Neil Young sued over converted electric Lincoln fire

Canadian rock legend wasn’t ‘reasonably careful’

By Gavin Conway on January 23, 2012 4:54 PM

When a warehouse complex burst into flames late in 2010, the $482,000 insurance claim seemed like it would be a straightforward procedure. But throw in rock legend Neil Young and a most unlikely 1959 Lincoln Continental and you’ve got the ingredients for a real soap opera, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

A few years back Young had formed a company, LincVolt LLC, which set about converting a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible into a hybrid electric vehicle. Effectively, the original LincVolt was a diesel-electric hybrid that uses a biodiesel-powered microturbine engine to recharge the batteries that powered its electric motor. It was claimed the car could achieve 80mpg.

The LincVolt out on the road prior to the fire. | Photo:

It was all going rather well until late 2010 when a malfunction occurred while the car was charging, which caused a fire that completely destroyed the Lincoln and also damaged a nearby warehouse. Insurance company Unigard paid the owner of that warehouse $482,000, but the company has since decided to try and recover that money, and so is suing Neil Young for nearly $500,000.

It seems that Unigard has decided that converting a Lincoln from a petrol-burner to EV power was not something ‘a reasonably careful person’ would do. Well, there are actually thousands of ‘reasonably careful’ people out there doing exactly that (but not so many converting EVs to petrol power, it has to be said).

Firefighters tackle the fire at Young's warehouse. The rear of the LincVolt is clearly visible. | Photo: ABC News video still

So what of Mr. Young’s LincVolt? Well, the Canadian rocker has taken the burnt out shell of the original and has had the car rebuilt – its currently undergoing running tests ahead of a repaint. The new LincVolt is, effectively, an extended-range EV with a 200kW electric motor with a four-cylinder Atkinson acting as the onboard generator – the LincVolt can burn petrol or bio-ethanol and can run for a claimed 40 miles in pure-electric mode. It’s also one of the coolest EVs we’ve ever seen.

The LincVolt back on the dyno in January 2012 after an extensive rebuild. | Photo:

Here's ABC's report on the tragic fire: