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Lightning in a vehicle

Rock musician is hoping to grow business converting gas-powered cars to electric. Council isn’t interested in providing seed money.

April 24, 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. “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 fledgling gas-to-electric conversion company in search of seed money and a brick-and-mortar location. The search will have to continue after Burbank officials on Tuesday rebuffed his proposal, which sought $750,000 and up to 8,000 square feet of work space.

The Burbank City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, panned the business plan, contending that the risk was too high and the plan not specific enough. The company in exchange had pledged to convert from gas to electric a city fleet, 1955 Chevy, lighting chopper and produce a feature-length documentary in the first 180 days.

City officials referred to the plan as “glaringly inconsistent,” maintaining that it would be unwise to commit taxpayer money and serve as an incubator for a company still in concept stage.

Projections ranged from revenue of $400,000 to $7.68 billion over the first five years. Job projections over that time ranged from 367 to 10,490.

“We’re pretty conservative with our money, and I’m willing to stretch,” Councilman Dave Golonski said. “But this is way, way too much of a stretch.”

While complimenting American Lightning’s green goals, Golonski suggested that Blitz and his team seek private investment and work to secure contracts.

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