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Lightning in a vehicle

Former rock star hopes model for environmentally friendly cars hits it big.

April 21, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

Six years ago Danny Blitz bit through his tongue and cracked an industrial-strength office chair on his way to the floor.

Heralded as a ”future icon” by a popular music magazine, the rock musician was selling well, appearing on television and getting radio ads across the country.

Suddenly, he couldn’t walk, could barely talk, and his left arm was out of its socket. Worse, his left hand was paralyzed.

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“Brain cancer,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to make it.”

So began the second act in the life of a self-described “unlikely environmentalist.” Blitz grew up in Houston, the son and stepson of oil executives.

“You see a lot of [environmentalists] throwing up their hands and acting like the sky is falling. Some of them say it’s too late,” said Blitz, 45, who works in Glendale. “I say ‘Hell no, we can do something about this, and we are going to do it through smart re-engineering. And in the process we’re going to save America. And we’re going to do something for the world.’”

That enthusiasm has led to American Lightning Motor Company, a gas-to-electric conversion business in search of seed money and a brick-and-mortar location.

An avid drag racer, Blitz began researching battery technologies before he realized that major auto manufacturers would not be able to wean themselves off oil in the near future, he said.

The roughly $20,000 conversion starts with pulling out an engine, transmission and other parts and replacing them with lithium ion nanophosphate batteries, a large electric motor and a dimmer switch where the gas pedal was. He’s filed patents that make it impossible to steal or chop up one of his cars and plans to make upcoming “smart grid” technology an integral source power.

Standard conversions have a range of 100 miles on a single charge, penciling out to about 10 times cheaper than their gas-powered counterparts, Blitz said.

The company, using parts manufactured in the United States, seeks to promote cars that are “bigger and stronger instead of smaller and weirder,” he said.

Auto repair shops across Glendale and Burbank are taking notice. Al’s Automotive Care Center on Burbank Boulevard, which expressed early support for the project, would be among the first shops to sign on as an American Lightning Motor Company franchise, using kits to convert vehicles with certified technicians.

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