Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jonathan Goodwin and Neil Young's LincVolt

Jonathan Goodwin’s other big project these days is the LincVolt, a modification of Neil Young’s 1959 Lincoln Continental into a plug in hybrid.

On November 2, 2008, Jonathan Goodwin and Neil Young presented the LincVolt at the DreamForce ( conference in San Francisco, and made a big splash.

In the video, Neil talks about his visionary ideas, and Jonathan talks about how he has implemented them in the car. The 500 horsepower electric UQM motor runs on batteries, which can drive the car over 80 miles. When the car runs of battery power, the batteries are charged by a Mazda RX7 rotary engine, fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). By running the rotary engine on CNG, it is even more efficient than with conventional liquid fuel.

Goodwin says that the energy concept for the car, is very similar to how diesel electric trains are powered. And pointed out that diesel electric trains are some of the most efficient vehicles in the world.

The rotary engine drives a 75 kilowatt generator, which is a LOT of electricity, charging the batteries really fast. You can also plug the car into the house to charge the batteries. However, Jonathan claims that you could also power six houses off the car’s battery! Smart grid, here we come.

The Lincvolt also has multiple sensors in the car from Perrone Robotics that monitors the car. It also sends wireless RSS feeds are sent to the website, which is powered under the covers by There, the general public can see stats such as: MPG, altitude, position, and others. How’s that for web 2.0?

Neil Young has also appeared on Charlie Rose, and David Letterman

One of Neil’s big goals is to eliminate roadside refueling. By using CNG, which is found in the states, we don’t need to import the oil from overseas. These strategies will eliminate much of the distribution cost of the fuel.

Not only that, he’d like to create a car that actually creates its own fuel; onboard refueling. And, not take energy out of the electric grid, but put energy back into the electric grid. If everyone owned a car like this, there would be no more brown outs in the electrical grid. Visionary and ambitious!

One of his thoughts is that just to build a new car requires a certain amount of fuel; about 1000 gallons by his estimate. If he can modify his existing Lincoln, less gasoline is used in the conversion. Not only that, he likes his 1959 Lincoln very much, considering it a work of art.

Jonathan and Neil are now thinking of even better generators for the newer versions of the Lincvolt. So advanced, it’s a little hard to describe. Neil Young says

“We’re putting in a special generator set in it that we are developing in Australia with a scientist and some aeronautics guys that make airplanes that do … long, long, long range airplanes, like a single engine type of prop plane that flew around the world. Both ways, up and down, and around. Very interesting. They use a lot of stuff with heat recovery and everything to make it incredibly efficient. And we use this to … it’s an electric car, so we use this generator for the long range part of it.”

Some other ideas they are considering: using multiple blended fuels at the same time, and displacing part of the fuel with water.

They are looking to win the 10 million dollar X prize, for breaking the 100 MPG barrier. But it’s a labor of love. Because it’s such a big collaboration, it’s not something that any backyard mechanic can do. Partly by using the web, the Lincvolt project is working with companies such as UQM for the electric motor, Uli Kruger and Roger Davies in Australia, robotics expert Paul Perrone,, Sun Microsystems, among others. And, via the Lincvolt website, enthusiasts around the globe send in their ideas.

How is that for collaboration?

Check it out:

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