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.”
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. ”
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.