Most of the time, when speaking about green cars, people have this image of high-mileage but slow-moving vehicles coasting across the city streets. Of course, that’s not the case when Bernie Towns and the folks over at Speedriven are involved, however. The crew is currently tweaking a 2007 SL 600 Roadster, with a current output of over 800 horsepower and something in excess of 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque produced by the beating 5.5-liter twin-turbo V12 power plant and amazingly running on natural gas.
Towns, who works as an engineer at Houston, Texas based HighMount Exploration and Production, is a green-car enthusiast and a self-proclaimed “horsepower addict.” Hence the aim of the project. “I love speed, I love power, and I love my Mercedes-Benz,” says Towns. It took Speedriven almost one year of research plus development work to get the car where it is at present. Even with the very satisfactory power output, Towns thought that there was something missing.
“In the IT world, we literally spend hours of every day coming up with ways to do business in more efficient ways and (at HighMount) in more environmentally responsible ways,” Towns said. “So there I am, sitting at lunch one day and the people are talking about natural gas cars, and it suddenly hits me: we should convert the SL to run on natural gas!”
With Towns and Speedriven’s expertise, they were able to tune and convert the SL 600. Towns, however, isn’t satisfied with just producing a high-performance vehicle that runs on fuel that produces 80 percent less the amount of harmful emissions gasoline produces. The target is to break the current CNG speed record, which is 364.6 kph set by Audi in 2009 using a tuned 700-hp Audi S4.
“We’re pretty excited. I’m pretty excited,” exclaims Towns. “It’s not everyone who gets to go out and do something really exciting with emerging technology and clean energy and break speed records in the same car they drive home every day and still get to call that ‘work’. This is great!”