Meet The Electric Limousine

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KAZ, which stands for Keio Advanced Zero-Emissions, was a project collaboration between the Italian and the Japanese. The goal? To build an electric limousine.

They did it but it took five years and an enormous investment of $4 million dollars. (I don’t know. Is that an enormous cost? I’m a regular person, so it seems like it to me.)

The wait and the investment were worth it, though. KAZ has 6 electric engines, each with 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft. or torque. In case you’re not car savvy, that means KAZ can go from 0 to 62 mph in a tad under 7 seconds.

And it only takes 15 seconds to go a quarter mile with a top speed of 193 mph. Weighing in at 6,558 pounds, KAZ is considered an “environmental limo,” and it can comfortably carry eight people. (That’s one wheel per person.)

What’s also impressive about KAZ is how long it can go between charges. With 84 lithium-ion batteries, KAZ can easily travel 186 miles before running out of juice.

But why build an electric limousine?

Car inventors have been exploring electric cars for years now. With a dependence on fossil fuel, it’s only a matter of time before we figure out a way to make the electric car, or some version of it, work for modern life.

The IDEA Institute in Italy thought it was time to explore the world of luxury electric limousines, which begs the question, Where do these people get their funding? I’ve got a few ideas of my own percolating. Maybe they would be willing to fund me.

Anyway, KAZ has proven that electric cars can travel at high speeds. It’s also shown us that it’s possible for them to them travel at great distances before needing to re-charge. So, all in all, maybe building a luxury electric limousine is the push we need to break the barrier for affordable, efficient, and practical electric cars for the real world.

 KAZ from the ground up

Professor of Environmental Information at Tokdyo’s Keio University, Hiroshi Shimuzu, began experimenting with electric vehicles as early as 1978. KAZ is his sixth incarnation and certainly his most promising.

One of the reasons KAZ has garnered such attention is the car’s lack of a traditional combustion motor and transmission system. Shimuzu and his designers decided on a reduction gear system, as well as a mechanical brake. Even the wheel bearing is housed around each of the driving wheels.

This innovative concept has powerful consequences:

  • The weight of the limo is reduced while increasing cabin space.
  • Transmission loss is decreased between a wheel and a motor.
  • There are no axles or gears littering the main cabin hub.
  • An electric motor is paired with each wheel.

KAZ is a quiet ride, unlike its fossil fuel predecessor. With zero emissions, an engine that hums, a ride that has very low vibration, you can see the possibilities this open up for the rest of us. Oh, and KAZ is more energy efficient than our current gas guzzling vehicles by 1.7 times.



5 Interesting Facts About Limousines

Limos haven’t always looked the way they do now. Like everything, they have evolved.

Take a look at some of the funny facts about the limos earlier incarnations:

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1. In 1902, when the first limousines were built, the emphasis was on giving passengers privacy. That’s why drivers were OUTSIDE of the cab! His only protections was a primitive sun roof covering.

That’s it.

Imagine driving in the freezing cold and the hot summer sun. That’s a dedication you won’t find in this century!

Today, of course, the partition is still there but the driver is allowed inside, away from the elements.


Jay Ohrberg's longest limo
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2. Jay Ohrberg built the longest limo in the world in 1997. Guinness acknowledged his accomplishment by listing the limo in their world records book. Although that limousine is history now, Jay has
yet to beat his own record. This truly one-of-a-kind limo had 26 wheels, a driver in the rear and a driver in the front, a Jacuzzi hot tub, fax machines, AC, and 4 televisions. You could also sleep in it.

Jay has built and destroyed automobiles for the movie industry for many years. You can read more about him here.





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3. At the other end of the spectrum, we have President Obama’s limo, nicknamed”The Beast,” by the Secret Service. It’s easy to see why!

It may be a custom built Cadillac but it’s really an armored truck. With bulletproof doors 8″ thick, it’s not JUST bulletproof; it’s all kinds of bulletproof because the doors are made of different kinds of metal.

The Beast comes with its own firefighting system, oxygen supply, a supply of President Obama’s own blood in case of an emergency, night vision cameras, and more.

And the chauffeur? Not just any professionally trainer chauffeur for the president. The driver is trained by none other than the CIA to cope with the most difficult and demanding conditions.

The chauffeur can lower the driver’s side window by only 3″ in order to pay a toll or talk with Secret Service agents. Bullets designed to pierce armor will not break through this glass. It’s tough enough to withstand that kind of pressure!

Kevlar-reinforced tires with steel rims are also puncture-resistant tires. The Cadillac can escape even if the tires are blown to shreds.

The car’s chassis has a 5″ steel plate that runs the length of the vehicle to protect the president in the event of a bombing. President Obama’s rear seat has a foldaway desktop with a laptop computer wired for wifi.

The phone system is satellite base and has a direct line to the Pentagon and the veep. But what about the gasoline tank? It’s armor-plated, of course. There is a specially designed foam that fills the tank (don’t ask me how) that keeps the tank from exploding even with a direct hit.

The Beast cost $423,750 to build and gets 8 miles to the gallon.

At any rate, it’s very impressive, wouldn’t you say?


One of the pope mobiles
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4. The Popemobile–In 1930, Pope Pius XI rode in the first papal limousine, the Nurburg 460 Pullman Mercedes, for state visits.

When traveling abroad, the Pope’s itinerary is submitted to the hosting country. If it meets the strict standards of the Vatican, then the Pope uses that nation’s mode of transportation.

If it doesn’t meet their standards, then the Vatican supplies its own.

Interestingly, up until 1978, transportation for state visits was a sedan chair, which had been ramped up to look very royal. It wasn’t used for long trips, obviously, because the Pope was carried on the shoulders of attendants. Ouch!

Pope Paul VI ended the sedan chair method in 1978. Today, Pope Francis, a very humble man, opts for public transportation in his hometown in Buenos Aires. When traveling abroad, other transportation arrangements must be made.



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5. Ready to ride in the fastest limousine in the world? Of course you are.

This is another Guinness World Record holder. Made from a 360 Ferrari Modena, this limo was stretched by 9.5 feet. (What is it with stretching limos?) Now it’s 20 feet long and holds 8 people.

With 3.6 liter V8 engine, this Ferrari can go from 0 to 60 in just under 6 seconds. Top speed? 166 mph. Believe it or not, that’s just 17 mph less than the standard of 183 mph.

To enter the car, you’ll have to climb through 9 feet long gull wing doors that are hydraulically powered. You’ll also be strapped in with five-point harnesses. Seats are carbon fiber.

How much to rent this baby? About $1,000 per hour. Have fun!






The Longest Limo In The World

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Yes, the limousine on the left set a Guiness Book of World Records as the longest limo in the world. (And no, you won’t find it providing airport limo services anytime soon.) By all rights, it should win that enviable award! Inventor Jay Ohrberg has been building vehicles for the movie industry for 40+ years.

He built:

Herbie the Love Bug
The DeLorean for the movie “Back To The Future”
The Green Hornet bullet-ridden car
One pursuit car for Knight Rider, the TV show
The death car for the movie, “Bonnie & Clyde”
Various vehicles for the movie, “The Fast and the Furious”

Just to name a few…

How long is the longest limo in the world? Try 100 feet long! It has 26 wheels, and requires 2 drivers, one for the front end and one for the rear. In order to turn this caterpillar vehicle, the middle has been split and hinged so that it actually folds when turning.

So the question arises. Can you really drive this sucker? Not really though Ohrberg gets requests for renting it all the time.

The bigger question for me was why build a vehicle you can’t really drive? Advertising. (I should have known.) It was designed for Hollywood to display and show in films.

You won’t believe all that the limousine has to offer. Here are just a few of the amenities:

  • A putting green
  • A heated Jacuzzi
  • Helipad (yes, you can land a helicopter on it)
  • Sun deck
  • Swimming pool
  • A king-sized bed
  • 4 televisions
  • An air conditioning compressor


Ohrberg used to take the behemoth to shows but it got damaged during a transport. Sadly, I saw that it was for sale “as is.” It said the vehicle was in terrible condition. I think that’s kinda sad, especially when it still holds the record of the longest vehicle in the world.

Word has it that Ohrberg wants to build another one but he plans on making it longer than the original.

Stay tuned.





JKF’s Midnight Blue Lincoln

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JFK’s 1961 Continental had very clean, very elegant lines. In a way, it was a reflection of the Camelot presidency, a vehicle that was supposed to be full of life and vigor. At the time, most Americans did not know that the vehicle was actually midnight blue because television in 1963 was mostly black and white.

To create the presidential limo, Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio, cut the Continental in half and stretched it a good 3 feet. Then the company added a PA system,  seat padding and special leather , a radio, lights, sirens, telephone, and for the Secret Service agents, externally mounted steps and grab handles.

The vehicle’s back seat could be raised with hydraulics by 10 inches. But of all the modifications made to the Lincoln, it never occurred to anyone to make it bulletproof. Actually, that’s probably not surprising, considering that no modern president had ever been publicly assassinated.

All of these alterations cost $200,000, which equates to about $1.5 million dollars today.

But what’s even more surprising is that the Lincoln remained in service for 13 years beyond that fateful day! The car was completely rebuilt and served every subsequent president up to Gerald Ford.

I’m not so sure a presidential vehicle would receive such forgiveness today.


Why Wasn’t The Lincoln Armored?

That’s the first question everyone asks, and it’s a good one. According to historian, Matt Anderson, there wasn’t time or money. With the cost of the unarmored vehicle costing $200,000, a LOT of money at the time, it was felt that the armor upgrade would have to wait.

Besides, a professional team would need three to four years to armor the vehicle, and Kennedy’s political commitments meant he couldn’t wait that long.

After The Assassination

Lyndon Johnson, now the new President of the United States, ordered that the midnight blue cadillac painted black. On another note, Johnson, a crusty old bird himself, was skittish about the vehicle for the remainder of his presidency. Understandably, he did not like to ride in it.

(Johnson was riding just one car behind Kennedy when the shots rang out. Those kinds of memories don’t fade quickly, if at all.)

When project “Quick Fix,” as the vehicle reconstruction was called, began, every aspect of the once luxury limousine was re-constructed:

  • A bulletproof roof was installed, which was non-removalable.
  • The trunk and back seat area were constructed with titanium plating.
  • Grenades would never be able to penetrate the floor because it was constructed with steel.
  • Thick bulletproof glass adorned the new window and run flat tires were also installed. However, LBJ insisted that the back seat windows should have the option of rolling down or up.
  • To compensate for the additional vehicle weight (10,000 pounds!), a powerful engine about twice the size of the Continental’s weight was set in place.

And how much did all these new additions cost? Try half a million dollars, as in $500,000. In today’s money, that’s $3.8 million.

Safety was the first order of the day, for sure. But there were also some aesthetic improvements. To keep the back seat occupants cool, a second AC unit was installed in the trunk. Can you imagine the gas mileage? (Or lack of.)




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Nixon undid some of the safety standards (no surprise there). He ordered the roof cut away to allow for an open style panel. Basically, the roof flipped open allowing the late president to stand up and wave to crowds.








Cadillac Retirement

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Today, JFK’s historic vehicle resides in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. It has been there for 50 years. Even now, the Cadillac has a haunting power over those of us who remember that tragic and senseless day.

Matt Anderson says that visitors to the museum will simply stand in front of the vehicle and drift off, their memories bringing that moment back to life.

I remember going to visit my grandmother on the day Kennedy was shot. I was only 7 years old. My mother got out of the car, running toward my grandmother with her arms wide open. My grandmother rushed toward her and they embraced, sobbing.

I feel sure the visitors of the Henry Ford Museum have those kinds of memories entangled in the one that saw an American president killed before the eyes of a nation.