jobs. These are cars that we should be selling -- or manufacturing in America, not someplace else."

Still, some fiscal conservatives reacted angrily to the prospect of more taxpayer money being used to prop up private companies.

"The federal government's propensity to bail out failing companies in struggling industries ought to be troubling to all taxpayers," said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. "Aside from the fiscal impact of spending money that the federal government doesn't have, these bailouts will likely have the opposite of their intended effect."

Mr. Flake added: "Federal bailouts may stave off short-term economic damage, but the long-term economic outlook will be much worse if the market is not allowed to make its own adjustments. While the Bush administration certainly shares blame for these bailouts, this Congress may designate itself as the 'Bailout Congress' if we follow through on a rumored bailout of the auto industry."

But such skepticism was likely to be overshadowed by the huge stakes in the presidential race. Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, had seemed cool to the idea of loans for the auto industry last month, but at a campaign stop on Wednesday at an auto plant in Orion, Mich., he sounded like a staunch supporter.

"It's great to be here today with the assembly workers of this G.M. plant," he said. "I'm here to send a message to Washington and Wall Street: We are not going to leave the workers here in Michigan hung out to dry while we give billions in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street. It is time to get our auto industry back on its feet. It's time for a new generation of cars and for loans to build the facilities that will make them."

Bill Vlasic contributed reporting from Detroit and Michael Cooper from Orion, Mich.


by Thomas L. Friedman
New York Times, September 13, 2008

Imagine for a minute that attending the Republican convention in St. Paul, sitting in a skybox overlooking the convention floor, were observers from Russia, Iran and Venezuela. And imagine for a minute what these observers would have been doing when Rudy Giuliani led the delegates in a chant of "drill, baby, drill!"

I'll tell you what they would have been doing: the Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan observers would have been up out of their seats, exchanging high-fives and joining in the chant louder than anyone in the hall -- "Yes! Yes! Drill, America, drill!" -- because an America that is focused first and foremost on drilling for oil is an America more focused on feeding its oil habit than kicking it.

Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology -- fossil fuels -- rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology -- renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution -- on the eve of PCs and the Internet -- is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. "Typewriters, baby, typewriters."

Of course, we're going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that -- with "drill, baby, drill" -- why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra "invent, baby, invent?" That is what a party committed to "change" would really be doing. As they say in Texas: "If all you ever do is all you've ever done, then all you'll ever get is all you ever got."

I dwell on this issue because it is symbolic of the campaign that John McCain has decided to run. It's a campaign now built on turning everything possible into a cultural wedge issue -- including even energy policy, no matter how stupid it makes the voters and no matter how much it might weaken America.

I respected McCain's willingness to support the troop surge in Iraq, even if it was going to cost him the Republican nomination. Now the same guy, who would not sell his soul to win his party's nomination, is ready to sell every piece of his soul to win the presidency.

In order to disguise the fact that the core of his campaign is to continue the same Bush policies that have led 80 percent of the country to conclude we're on the wrong track, McCain has decided to play the culture-war card. Obama may be a bit professorial, but at least he is trying to unite the country to face the real issues rather than divide us over cultural differences.

A Washington Post editorial on Thursday put it well: "On a day when the Congressional Budget Office warned of looming deficits and a grim economic outlook, when the stock market faltered even in the wake of the government's rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when President Bush discussed the road ahead in Iraq and Afghanistan, on what did the campaign of Senator John McCain spend its energy? A conference call to denounce Senator Barack Obama for using the phrase 'lipstick on a pig' and a new television ad accusing the Democrat of wanting to teach kindergartners about sex before they learn to read."

Some McCain supporters criticize Obama for not having the steel in his belly to use force in the dangerous world we live in today. Well I know this: In order to use force, you have to have force. In order to exercise leverage, you have to have leverage.

I don't know how much steel is in Obama's belly, but I do know that the issues he is focusing on in this campaign -- improving education and health care, dealing with the deficit and forging a real energy policy based on building a whole new energy infrastructure -- are the only way we can put steel back into America's spine. McCain, alas, has abandoned those issues for the culture-war strategy.

Who cares how much steel John McCain has in his gut when the steel that today holds up our bridges, railroads, nuclear reactors and other infrastructure is rusting? McCain talks about how he would build dozens of nuclear power plants. Oh, really? They go for $10 billion a pop. Where is the money going to come from? From lowering taxes? From banning abortions? From borrowing more from China? From having Sarah Palin "reform" Washington -- as if she has any more clue how to do that than the first 100 names in the D.C. phonebook?

Sorry, but there is no sustainable political/military power without economic power, and talking about one without the other is nonsense. Unless we make America the country most able to innovate, compete and win in the age of globalization, our leverage in the world will continue to slowly erode. Those are the issues this election needs to be about, because that is what the next four years need to be about.

There is no strong leader without a strong country. And posing as one, to use the current vernacular, is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.


by Antuan Goodwin,, September 9, 2008

The EPA is not sure how to rate the Chevrolet Volt's fuel economy, and GM isn't at all happy about it.

According to Motor Trend, the confusion stems from the EPA's classification of the Volt. Is it an electric vehicle (EV) with an onboard generator, or a hybrid vehicle that relies heavily on its electric drive? It's actually a little of both and a little of neither. The driving habits and battery-charging routines of the operator play a huge role in the classification of the Volt.

The way the Volt is designed, the wheels are powered by the electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. When the batteries run low, the gasoline engine kicks in to extend the range. There is no direct connection between the internal combustion engine and the wheels. If the driver's commute is longer, driving is more aggressive, or if no plug-in option is available, the Volt will have to use its gasoline engine to keep the batteries charged, behaving more like a hybrid in this scenario. If the driver has a short commute, takes it easy on the accelerator, and plugs in to recharge the battery during the day, the Volt will operate primarily as an EV, and the gasoline engine's role will be greatly diminished.

In this configuration, the Volt can slip through about 85 percent of the EPA's test cycle without even firing up the gasoline engine. Using the EPA's standard formulas to calculate fuel economy, the Volt averages over 100 mpg. The EPA doesn't think that astronomical number is fair and has revised its tests with the requirement that the Volt finish the test with its batteries close to full charge, which means the internal combustion engine must run for the entirety of the test, dropping fuel economy to about 48 mpg.

GM, of course, argues back that the EPA's new test isn't fair because the test isn't representative of the way the Volt was designed to operate and doesn't reflect the Volt's plug-in option for battery charging.

The truth lies somewhere in between, but the EPA rating assigned will play a big role in whether consumers think the $40,000 Volt is a good deal compared with the Toyota Prius and the upcoming, and even less expensive Honda Insight.


by Paul Cashmere
Undercover, August 10, 2008

Motorist of the 21st Century won't be relegated to the torture of the Smart car if Neil Young has his way.

The rock star and movie maker is behind a project called Linc Volt, a means of transforming the classic American gas guzzling cars of the 50s and 60s into fuel-efficient automobiles.

L.A. Johnson, the head of Young's Shakey Pictures, spent the last week in Adelaide in South Australia working with Uli Kruger, one of the scientists involved in the development of the project.

Kruger is a researcher in the field of thermodynamics and holds several patents in the field of efficiency enhancement technologies for Diesel engines.

Young and motor mechanic Jonathan Goodwin have been working on the reconstruction of the engine of a 1959 Lincoln Continental Mk IV convertible in the USA and have converted its original engine into a new series-hybrid system. The car has gone from getting 9 miles to the gallon to now achieving around 100 miles to the gallon.

"Neil says he is repowering the American dream," Johnson tells Undercover.

Once the project is complete, it will be possible for what is affectionately now as "The Yank Tank" to achieve better mileage that a Toyota Corolla.

Johnson runs Shakey Pictures and is producing a documentary of the Linc Volt. He was also the producer of the current Shakey Pictures movie 'Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young : Deja vu', filmed during the 2006 Freedom of Speech tour.

The movie is not a concert movie, instead it is an in-your-face protest at the madness of the Bush regime told as only David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young can tell.

Johnson says he understands why it is still up to the Neil Young's of the world to be political with music. "There is no draft anymore. The government has become clever in realising that by eliminating the draft, they can eliminate the protest but despite that we have had more than 2000 artists submit songs to the Living With War website," he says.

He points out that Pink's 'Dear Mr President' has been one of the most powerful protest songs of the current generation.

Johnson is also working on Young's much talked about Archive project. "Neil was always going to release it in the highest quality there was. When we started it, we did not know what that quality would be but we now know it is Blu-Ray". The collection will also be available on DVD.

The Archive will include everything Neil Young has ever made, including movies. 'Weld and 'Human Highway' will be part of the archive," he says. "When you reach that part of the time-line, those movies will be there".

The first part of the Neil Young Archive will be released later this year.


GM may not be ready to break up with oil.
Automaker may be retreating from ad campaign.
by Andrew Grossman,
Automotive News, June 17, 2008

DETROIT -- General Motors has had a long, tender relationship with Big Oil. Then last week came the news that GM was ready to publicly spurn its longtime lover.

A GM executive even said publicly that the automaker was planning to air a TV commercial telling oil: "We think we will both be happier and healthier if we see less of each other."

Now GM is saying it isn't sure whether it's going to send the televised breakup note to oil, and it's definitely not breaking up with oil companies.

"It's one spot, and it's not in its final creative treatment yet," GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato told Automotive News today. "We don't know if we're going to run it."

Katherine Benoit, GM's corporate marketing director, told a meeting of the American Advertising Federation last week that GM was planning to air the commercial on NBC's "Meet the Press" on June 22.

Cusinato said Benoit spoke prematurely, and the commercial probably won't run this weekend because it's being tweaked and might not run at all.

Cusinato said the commercial, which begins with someone typing "Dear Oil" on a white screen, wasn't targeting oil companies but, rather, oil as a source for fuel. The commercial is part of a set made for GM by McCann-Erickson for possible airing on Planet Green, a channel launched by the Discovery Channel that focuses on the environment.

The commercials aren't meant to sell cars, Cusinato said, but to show people GM's commitment to exploring alternative energy.

The two current commercials that GM is airing on Planet Green are slightly less blunt, but they have probably hurt oil's feelings because they make it clear that the automaker is seeing other energy sources.

One starts with this voiceover: "Oil. It's not going to last forever," then touts GM's investment in a company that's working to turn garbage into fuel. It ends with this: "There's more than one way to the future. That's why, at GM, we're on many roads."


by Tyler Hamilton,
The Toronto Star, June 16, 2008

Consider it a modern-day Cannonball Run with a green twist. More than 60 teams around the globe - three so far from Canada - have registered to participate in the Progressive Automotive X Prize, a $10 million contest that aims to break our addiction to oil and reduce the effects of climate change.

In other words, it's a quest to develop the cleanest-running car ever made without sacrificing driving range or affordability.

No concept cars are allowed. The X Prize Foundation, a non-profit group trying to do the same with cars as it did with an earlier contest devoted to private space flight, says it only wants super-efficient cars that have a strong chance of reaching commercial production.

The contest will involve a cross-country race, starting in New York city in September 2009. From there, contestants will showcase their vehicles by driving a variety of distances through a number of U.S. cities. The race, with cars that run on biofuels, hydrogen-powered fuel cells, batteries and even compressed air - or a combination - will conclude in 2010.

Did I mention Neil Young is a contestant? The Canadian rocker has decided that if music isn't going to save the world, a super-efficient car that can travel 100 kilometres on two litres or less might.

"I think that the time when music could change the world is past," he told reporters in February. He said it's up to science, physics and spirituality to save the planet, and figures breaking America's addiction to oil will help end war.

Young, 62, has partnered with a wizard of a mechanic named Johnathan Goodwin, the owner of Kansas-based H-Line Conversions. Goodwin has appeared on MTV's Pimp My Ride and retrofitted California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hummer so it can run on hydrogen.

Goodwin and his team of engineers and scientists will convert Young's beloved 1959 Lincoln Continental MK IV convertible into a car that produces zero emissions, doesn't need roadside refuelling and can also act as a generator for a home.

Not that the half-century-old Lincoln isn't a home unto itself. This isn't any car - it's a 2.3-tonne monster stretching six metres in length, the longest car of its era. It stands dramatically apart from the other X Prize entries, many of which look like vehicles out of Blade Runner or Star Wars - a range of aerodynamic two-, three- and four-wheelers. One uses "spheres" as wheels, while others could pass as rocketships.

Young, whose team is called Linc Volt, is trying to prove that people can drive the cars they want without having to sacrifice efficiency or the environment. Indeed, the team's website at touts the effort as "Repowering The American Dream."

Young is documenting the car's conversion and its race across the United States in a film, also called Linc Volt. The movie, produced by Shakey Pictures, is being directed by Bernard Shakey - a.k.a. Neil Young. "The main ingredient for working on this project is refusing to believe that some things are impossible," said a quote on the website from thermodynamics expert and team member Uli Kruger.

Toronto-born Young, a U.S. resident who has maintained his Canadian citizenship, declined a request to chat with his hometown newspaper. "It's a little early for us," said manager Elliot Roberts, saying Young will talk when the car is on the road and ready to compete. "Hopefully in weeks."

We do know the car will be battery operated, and according to a recent AP story Young has put about $120,000 into the project. The rock legend initially wanted the vehicle to run on biodiesel but decided to switch to electricity.

More details emerged earlier this month from a report in the Wichita Eagle. An enterprising reporter dropped into Goodwin's shop and, despite Young's dislike of media attention, got him and Goodwin to open up a bit.

"Johnathan and this car are going to make history," Young told the reporter. "We're going to create a car that will allow us to stop giving our wealth to other countries for petroleum."

In late May, according to the Eagle, Young and Goodwin took the car for its first test drive with its prototype power system. It was a 19-kilometre trek, and Young remarked that the car accelerated fast and was quiet. But the two almost crashed when a makeshift knob that controls acceleration was twisted the wrong way, speeding up the car and almost rear-ending another vehicle.

He then told the reporter, "You can't change the world by writing songs. But we could change it with this car."

Rock on.


Automaker unveils corporate campaign addressing high gas prices
by Ira Teinowitz, Advertising Age, June 10, 2008

ATLANTA - General Motors is sending a "Dear John" letter to big oil.

Katherine Benoit, GM corporate marketing director, told attendees at the American Advertising Federation meeting this week that the automaker is launching a corporate campaign this month that addresses the oil-price issue head-on, albeit with a tongue-in-cheek twist.

"Dear Oil," a new TV commercial begins. "We've had this great relationship for many years. We think we will both be a lot happier and healthier if we see less of each other." The commercial from McCann-Erickson is to debut on NBC's "Meet the Press" June 22, Benoit said.

A Chevrolet campaign focused on green issues also is about to launch, and GM will tout its corporate environmental message as part of its NBC Olympics sponsorship, Benoit said.

GM has been boosting advertising for its fuel-efficient models since last year. But Benoit said the automaker suspended ads for its E85 models, partly because of the availability issue, and is backing options other than corn or other food products to make ethanol, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Part of GM's energy and environmental unit will check and confirm all its green marketing claims, Benoit said. "You have to make sure that the story you tell plays out."


Detroit Automakers Compete for a Vanishing Truck Market
by Nick Bunkley, The New York Times, June 5, 2008

DETROIT -- Ford Motor and Chrysler expected to find themselves in a hard-fought showdown when they rolled out bigger, brasher pickup trucks this fall, hoping to enlarge their shares of a segment that has brought them huge profits.

Instead, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors have discovered $4-a-gallon gasoline and a housing slump to be more formidable foes. This year's battle will be for pieces of a much smaller pie than they ever imagined.

This winter, when Chrysler paraded 120 Texas longhorns outside the Detroit auto show to promote its 2009 Dodge Ram, and Ford brought in the country superstar Toby Keith to unveil its new F-series truck, full-size pickups accounted for 13 percent of the United States vehicle market. They were just 9 percent of the market in May, when for the first time since 1992 the country's top-selling vehicle was a car -- the Honda Civic compact sedan -- rather than a truck.

In fact, the top four sellers last month were all cars, pushing the current 2008 F-series down to a once-incomprehensible fifth place as its sales fell 33 percent. Sales plunged 38 percent for the 2008 Ram and 44 percent for the Chevrolet Silverado, which was redesigned two years ago and will have even more difficulty competing against two newer trucks this fall.

Ford and Chrysler have spent hundreds of millions of dollars overhauling their pickups, only to release them as demand for trucks went into freefall.

"All the factors are working against the truck market right now," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with

The truck segment used to be a cash cow for the Detroit automakers, whose corporate identities once rested on the slogans they used to sell pickups, like "built Ford tough," and "like a rock" for Chevrolet. Analysts say each pickup carries a profit margin of as much as $10,000, much greater than the margin on smaller vehicles.

Three years ago, 3 out of every 10 vehicles that Ford's three domestic brands sold in the United States were F-series trucks; on an annual basis, the F-series has been the nation's best-selling vehicle since 1976. Last month, the F-series accounted for 21 percent of Ford's sales. Dealers say the only people still buying trucks in large numbers are those who need them for work, like building contractors.

"You aren't going to have the guys who get them as a macho thing anymore," said John Hutchinson, a salesman at Northpoint Ford in Milwaukee.

But a weak housing market in much of the country and plummeting prices for used trucks, caused by the decline in demand for them, have discouraged many contractors from upgrading to a new pickup. Mr. Hutchinson said a customer came in last week to trade in his three-quarter-ton F-250 for a smaller F-150 but backed out upon learning that the value of his F-250 was half as much as he owed on it.

"He was in quite a shock," Mr. Hutchinson said.

The rapid shift in consumers' preferences means Ford and Chrysler are having to temper their expectations for the 2009 versions of their flagship trucks, which will begin arriving at dealerships in September.

"I will think carefully about how many of them will be in my inventory," said Tony Sansavera, general manager at Great Northern Dodge near Cleveland, who during past introductions used to order as many of the vehicles as Chrysler would give him.

A Chrysler spokesman, Rick Deneau, said the company planned to proceed with its introduction of the Ram as scheduled.

"But we don't have blinders on about the market," Mr. Deneau said. "The bottom line is you plan these new vehicles years and years in advance. The best we can do is offer the best Ram we can make, and hope to make the best of a tough situation."

Before the new F-series and Ram go on sale, Ford and Chrysler need to clear an abundance of their current models off dealers' lots. On Tuesday, Ford started an "employee pricing" sale on remaining 2008 F-series trucks.

Ms. Caldwell, the Edmunds analyst, said the companies could undermine their new trucks if they made the old models too attractive with big discounts.

"There's so few buyers out there, that it's going to be hard to compete against these old trucks," she said. "There's a lot of risk involved."

A Ford spokesman, Said Deep, said the company remained optimistic about the prospects for its new F-series and could adjust its production as demand dictated.

"We sold 690,000 F-series last year, and obviously we're not going to sell 690,000 this year," Mr. Deep said. "We're still trying to get our arms around where the segment is headed. We recognize that this market is changing dramatically."


US Green Groups Warn of Oil Sands "Poison"
by Mike De Souza & David Akin, Canwest News Service, June 4, 2008

Ottawa - Environmental activists are warning U.S. lawmakers and consumers that the Canadian oilsands sector is an environmental disaster that is poisoning U.S refineries.

"The environmental costs of tarsand development are staggering," says a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington-based group, in the latest salvo in a pitched public relations battle over Western Canada's resource riches.

"As the rising price of oil has made extraction from Canadian tarsands profitable, U.S. oil refinery expansions to process the extra heavy sour crude from tarsands have come to dominate the refinery landscape," says the analysis.

It notes that more than two-thirds of the expansion of U.S. refining capacity is being tailored to handle the dirtier crude oil from Alberta, as opposed to conventional oil. The analysis also estimates that tarsands capacity in the U.S. will increase by 1.9 million barrels per day, while the cleaner conventional oil refining will decrease by about 300,000 barrels per day.

The study is the latest in a series of reports targeting U.S. decision-makers to convince them to turn away from what environmental groups call "dirty oil" from Canada.

It says oilsands production results in the release of harmful pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, sulphuric acid mist and nitrogen oxide, as well as toxic metals such as lead and nickel compounds.

The report also suggests the "more intensive" process of refining oil sand "may also produce more greenhouse gas."

"I think Americans are just beginning to learn what the tarsands are," said Matt Price, a climate and energy policy expert from Environmental Defence in Canada who contributed to the report. "You are not really achieving energy security (since) by exploiting tarsands oil you are actually putting in danger your life support system, which is the climate."

But policy-makers and oil companies are fighting back, doing their best to convince an international audience that Canada is a "green energy superpower" and is responsibly managing oilsands development.

For example, Canada's top federal civil servant took his counterparts from other Commonwealth countries on a tour Saturday of some oilsands facilities in Alberta. Kevin Lynch, the Clerk of the Privy Council, charted a helicopter to ferry other senior civil servants from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand around northern Alberta.

Canwest News Service has learned that the group visited a Syncrude Canada Ltd., facility near Fort McMurray as well as a nearby First Nations reserve. The goal of the visit, said a spokesperson for Lynch's office, was to demonstrate the scope and complexity of oilsands development as well as the responsible way Canada is developing the resource. Lynch did not respond to an interview request.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper carried that same message to an international audience last week in London.

"Canada intends to be not just an energy superpower, but also a clean energy superpower," Harper told a well-heeled business crowd at a meeting of the Canada-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce.

And Harper singled out the oilsands in that speech, saying his government has taken a "get tough" approach on oilsands developers.

"Our targets (for emissions reductions) in the oilsands go beyond the standards for other industries," Harper said.

In late April, Alberta's deputy premier Ron Stevens travelled to Washington to take that message directly to members of Congress and U.S. investors.

But green groups and political opponents of the Conservative governments in Ottawa and Edmonton say international investors and policy-makers are not getting the whole story.

They say the Harper government's emissions targets will not bring about absolute reductions in emissions, but only reductions in the relative emissions per each barrel of oil produced. So, even though per-barrel pollution may be decreasing, overall greenhouse gas pollution from the oilsands is estimated to triple over the next decade, according to the latest estimates from Environment Canada.

"Although a new refinery has not been built in the United States for over 30 years, five new refineries are currently under consideration."

The report notes three of the five new refineries would process tar and oil. But it warns the consequences could be devastating, highlighting a recent case of about 500 birds that died after landing on a toxic tailing pond from oilsands operations.

The analysis also identifies 17 new expansions of existing facilities and warns the changes could wipe out many trees in the boreal forest that would be cleared to make way for tarsands extraction.


from The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2008

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said the company plans to cease production at four North American plants that build pickups, SUVs and medium-duty trucks amid the sharp rise in oil prices and the "significantly more difficult" auto market.

The company plans to fund its Chevy Volt electric vehicle for commercial development and hold a strategic review of its Hummer brand. Auto makers are scheduled to post monthly sales results later today.


from CNN / The Associated Press, June 3, 2008

Neil Young, the rocker who provided some of the soundtrack to Vietnam-era protests, is again trying to change the world -- with his car.

Young has teamed up with Johnathan Goodwin, a Wichita mechanic who has developed a national reputation for re-engineering the power units of big cars to get more horsepower but use less fuel.

The two are looking to convert Young's 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible to operate on an electric battery.

Ultimately, they said, they want the Continental to provide a model for the world's first affordable mass-produced electric-powered automobile.

"Johnathan and this car are going to make history," Young told The Wichita Eagle.

"We're going to change the world; we're going to create a car that will allow us to stop giving our wealth to other countries for petroleum."

Young has poured about $120,000 so far into the project, Goodwin said.

What's more, the prototype power system worked during a 12-mile test drive of the car last week -- albeit with a few glitches. See a 20-mile commute in 106 seconds

"She was awesome," Young said of the battery-operated car. "Her acceleration was incredible, she moved with hardly a sound; it was so quiet we could hear the wind through the tags of other cars."

The drive almost ended in disaster when Goodwin, who controls acceleration with a knob in the back seat, twisted it the wrong way while approaching an entrance ramp and the vehicle lurched toward the rear of another car.

Young, in the passenger seat, was able to hit the brakes in time.

"Still needs work," said Goodwin, 37.

Young, 62, said he came across taped interviews of Goodwin eight months ago on the Internet, including a segment for the MTV show "Pimp My Ride." Goodwin's clientele includes California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had Goodwin work on his Hummer.

Young said he set out wanting his car to be able to use biodiesel, but later asked Goodwin whether they could instead power it with batteries and use it as a template to make electric cars more mainstream.

"The technology to make a practical and affordable electric car has been around for a long time," Goodwin said. "There are all sorts of ways of doing it and all sorts of ways to work out how to make it work on a national scale."

For Young, the project may finally complete a mission he set for himself with his music.

"You know, I thought long ago you could change the world by writing songs," he said.

"But you can't change the world by writing songs. Oh, you can inspire a few people, get some of them to change their thinking about something. But you can't change the world by writing songs.

"But we could change it with this car."


from U.S. News & World Report, June 3, 2008

It's better to burn out than to...crash into the car in front of you due to your car's lack of working pedals.

Rocker Neil Young narrowly avoided a setback in his attempt to build a workable electric car last week. Young is working with a Wichita, Kansas mechanic to convert his iconic 1959 Lincoln Continental into a prototype of "the world's first affordable mass-produced electric battery automobile," according to the Wichita Eagle.

The effort is being chronicled at

Young told the Eagle the project began when he asked mechanic Johnathan Goodwin "if we could take a huge American car like [his Continental], 2 tons, 19 feet long, and make it so you could drive it without ever refueling. Something practical. Something that would change the world. And Johnathan said 'Yeah.' "

The project narrowly avoided a setback last week, however, when the pair test drove the car in mid-conversion. Autoblog Green explains, "Young described the car as quiet and powerful, though apparently as there is no accelerator pedal or power steering yet, and Goodwin was applying the juice via a knob located somewhere in the back seat, the short trip almost ended in disaster.

As they approached an entrance ramp, the knob was twisted the wrong way and they found themselves hurtling toward the backside of another vehicle. Fortunately, Neil still has good reflexes and he reached over with his foot from the passenger side to stomp down hard on the brake."

The pair haven't said when they expect to complete the car, but they do hope to drive it from Wichita to Washington, D.C. to build publicity when it does run. With, we assume, working pedals.

After that, they hope to race the car for the Automotive X Prize. If a '59 Lincoln Continental won that competition, which will award $10 million to a car that reaches 100 mpg, that would be news.

Kicking Tires reports, however, that Young has already poured $120,000 into the car...and still no working pedals. "Seems like they're a long way from making this a mainstream process, as Young had hoped his experiment could serve to be."


He wants alternate power sources...
by Jason Gregory, from Gigwise, June 2, 2008

Neil Young has revealed that he's currently converting his 1959 Lincoln Continental to operate on an electric battery.

The singer believes that the process, which has seen him team up with Jonathan Goodwin, a mechanic from Wichita, will force big companies to think seriously alternative fuels for motor cars.

"Jonathan and this car are going to make history," Young said, in an interview with The Wichita Eagle.

"We're going to change the world; we're going to create a car that will allow us to stop giving our wealth to other countries for petroleum."

Young has invested almost $120,000 into the project with Goodwin, who has developed a reputation for re-engineering big cars to get greater horsepower for less fuel.

The singer said that the project had made him realise that it's not possible to change the world using songs.

"You know, I thought long ago you could change the world by writing songs," he said.

"But you can't change the world by writing songs. Oh, you can inspire a few people, get some of them to change their thinking about something.

"But you can't change the world by writing songs. But we could change it with this car."


by Rory Jurnecka, from Motor Trend, June 2, 2008

Neil Young, the singer/songwriter known for his scathing protest songs is making his message heard these days not with his guitar, but with his 1959 Lincoln Continental Convertible. See, Neil's classic cruiser has undergone minor surgery and now relies on electric power rather gasoline - and the 62-year-old musician says it makes more of a statement than any protest song ever could.

Young teamed up with Johnathan Goodwin, a known eco-tuner, to rework the classic Continental for electric duty. So far, the car has racked up $120,000 worth of modifications but it's still not perfect according to Johnathan.

During a recent test drive, Johnathan twisted the dial controlling acceleration the wrong way, nearly sending the electric Lincoln into the car in front of it. Young was able to hit the brakes from the passenger seat in time to avoid a collision. Still Young says the car has impressive performance.

"She was awesome," said Young. "Her acceleration was incredible, she moved with hardly a sound. It was so quiet we could hear the wind through the tags of the other cars."

Young is convinced that the car could start an electric revolution. "Johnathan and this car are going to make history," Young told the Wichita Eagle. "We're going to change the world; we're going to create a car that will allow us to stop giving our wealth to other countries for petroleum." Young and Jonathan are hoping that the car will provide the basis for a prototype of the first mass-produced electric car.

"You know, I thought long ago you could change the world by writing songs," Young said. "But you can't change the world by writing songs. But we could change it with this car."


by Roy Wenzl, from The Wichita Eagle, June 2, 2008

This story would sound nuts except that it's happening, in real time, in a Wichita car mechanic's garage last week and for the foreseeable future.

Neil Young -- the rock legend who tried to change the world with songs, who helped create '60s culture, who wrote an anti-war anthem in 1970 that galvanized opposition to the Vietnam war -- came to Wichita this past week, took a test drive, nearly crashed his car and worked two days like a mad scientist with a mechanic who he says will create the world's first affordable mass-produced electric battery automobile.

Thus changing the world. Rearranging it, even.

"Johnathan and this car are going to make history," said the Young quarter of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

"We're going to change the world, we're going to create a car that will allow us to stop giving our wealth to other countries for petroleum.

"And we're going to do it right here in Wichita, a great place that I now love, where people know how to make things, and make things happen."

Not about the music

The Wichita mechanic who will do this, Young says, is his new partner, Johnathan Goodwin, 37, born in St. Louis just months after the Woodstock music festival where Young played but refused to be filmed.

Goodwin started mechanical work at age 6 when he took a lawn mower apart and spent glorious months trying to put it back together. Until a few months ago, he had no idea who Young is. He has never listened to any Young songs, even after Young's people handed him the entire stack a few days ago.

"I figure I can hear it all from the mouth of the man himself when we get the car running and drive the country," Goodwin said. "We'll have to do something during all those miles."

They'll drive to Washington, D.C., to show the capital how two car lovers can change the world.

Goodwin still has only a vague notion of who Crosby, Stills and Nash are, even though rock chroniclers at their height said they were the "American Beatles."

"Funny thing," Goodwin said about that, with a puzzled grin. "When Neil introduced me to them at a party in Malibu last week, they knew all about me. They said what I'm doing with Neil sounds pretty cool."

Goodwin, Young and his employees have become friends, partners -- and guys goofing with tools.

There is little singing in the car shop, Goodwin said, "although one day, Neil opened up two cell phones and held them out and sang and showed us how the feedback thing can make your voice sound louder."

On Thursday, at the Goodwin-Young team's car shop at Chautauqua and Douglas, Young sat on a stool, tapping song titles into an e-mail message on his laptop. He looked over to see Goodwin's skinny, blue-jeaned backside sticking out the driver's-side door of Young's converted electric 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible. Young nodded toward Goodwin's butt.

"This is how we'll think of Johnathan now," Young said. "We'll put that view of him on his own album cover."

Minutes later, when Goodwin's wife and son headed out, the boy called from across the garage.

"Bye, Neil!"

Young hopped off his stool.

"Come here!" he said.

The boy, Brennan, 6, ran to the "rock legend," as Young sarcastically calls himself. Young knelt and hugged him.

A hefty rock bio

He's a stern-looking man with thinning and receding graying hair and bushy eyebrows. He dislikes media attention. "I'll talk to you for a couple minutes, but if you film me, I won't talk. I won't be on YouTube," he said the other day.

He warmed up quickly after that, cracking self-deprecating jokes and speaking with feeling about Wichita, "a great place, a lot of good people."

Young's bio is thick with accomplishment, conflict and good deeds. He is 62, edgy, tough, a survivor of childhood polio, survivor of drugs, the '60s and the brutish business of rock 'n' roll.

With Stephen Stills, he founded Buffalo Springfield, a seminal band in the mid-60s. He wrote solo hits. He fought with Stills over control of that band, and fought him again in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, which played in concert for the first time before 400,000 at the 1969 Woodstock music festival. He refused to be filmed, and a filmmaker named Larry Johnson warily kept his distance.

Young wrote songs with quirky, country-flavored chords, and lyrics as stinging and articulate as any by Bob Dylan.

In 1970, shortly after National Guardsmen opened fire on war-protesting students at Ohio's Kent State University, killing four, Young met in California with shocked friends, including Crosby, who showed up carrying the Time magazine cover showing a girl screaming over the body of student Jeffrey Miller.

Young and Crosby were furious. They wanted to say something on a national stage. Crosby watched Young pick up a guitar and walk into the sunshine, toward redwoods nearby. An hour later, when he walked back to the house, Young already had the jangling chords and bitter lyrics that would become "Ohio," the soundtrack of huge protests that followed the shooting. The band released the song two weeks after Kent State:

Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'

We're finally on our own

This summer I hear the drummin'

Four dead in O-hi-o.

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Shoulda been done long ago.

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

In the years that followed, Young broke up with Crosby, Stills and Nash, carried on a solo career, reunited with and then separated from the band, and pioneered music that would inspire grunge rock. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Paul McCartney, it was Young who gave the induction speech.

He did good deeds. With Willie Nelson and John Cougar Mellencamp, he founded Farm Aid to help farmers who had lost land and livelihoods.

He made money from his songs, but "I never got good at being a businessman," he said in the garage. "I hired smart people, surrounded myself with them."

Going green

In this decade, as the U.S. went to war and as scientists warned about global warming, he turned green.

He loves cars, "big roomy, American cars." He has collected classics all his adult life.

"But I decided that it was stupid to own cars that just sit around and then pollute when I drive them."

Eight months ago, he decided to convert his beige 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible to something eco-friendly.

At first, all he wanted was a biodiesel conversion.

Young searched the Internet, looking for some "out-of-the-way revolutionary who did not have anything to do with corporations and pre-conceived notions."

He found interviews and an MTV show, "Pimp My Ride," that featured a skinny, articulate Wichita mechanic: Goodwin, who has a national reputation for re-engineering the power units of big cars to get more horsepower for less fuel. Goodwin was working on a Hummer for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Young called Goodwin.

Then Young looked up Wichita on a map, and gathered his film crew, which included Johnson, the Woodstock filmmaker, now his friend. They convoyed with his Lincoln eastward, across deserts, over the Continental Divide, staying at Motel 6s and Holiday Inns. On the way, as they filmed a planned movie about the car, Johnson shot the gas-guzzling Lincoln's tailpipe blowing exhaust every time Young turned the key. They filled the tank 18 times. Nine miles to the gallon.

On the road, Young was deep in thought.

When he reached Wichita, he asked Goodwin, "Can you do something more than just make it biodiesel?"

"Sure," Goodwin said. "We can do anything you want."

Could they make an electric car, practical, mass produced, right here in Wichita? Ending our addiction to oil, ending wars over oil, ending some behaviors that melt polar ice caps?

Yeah, Goodwin said. They could do that.

They argued for control immediately, the way Young used to argue with Crosby, Stills and Nash. They argued over who got to drive the Lincoln into the garage. "I won that one," Young said.

But then, listening to Goodwin, captivated by his brains, Young decided he wanted to do something big.

"I believe in the American dream," said the Canadian rocker. "With all this talk about gas, people are saying we should go to small cars, but I love big American cars with power. So does everybody else. Why give up on that?"

"I asked Johnathan that first day if we could take a huge American car like this, 2 1/2 tons, 19 1/2 feet long, and make it so you could drive it without ever refueling. Something practical. Something that would change the world."

"And Johnathan said 'Yeah.' "

"And that's what we're going to do."

A few glitches

The car works.

There are bugs.

Goodwin and Young took a test drive Wednesday on a loop of about 12 miles, from Douglas and Chautauqua out to North Webb.

"She was awesome," Young said of the battery-operated car. "Her acceleration was incredible, she moved with hardly a sound; it was so quiet we could hear the wind through the tags of other cars."

But because there is no gas pedal, Goodwin had to drive with his left hand, with no power steering, while twisting half around and turning an acceleration knob in the back seat with his right hand.

"And we just about crashed it," Goodwin said.

At K-96 and Webb, as they approached the entrance ramp, Goodwin turned the knob the wrong way, and the car leaped toward the back end of another car. In a micro-second, Young, from the passenger seat, stomped the brake, averting disaster.

"Still needs a little work," Goodwin said.

He began explaining the technology. He said the car will regenerate energy as it runs. He used technical terms that went over everyone's head but his. Young grinned.

"Just say that it's just a big hair dryer that you don't have to plug in," he said. "If I had more hair, I'd be blowing it on me right now."

Putting up $120,000

Goodwin said what he and the others are creating is nothing new.

"The technology to make a practical and affordable electric car has been around for a long time," he said. "There are all sorts of ways of doing it and all sorts of ways to work out how to make it work on a national scale. But what Neil has done is provide the backing to do it -- he's put up about $120,000 so far to change his car -- and he's provided a focus. Neil has been incredible, interested and helpful, and if I asked him tomorrow to let me make the car fly and put a flux capacitor in, he'd just shrug and say 'Sure, let's do it.' "

Young nodded.

"He's the brains," he said, nodding at Goodwin. "I'm just the cattle prod."

He walked to his car, put a hand on her hood.

"You know, I thought long ago you could change the world by writing songs.

"But you can't change the world by writing songs.

"Oh, you can inspire a few people, get some of them to change their thinking about something. But you can't change the world by writing songs.

"But we could change it with this car."


by Carrie Rengers, from The Wichita Eagle, May 29, 2008

Neil Young fans might want to keep their eyes out in the next day or two because the rocker is again in town visiting Johnathan Goodwin of H-Line Conversions.

Goodwin is converting Young's 1959 Lincoln Continental into an electric car.

"We just got back from our first test drive," says a somewhat breathless Goodwin. "Oh, it was great."

He and Young, along with an entourage of sorts with tape rolling, took a 30-mile trip around the city Wednesday evening.

"We used probably about five cents in gas," Goodwin says.

Young (shouting, "I love Wichita!" in the background while Goodwin talks on the phone) is similarly impressed.

"He was just blown away," Goodwin says. "It's the biggest, greatest electric car in the world."

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