Green Power

Dec 2, 2009

Biodisesel F-250s? E85 Hummers? Old news now.

The future of the Green Revolution under way in the performance aftermarket is now all about lithium batteries, regenerative energy and George Barris.

That’s right, George Barris. The custom builder and industry icon himself might seem like an unlikely ambassador of green, but he says he doesn’t care whether it’s got eight cylinders or none, or whether it runs on kilowatts or gasoline.

“I was a trendsetter back in the old days,” Barris told the audience gathered at the Making Green Cool Zone press conference during the 2008 SEMA Show.

A special section set aside in the South Hall, the Making Green Cool Zone showcased alternative methods of motoring, ranging from biodiesel and ethanol power to waste vegetable oil and electrics.

“With green, we’re having fun,” Barris added. “With lithium batteries, with vertical doors, we are having fun. And you’ll see big growth in the green car culture.”

Barris belongs to a group of innovators and entrepreneurs who believe performance can be found from alternative fuels and approaches as easily as from a carbureted V-8. He’s joined by people such as Jonathan Goodwin, a Wichita-based mad scientist who transformed musician Neil Young’s 1959 Lincoln Continental into a 75-mpg electric cruiser.

And Ahzar Hussain, creator of the TTXGP, billed as the world’s first carbon-zero grand prix. And documentarian/surfer/adventurer Seth Warren, who drove from Alaska to Argentina in an old Toyota fire engine using no petroleum, only salmon oil and pig fat.

“The SEMA Show continues to prove that it is the birthplace of American customization and creativity,” said John Waraniak, SEMA vice president of vehicle technology. “SEMA is uniquely positioned to make green cool, but as Beau Boeckmann of Galpin Auto Sports said, ‘We don’t need to make green cool; green is cool.'”

Green Performance Winners

The SEMA Research & Information Center challenged tuners and manufacturers to a fuel-efficiency test, seeking products that not only increased fuel economy, but also enhanced performance without increasing emissions.

Winners included the Evolution flash programmer from Edge Products (1-percent gain on a Ford F-150 V-8); STS Turbo’s turbocharger joined with a DiabloSport Predator flash programmer (4.6-percent gain on Ford F-150 V-8); a cat-back exhaust, cold-air intake, rocker arms, springs, under-drive pulley and DiabloSport programmer from SLP Performance (4.1-percent gain on a Chevy Tahoe V-8); and a Gibson cat-back exhaust (2.6-percent gain on a Ford F-150 V-8).

But it’s not just about fuel economy. Corvette Racing displayed its American LeMans-winning C6.R powered by E85 ethanol. Galpin Auto Sports brought the 800-hp 1965 Impala biodiesel conversion it built for Earth Day 2007 (and unveiled on MTV with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger). Extreme Biodiesel’s 2006 Chevy Dually makes 1,000 hp and 1,200 foot-pounds of torque

“The greatest thing about this industry is its ability to innovate,” SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting says. “This is the cutting edge. And thanks to the (Green Zone) exhibitors, and those paying attention to it, you helped us make a little history today.”