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Ben Johnson

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Can you describe the LincVolt project and the vehicle that came out of it?

The car is Neil Young’s 1959 Lincoln Continental, and we turned it into a series electric hybrid (also referred to as an extended-range electric vehicle). It has a 3.5 liter, four-cylinder Ford  engine under the hood that acts solely as a generator, which generates electricity for the 200kw electric motor. It has a 21kw battery pack.

It’s really comfortable to drive, really quiet. You can go up to 100 [mph] if you have to, but it drives really smoothly at 75. It’s quiet and great. It’s a great car.

Can you describe some of the challenges in making the conversion?

We went through a couple different incarnations, testing a bunch of different generators, changing the battery pack a couple of times.

Three years ago, after the last time we were at SEMA, the car burned to the ground. The battery pack caught on fire. That didn’t stop us, though, and Neil kept on going. He took it as an opportunity to redesign the whole vehicle and make some changes.

And this is what we’ve ended up with now. Before, the car had a turbine generator, and a different battery pack in it. Now, it has A123 batteries, and the Ford 2.5-liter, four-cylinder generator. And the generator really puts out more power than the turbine did and makes the vehicle much more feasible.

As someone so focused on alternative fuels, what do you hope to see in the future for this technology?

Our hope is just that there would be a bolt-on package that people can do to their cars so that if they do want to drive their vehicles as a hybrid or electric, they have the ability to do that. It’s about the freedom of choice, more than anything else.
 

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