Billionaire T. Boone Pickens tried to convince the world CNG was the fuel of the future, but the possibility of a Civic-heavy future excited no one. He should have started the conversation with this — the Speedriven 800-hp CNG-powered V12 Mercedes roadster.
Like Pickens, Bernie Towns is a believer in natural gas energy. He's an engineer at a natural gas company in Houston, Texas called HighMount and one day had the idea to turn his 2007 Mercedes SL600 into a drivable test-case for the fuel.
With a year's worth of tuning help from Chicago's Speedriven tuning shop, the car's now developing over 800 hp and 1,000 lb-tf of torque from the twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V12. Of course, it helps them to have a natural gas engineer to call for help.
[gallery 5768587]"He has the resources to figure out flame-front speeds, burr temperatures, and other technical things we need on our end to properly tune for the gas and convert the car. He doesn't just want to do a CNG Benz, though," said Speedriven's Jo Borras. "Bernie wants to break records."
The record they're shooting for is the fastest CNG-powered car in the world, which is currently held by a tuned Audi S4. That car hit 225 mph. The crew at Speedriven thinks the car can top 200 mph at the Texas Mile this spring before moving on to unlimited high-speed testing, where they hope to hit 230 to 240 mph.
Emissions from CNG vehicles tend to be 80% lower than comparable gas-powered vehicles and Borras hinted the Benz might qualify as an ultra-low emissions vehicle. Could you imagine an SULEV on this sucker?