Celebrity Hybrid Horrors: Neil Young's LincVolt Blamed in Warehouse Fire, Cher Calls 'Bull' on Green Cars

Hollywood has developed a reputation for being home to a swarm of high-profile, EV-driving enviro-celebs, including Leo DiCaprio, Larry David, Ed Begley Jr, and countless others. But that doesn’t mean everyone in the entertainment industry is a hybrid-lover.

Cher, the iconic actress, singer and all-around famous person known for her outspoken views on a litany of subjects, says that she’s not convinced driving a hybrid has much of an impact on the environment.

“I researched all the hybrid stuff and its pretty much all bulls**t,” Cher said, as reported by Fox News. “I was going to get a Mercedes diesel thing, but then thank God I found out there [are] no diesel places near us,” said the Oscar-winner, presumably referring to Mercedes’s clean diesel BlueTec Series, and an apparent shortage—confirmed by Jalopnik—of filling stations offering diesel in the Malibu area.

Her “Burlesque” co-star, critically-acclaimed actor Stanley Tucci, also had misgivings about green cars—saying that he would buy one, if only “the stuff that’s there actually worked, like the hybrids, which are questionable at best. There is this huge promotion and then you look at the gas mileage… it is not that different at all. It just makes people feel better.”

A Slightly More Convenient Truth

The celebrities’ apparent confusion about the environmental benefits of green cars may stem from a lack of high-end luxury hybrids on the market capable of delivering efficiency numbers as eye-popping as the Prius’s 50-mpg combined fuel economy rating. But on a more fundamental level, a common misunderstanding about how gas mileage translates to environmental benefits is the likely culprit in keeping the “Berlesque” stars in the dark about hybrids.

For example, the Mercedes lineup that Cher referenced in her remarks provides several fuel-efficient alternatives to some of its more popular models, like in the S-Class Series—whose most efficient gasoline variant, the S550 sedan, achieves a combined fuel economy rating of just 18 mpg. But compare the S550 to its slightly-cheaper though less-powerful hybrid cousin, the S400, and you’ll find that trading in your 5.5-liter, 382-horsepower V8 for a dual V6-electric powertrain boasting 87 fewer HP, only nets a 3-mpg improvement in combined fuel economy.

So why would a passive environmentalist like Cher—who also disclosed in the interview that she has recently switched her house over to “those curly bulbs” in an effort to go green—ever sacrifice the luxury of being able to theoretically reach Autobahn speeds on the LA freeway, for a lousy 3 mpg?

A closer inspection reveals that the actual environmental benefits of buying the hybrid S400 are far greater than they might seem. According to the California Air Resources Board, the S400’s rather paltry 16 percent gain in combined fuel economy actually translates to a 56 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and a 76 percent cut in smog. (And at $3,700 less, the sticker price savings alone are enough to cover nearly a year’s worth of botox treatments.)

The fact that not everyone has yet caught on to subtleties of green car efficiency benefits should come as little surprise to those who follow the technologies closely and have occasional conversations about them with the non-initiated. Still, if Cher and Mr. Tucci were to check out CARB’s vehicle comparison website, they might find California’s simplified emission and smog ratings useful in searching for a cleaner vehicle that both “isn’t bulls**t,” and “actually works.”

LincVolt Blues

Just days after returning from delivering a keynote speech at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Neil Young lost his one-of-a-kind classic plug-in hybrid conversion—which he calls the “LincVolt”—to a fire in his San Francisco warehouse. The converted 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible weighed in at a whopping 6,200 lbs, but had a claimed all-electric range of 50 miles—with a biodiesel-powered range extender providing an additional 400 miles of plug-to-pump freedom.

But today comes word that the LincVolt wasn’t so much a victim of that warehouse fire, but rather its perpetrator. The singer said in a statement that an error in “an untested part of the charging system” is considered to be the most likely culprit:

“ We do know that the car has been operating perfectly for almost 2 thousand miles and the system in question would not be in use while driving the car. We are investigating the components involved with plug-in charging… While this is a setback for us we are planning ways to continue. ”

Neil Young

Neil Young with LincVolt

So while the project may be on hold for now, it looks as though Young will go on to rebuild and hopefully continue to take the car out on the road to a showcase the potential of green auto engineering. For more information about the timelessly-cool though temporarily-deceased LincVolt, check out its website or watch Young’s recent keynote address at SEMA.

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  • Anonymous

    cher thinks hybrids are bull shit and recently switched over to the curly bulbs? lol… way to go cher, those curly bulbs were widely available over 10 years ago and so was the prius. she obviously did lots research before sharing her intelligent thoughts. if her primary goal is to pamper herself, better stick to the brand name luxury cars and don’t expect you will save the world while doing it.

    proof once again what famous people think isn’t necessary better

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Cher says that she “researched all the hybrid stuff”, but did she really understand it. With her statements like “those curly bulbs” I am not sure she really did. Maybe she had someone do the ground work for her and they did a bad job. Or maybe she was just looking at luxury cars and failed to see how the “3 mpg” is actually a significant gain in mileage and decreased emissions over a similiar luxury car.
    And then again, Cher might not really care about global warming and true conservation. I know that there are many that don’t and even more that are not celebrities.

  • Anonymous

    Cher is a joke and isn’t even a celebrity nowadays…most people under 30 probably don’t even know who she is.

    So, now this ‘vamp’ is going to inform all of us about the new thing called ‘curly bulbs’ and to warn everyone about cars that are ‘bullsh*t’ ?!?

    ….what a joke

  • JamesDavis

    I know Cher sounds like the common Jane and John Doe walking down the street not wanting to boggle down their minds with unnecessary bulls***, but she does have a point. Hybrids only purpose seems to be to fool the common uneducated person in believing they have something that is saving the environment, when in all reality they are just a more expensive version of their fossil fuel only cousins that can’t even get as good gas millage as their fossil fuel only cousins. Hybrids are a waste of time and money and they do little to nothing to improve the air, water, and land quality of our environment.

    If you care about the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the land you live on, then you will demand that the auto makers in America start mass producing all electric cars and give up this worthless and expensive idea of hybrids.

  • Shines

    I’m sorry James Davis you are just plain wrong. Hybrids do get much better gas mileage than straignt ice vehicles. Sure they may not be as environmentally friendly as ev’s but they are better than plain ice’s. Think about this Davis – when a conventional car brakes it does so by friction – just generating heat – wasted heat – serves no usefull purpose but to slow down the car. Regenerative braking on the other hand saves the energy of braking to a battery and returns it to propelling the car forward via the electric motor. Having the electric motor assist the ice engine means the ice engine can be smaller which means it uses less fuel and again a smaller engine generates less wasted heat and pollutes less.

    As far as Cher’s statements – I like her as a singer and actress, but as an environmentalist… curly bulbs… I’m afraid she’s the one full of 8ull$#!t

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ James Davis,

    You wouldn’t know the facts if they came up to you, slapped you in the face and left you their business card.

    Your post couldn’t be full of more uneducated statements then if it came directly from Sarah Palin, so let’s look at your “facts”.

    1) “that can’t even get as good gas millage as their fossil fuel only cousins.”
    –FALSE. I have an ’07 Prius that has averaged 49 MPG’s over the last 650+ miles. Tell me what other non-hybrid, non-EV car can do that here in the U.S.? The answer is NONE.

    2) “they are just a more expensive version of their fossil fuel only cousins..”
    –FALSE. My Prius cost $25,300 brand new and you can buy them for as little as $22,000 today. That’s hardly expensive and the Prius doesn’t have a gas cousin.

    3) “Hybrids are a waste of time and money and they do little to nothing to improve the air, water, and land quality of our environment.”
    –FALSE. When sitting at a stop light, cruising in a parking lot, coasting to a stop or down a hill my engine turns off emitting NO pollution.

    Maybe like Cher you should do a little research before opening your mouth and letting a bunch of rubish flow out of it.

  • JamesDavis

    “Shines”, I rest my case. You have been brain washed like a Republican. Hybrids represent the fossil fuel industry’s last attempt to milk the fossil fuels lovers for everything they have in them and prolong the agony of suffering all the damage fossil fuel does to the environment and life on this planet.

  • Shines

    Sorry Mr.Davis – I don’t understand what you rest your case on. Do fossil fuels pollute? Yes – I am not arguing against you there. Do hybrids pollute less than conventional ice vehicles? Yes – what is your arguement to that? – they use fossil fuel therefore they are evil?
    Tell me what electric vehicle you drive?
    What electric vehicle can I buy today for $25k or less?
    What electric vehicle can I drive for more than 250 miles without needing to be recharged?
    I understand your concern for the environment – don’t forget when we were young all cars dumped sulfer dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead into the atmosphere. Now it is just carbon dioxide which is what all mammals exhale when they breathe.
    Do all fossil fuel cars need to be eliminated? Eventually yes, but at least hybrids are a step in the right direction as they replace some fossil fuel with electric energy. I am not brainwashed Mr. Davis I live in the real world…
    Cher on the other hand – I’m not sure what world she lives in…

  • TD
  • jim1961

    In my area of the country 85% of the dispatchable electric power is generated by coal. A hybrid car will generate less CO2 than and electric car in my area. Having said that I’m in favor of electric cars and hybrid cars AND fuel efficient gasoline cars for those who can’t afford expensive hybrids. You can’t expect Cher to understand CO2 and the greenhouse effect. It’s not her area of expertise. It’s a mistake to take her comments seriously. On the other hand I have a ton of respect for people like Larry David. At $65 million per year he could afford to own any car on the planet and yet he chooses to drive a Prius. Way to go LD.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ James,

    Sorry bro. You should leave the Land of OZ and come back to Kansas.

    It’s an unrealistic goal to think that in a blink of an eye the U.S. and the American consumer can switch from fossil fuels to an all EV society. A transition of that magnitude will take a decade at the very least. In the mean time I don’t feel that there is any brainwashing going on. I’m reducing my dependence on oil and the price shock from oil spikes by owning the most fuel efficient vehicle out there.

    Your precious EV’s have none of the capabilities that are needed by the average consumer. From price point, to driving range, to quickness of charge ups, to hauling capabilities etc. The only thing they have over my Prius is the total lack of tailpipe emissions and that’s barely an edge over the Prius.

    P.S. The ingredients for your EV’s batteries only come from a few sources and they’re not all that pro-US.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    The one thing that I like about this site is everyone is allowed an opinion.

    Although I disagree with many of JamesDavis’ points, I must agree with his point that the car manufactures should be pushing the electirc and battery technology harder than they are. Yet Capt. Concernicus is right; “A transition of that magnitude will take a decade at the very least.” I personally believe it will be much longer. Shines is also right. What electric car is available and priced for the masses at this time? And jim1961 is also right. The majority of our energy is provided by coal. And how long will that last?

    I know of some people that think coal and oil will last forever. These same people also believe that both coal and oil are being produced right under our feet at the same rate that we take it out of the earth. As the population exponentially increases, the coal and oil is being exponentially produced under our feet?!? They cannot tell us how this is being done, they just know it is.

    I believe JamesDavis’ points about hybrids being overly expensive and basically useless are incorrect. I know of very few cars that can match the 51 MPG that I am getting in our Prius. Most people I work with are elated if they get even 25 MPG with their cars. They are too easily pleased in my opinion. They spend over $70 per month more than I do in gas alone and will even pay more as gas prices pass the $2.80 mark. Initially I was told by the neigh sayers that I would have to pay $12K to $15K for new batteries for our Prius should they fail. They were so wrong. The expensive way to replace the batteries is to go to the dealership where they will replace them for under $4K. On line, one can find batteries for as little as $500. And I have another 4 years or 100K miles to go before worrying about the battery because of the warranty. My insurance cost less than a similar size vehicle also. All these are hardly “expensive” compared to standard car. And I know a number of people that wish they had my “expensive” Prius.

  • WHatever

    I’ll believe all the “green” bull***t when the people spewing it stop flying in private jets, driving limos everywhere and downsize their 50 room mansions to a smaller 3 bedroom house. And I have yet to see AL Gore in a Prius.

  • Indigo

    Yeah, Cher is an environmental scientist? An engineer? A propulsion designer? No?


    Cher is just some aging Hollywood dinosaur. She lives in California, so of COURSE the diesel stations will be very thinly distributed. She did next to no research when it comes to hybrids in the $20k-$30k range that actually do stand and deliver. Most of the luxury hybrids use the battery packs in lieu of nitro bottles and not for additional fuel economy.

    Oh, and Cher? If you really want to be eco-friendly in your house, get super-LED bulbs, not CFLs. The “curly” bulbs dump a lot of mercury into the ecosystem.

  • Indigo

    An aging, obsolete celebrity wants to keep driving cars propelled by aging, obsolete technology? I’m not surprised. She might be interested to know that it’s also hard to get buggy whips in California these days too.

  • Eric Welch

    So many straw men there, WHatever. Aren’t you afraid they might gang up on you?

  • ACAgal

    From my point of view, diesel is never a good choice, too much ultrafine particulate. We’ve had “curly bulbs” in a well insulated house for well over 10 years. We heard a neighbor complain about her electric bill about 5 years ago, and found she was paying twice what we pay (same builder, same tract), so we patted ourselves on the back. When solar became available for the home, we decided to try it incase we decided to get an EV sometime in the future. Our was installed in 2007. Last month my husband was talking to an irritated neighbor, who was astounded at increases in her electric bill, she had to ask how much our bill was….the answer for a hot September (used AC), -$4, this month – $.41. We have a credit.
    Our neighbor was complaining about a bill that was 4X what our bill had been the last time we discussed power with a neighbor or about 200% higher than our last bill, this month we . We have been informed electric rates will increase by 5% this December, and another 5% the following year. As for buying the EV, we still have that on the table. In the meantime we keep our cars running clean, use them only when necessary.
    I’ve been told, in most cases a green home saves more energy/CO2 than ever the car….I wouldn’t know. I do know that if rates continue rising, my solar roof will have paid for itself a lot faster than we had calculated. My prime reason for getting an EV would be to avoid the lines at the gas stations, clean hands would be my second reason.

  • JAM

    JamesDavis and all the other folks who think the answer to ending dependance on oil is to make changes to our cars like going all electric are still missing the point. Eventually we need to stop makeing cars all together and focus on mass transit and encouraging people to bike, walk, jog, sail and roll to their destinations. For now I will pay the premium for my Prius and enjoy the silent running and low emissions it provides.

  • Sinecure

    Al Gore is a god. Man is he smart!

  • Elliot

    Dear “Whatever”

    I drive a hybrid and advocate green “stuff” and don’t fly in a private jet, don’t drive in a limo, and my house has 3 bedrooms. So, lucky for you that you can finally make good on your interest in believing in green and leave your ad hominem ways behind.

    Dear Cher

    I am very interested in the details of your extensive research into the “curly” bulbs and the “diesel things”. Could you please provide the list of readie things and computery site thingies you used during your investigation?

  • tapra1

    . But compare the S550 to its slightly-cheaper though less-powerful hybrid cousin, the S400, and you’ll find that trading in your.Premium Freebies