Photo: Michael Coates, HybridCars.com. All rights reserved.
It’s not the first hybrid stretch limousine, because a Canadian firm converted a Prius into a 10-seater last year. But it does appear to be the first stretch limo built from the body of a hybrid SUV, which would make it the world’s largest hybrid gas-electric vehicle—if it weren’t for hybrid buses and locomotives.
LimeLite CoachWorks of Santa Clara, Calif.—which builds a variety of stretch limos from Hummers and Escalades to Mini Coopers and Jaguar XFs—recently added more than 13 feet to a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. LimeLite Business Development Representative Mike Williams told HybridCars.com that it’s the first hybrid limo off the line for the company, and was sold before it was finished being built. Zbest Limos of Baltimore, Md. will soon put the vehicle into service.
Williams noted that limo services historically have not paid much attention to fuel economy, but rising gas prices have given them new interest in the savings offered by hybrids. The company believes that using the Tahoe hybrid can yield up to 80 percent fuel savings compared to a comparable non-hybrid model.
When parked, all of the electronics in the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid limo run off the battery while traditional limos need to run the gas engine to power toys such as flat-screen TVs, Karaoke machines, full-service wet bars, and multi-color neon lighting. In the company’s first conversion, the usual purple neon lights were switched to green.
LimeLite has more hybrids on the way. Shop foreman Miguel De la Vega said the stretch of 160 inches in the first Tahoe was conservative—they now feel they can go to a more extreme 220-inch stretch. The company had no problems dealing with the high-voltage hybrid system, though De la Vega said he was “very careful.” All of the Tahoe’s hybrid system remains intact. In a standard limo, they would have added an additional battery and a beefed-up alternator.
Phil Restivo, president and CEO of LimeLite, told HybridCars.com that the hybrid limo business is just beginning. “The hybrid Escalade is coming in October,” he said. Since the standard Escalade is one of LimeLite’s big sellers, he thinks the hybrid version will also be popular.