Carroll Shelby was one of the auto scene’s most beloved icons. During his storied career he achieved racing wins around the world including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sports Illustrated named him “Driver of the Year.” He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Shelby worked with Ford on such legendary vehicles as the GT40 and the Shelby GT350/GT500 Mustangs. Perhaps most importantly, Shelby exemplified American ingenuity when he took an underpowered English AC Cars sports car, stuffed in a high-power Ford V-8, and debuted his legendary Cobra, a car that went on to achieve legendary status in the automotive world. While racing and performance were in his blood, Shelby also had a great interest in cars and the environment later in life, and served as a juror for Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year award program until his passing in 2012 at the age of 89. In this piece from our archives, Shelby shared his thoughts with publisher Ron Cogan on hybrids, alternative fuels, and the roles of government and the auto industry in dealing with advanced vehicles and environmental performance..
This article shares an archive interview of Carroll Shelby conducted by editor/publisher Ron Cogan and is presented as it originally ran in Green Car Journal’s 2003 Special Edition.
Ron Cogan: How would you define performance these days, Carroll? You see a lot of advanced technology engines out there, and we’re doing a lot more with a lot less …
Carroll Shelby: “A lot more with a lot less what? Hell, no. Everybody is going for these bigger and bigger engines, six and seven liters with superchargers and turbochargers and 16 cylinders. And that’s fine. But at what cost?
“What’s going to happen is the same thing that happened in 1965. Then, the federal government and public opinion saw that seven liters in a 6,000-pound car hauling one person to work was pretty foolish. So, what happened? They decided to emissionize the cars and get into the safety aspects, which I think was a wonderful thing, although bureaucrats didn’t know very much about safety then. The automobile companies tried to explain to them what safety should be, and when the automobile companies try to explain anything, they explain it from their pocketbooks and not from what they really believe should be put into a safe car. They do as little as they have to…to interfere with their profits to the least extent.
“Instead of doing the things they did back in 1965 – choking engines up with all that (emissions controls) crap they put on them – they could have gone to compressed natural gas. They could have set up the entire infrastructure system at the time for what they spent over the next three or four years with all those regulations they put into effect. And we all know that it’s taken 20 years to get the Otto cycle (internal combustion) engine back so it performs decently.”
RC: So natural gas is the way to go?
Shelby: “Well, our big problem is imported oil. It’s causing so many financial problems … problems of us depending on antagonistic countries for our oil. It would seem to me that we’re not taking advantage of the two most obvious answers to this, which is compressed natural gas and hydrogen. Hydrogen works just fine in the engines we have now. It doesn’t give as much horsepower, but there are many ways to overcome that. Most of the cars would run on compressed natural gas – we flare off enough in Texas alone to power every car and truck in the United States – and we have hydrogen available to run in the same engines. Rather than depend on imported oil, why don’t we take advantage of these two energy sources that are here?”
RC: Where do hybrids fit in all this?
Shelby: “For 20 years we’ve had the potential for hybrid vehicles. All the technology is there, but why haven’t we gotten to that? It’s for the simple reason that they couldn’t make a profit building those things. Here we are now, finally, 20 years later just inching into the hybrid systems. Automobile companies are squealing and screaming all the way and building what I think are pretty stupid systems on these big SUVs that are picking up two or three miles to the gallon and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on it. And the Japanese have seen that this is what’s going to happen, so we’d better get with the system. That’s the reason, I think, that Toyota and Honda are leading the world right now in hybrids, which will lead us into fuel cells somewhere down the road ... but it looks to me like we’re still a lot of years away from that.”
RC: So what’s next?
Shelby: “We’re going to have all these federal mandates. One of the options that should have been looked at was, let’s form an automobile company that uses the technology of the future the same way that the federal government has gotten us into all these super, super airplanes. That’s the defense department spending the money to see that all this R&D is done, but we’ve never done that in the automobile industry. We’ve depended on the automobile companies to tell the politicians what they can and can’t do, which seems a lot of bull to me. If we had a small automobile company that would be government funded and would hire the people to use the technology we know is already out there, we could build something to show the automobile companies that it is possible, and then move into the mainstream much quicker than the way they’ve done it.”
RC: The government should develop advanced vehicles and then turn these over to the automakers to build?
Shelby: “Well, I’m saying that we’re never going to get there in the automobile industry as far as the environment is concerned with the system we have now. I don’t have all the answers, and anything I come up with is going to be very controversial anyway. Nobody wants to talk about it because the automobile companies, with their huge political impact in Washington, don’t want things like this to happen. They want things to go along just like they are.
“I’m not really criticizing them because in a capitalist system, profits are the only thing that the people who put the money up – the investors – care about. And that’s the motivating factor for them to invest their money. There has to be a better system in place to see that the environment is better looked after than it is in our political system.”
RC: Like what?
Shelby: “Let’s take racing. Let’s take performance. There’s no reason to think that if we wanted to have a racing program, like CART or drag racing, it couldn’t be done just as competitively with smaller engines and cars racing against each other in certain classes. If they were all hybrids now, you’d be improving the quality of the hybrids out there, and they’d be coming out a lot quicker than if the automobile companies weren’t fighting it. You could have all of these little Hondas that go out to the drag strip and all of these wonderfully intelligent young kids, 18 to 30 years old, who have all these Hondas and Focuses and all that going to the drag strip. What if they had to do it with hybrids? Would it be just as competitive?
“That’s the reason I get so frustrated. It’s my business. I’m building a Cobra now with 900 horsepower. You’ve got to do it to be competitive in the world as it is – profit centered – but I’d much rather be building something that I know is much friendlier to the environment, has rules and regulations that we all have to go by, and competes with the other competitors in something that is much more friendly to the environment. I don’t know … I’m frustrated about the whole thing, but at 80 years old, I know that I’m not going to change anything.
“It will be just like it was in 1966 if we don’t wake up in this country and see what it takes to build automobiles – to build a transportation system – that’s friendly to the environment. It has to be done, but it’s going to take a long time under the present system because the present system isn’t working … on a timely basis.
“I’m not trying to say I have any of the answers, I just know from living 80 years and watching the automobile industry that it has a long way to go environmentally. So many Americans, so many people all over the world – not half the number that are going to be using the automobile 20 years from now – and it seems so slow.”
RC: So after 80 years, Carroll, what’s next for you?
Shelby: “The things I’ll probably spend the rest of my life doing will be the things that are the least profitable, because I really feel that the environment is something that needs to be taken care of and it has to blend in with the automobile industry. That’s where the most fun is for me.”
There was a time when environmental leadership in the auto industry was a scarce commodity. Seventeen years ago, when Green Car Journal announced its first Green Car of the Year® in Los Angeles, it was difficult to identify more than a few dozen truly worthy vehicles to be considered for the honor. Today it is a formidable challenge in a different way. Now, analyzing the expansive field of green cars that champion greater environmental performance can be downright mind numbing, along with the process of honing the list down to a manageable number of candidates for each of our Green Car Awards™.
Still, this is a great problem to have and we’re up to the challenge. In fact, we celebrate the difficult and time-consuming process. This sheer number of greener models means that all of us benefit from the ability to buy and drive an increasing number of vehicles that champion a lighter impact on the environment.
As finalists are evaluated during the judging process, Green Car Journal weighs an array of important criteria such as environmental achievement, cost, value, safety, performance, functionality, and availability. These may vary from one award category to another. For instance, cost is less of a factor in Luxury Green Car of the Year™; greater driving range may not be as critical in Urban Green Car of the Year™; and immediate availability is less of an issue for Commercial Green Car of the Year™, since commercial fleets tend to plan well ahead and are used to scheduled batch builds of specialized vehicles. Some criteria take on more importance, such as electric driving range in most categories where EVs are considered; family friendliness in awards where passenger needs or capacity are important; and tow ratings and realistic long-distance towing and hauling capabilities in the case of Green Truck of the Year™.
There are more complex issues at play today. We’ve seen order banks for some new or popular pickups like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Ford Maverick suddenly close for the model year, which means consumers are no longer able to order one, at least at this time. Since price is an important consideration for most award categories, when we see sudden price hikes in the thousands of dollars, we also take notice. Then there’s the issue of supply chain disruptions and materials shortages that can delay a model’s expected availability. We take all of this into account and dive deep to ensure we’re as up to speed as possible to avoid potential surprises.
Green Car Journal’s Green Car Awards™ program has evolved over the years, most notably with the addition of more award categories to reflect the ever changing and expanding world of environmentally positive vehicles. Plus, along with the ‘greenest’ vehicles honored by the 2023 Green Car Awards™ program, Green Car Journal now recognizes the crucial roles that infrastructure and technology play in enabling a more sustainable driving future.
Let's get to it. Here are the winners of Green Car Journal’s prestigious 2023 Green Car Awards™:
TOYOTA CROWN – The Crown is Toyota's sophisticated new flagship that champions high fuel economy, lower carbon emissions, and appealing style. The five-passenger sedan features a stylish and high tech cabin designed to offer a premium feel. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter THS hybrid estimated to deliver 38 combined mpg, or a more powerful 2.4-liter turbocharged HYBRID MAX powerplant with 340 horsepower. On-demand all-wheel drive is standard.
Finalists for Green Car Journal’s legacy award included the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Nissan Ariya, Toyota bZ4X, Toyota Crown, and Volkswagen ID.4.
CADILLAC LYRIQ – Featuring upscale styling and a premium theme, the Lyriq is Cadillac’s first all-electric vehicle that’s offered in single or dual motor versions with rear- or all-wheel drive. At a base price of $62,990, the Lyriq features an impressive 312 mile driving range. Satisfying performance is delivered by 340 horsepower in the single motor variant and 500 horsepower in the dual motor version.
Among this award’s finalists were the Cadillac Lyriq, Genesis GV60, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz EQB, and Polestar 2.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV – Last year’s introduction of the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander made waves with its more dynamic styling and upscale features. Now the next-generation Outlander PHEV has joined the lineup. Featuring standard all-wheel drive, the twin motor plug-in hybrid SUV now features significantly greater battery electric range of 38 miles and 420 miles overall, plus the addition of three-row seating that was unavailable in the previous generation Outlander PHEV.
Finalists included the Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, Toyota Sienna, and Volvo XC40.
RAM 1500 –The RAM 1500 is a model of versatility and functionality that provides pickup buyers loads of choices. It’s available in Quad Cab and Crew Cab configurations, offers two pickup box lengths, two- or four-wheel drive, and diverse power options. These include two hybrids – a 3.6-liter eTorque V-6 and 5.7-liter eTorque HEMI V-8 – plus a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel and 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. RAM can carry payloads up to 2300 pounds tow trailers up to 12,750 pounds.
Finalists considered for this award were the Ford F-150 Lightning, Ford Maverick, Hyundai Santa Cruz, RAM 1500, and Toyota Tundra.
FISKER OCEAN – The all-electric Fisker Ocean SUV features an appealing and sporty design enhanced by an attractive and uncluttered high-tech interior. It’s available in three versions with a driving range of 250 to 350 miles. Beyond its zero-emission electric drive, Fisker is committed to making the Ocean a model of sustainability with over 110 pounds of recycled materials used in its construction, including crushed carbon fiber and plastics from bottles and fishing nets.
Finalists for this award were the Audi Q4 e-tron, Fisker Ocean, Honda CR-V, Kia EV6, and Subaru Solterra.
FORD F-150 LIGHTNING PRO – The F-150 Lightning PRO available to fleets offers 240 to 320 miles of all electric range, depending on battery pack, with a payload capacity up to 2235 pounds. Towing capability up to 10,000 pounds is ideal for urban and regional applications where long-distance towing is not required, since towing can significantly reduce electric range. It’s available with Pro Power Onboard outlets for power at job sites. A Special Services Vehicle variant is made for non-pursuit police department applications.
Finalists for the award were the Brightdrop EV600, Ford E-Transit, Ford F-150 Lightning PRO, Rivian Delivery Van, and Via Motors Chassis Cab.
MINI COOPER SE ELECTRIC – The fully electric MINI Cooper SE carries on the tradition of the MINI as a diminutive two-door hardtop with a fun-to-drive nature and go-kart handling, adding the important distinction of zero-emission operation. The Cooper SE Electric is an ideal vehicle for urban environments, offering a small physical footprint, easy maneuverability, and an electric driving range of 114 miles between charges.
Finalists included the BMW X1, Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Niro, MINI Cooper SE Electric, and Nissan Versa.
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE 4XE – The Grand Cherokee 4xe offers all the outstanding features of Jeep’s conventional SUV with the addition of plug-in hybrid capability. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine and two electric motors delivering a total of 375 horsepower. This Trail Rated Jeep features 25 miles of zero-emission on- and off-road driving and a combined 470 miles of range, can tow up to 6,000 pounds, and ford up to 24 inches of water since all high-volt electronics are sealed and waterproof.
Vying for this award were the RAM 1500 eTorque, Ford F-150 Lightning, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, and Rivian R1T.
FREEWIRE TECHNOLOGIES BOOST CHARGER – Freewire Technologies’ Boost Charger integrates lithium-ion battery storage to eliminate the need for expensive electrical service upgrades at gas stations adding EV fast charging. Phillips 66 has installed a Boost Charger at a station near its Houston headquarters and plans to leverage its network of 7,000 Phillips 66, Conoco, and 76 branded sites with additional Boost Chargers.
Finalists included Clean Energy Fuels RNG Stations, EVgo Autocharge+, Electrify America Megawatt Energy Storage, Freewire Boost Charger, and SparkCharge Roadie.
LI-CYCLE SPOKE & HUB TECHNOLOGIES – Li-Cycle’s Spoke & Hub system recycles end-of-life lithium-ion battery packs without requiring dismantling. Batteries undergo a submerged shredding process at regional Spoke facilities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe that produces no wastewater, with the output a black mass consisting of critical metals including lithium, cobalt, and nickel. A centralized Hub facility then processes the black mass and creates battery grade materials for reuse.
Finalists considered for this award were BMW eDrive Zones, ConnectDER, Ford Home Integration System, GM Hydrotec Fuel Cell Power Cubes, and Li-Cycle Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling.
Rising above a substantial field of ‘green’ competitors to become a Green Car Awards™ candidate is a noteworthy achievement in itself. To honor these vehicles, all finalists considered in a Green Car Awards™ category are recognized for their commendable environmental achievement with Green Car Journal’s 2023 Green Car Product of Excellence™.