The first episode of “Downey’s Dream Cars”, Robert Downey, Jr.’s new show he partially filmed here in January, aired June 22, 2023, on the streaming platform Max, formerly HBO Max.
The show follows Downey, Jr. as his vehicles are retrofitted to be more environmentally friendly.
Rich Benoit, from the YouTube channel Rich Rebuilds, said he was called in as a subject matter expert on converting gas vehicles to electric.
“It was supposed to be a simple roundtable discussion about the future of transport,” Benoit said. “Two weeks later we were tapped on the shoulder to build a car for Robert Downey, Jr.!”
Benoit participated in the filming of the episode on Fort Irwin.
“I had an absolute blast filming at Fort Irwin and engaging with the Soldiers,” Benoit said. “They were very professional and supportive to all of our needs for the truck and filming.”
Brig. Gen. Curtis D. Taylor, commander, National Training Center and Fort Irwin, showed Downey, Jr. and his crew around Fort Irwin during filming.
“It was great hosting the cast and crew of ‘Downey’s Dream Cars’,” said Taylor. “They were just as interested in the unique training mission we have at the NTC as we were with their electric vehicle conversion.”
Benoit said he was “shocked” at how accommodating the Fort Irwin Soldiers were.
“The curious engineer in me had a million questions on their military tanks, and they answered every one with a smile,” Benoit said. “Who knows, I may buy one.”
Benoit said electric vehicles can sometimes get a bad rap, and even though they have been around for several decades, there is a lot of confusion as to their capabilities.
“Many believe they are not as powerful as internal combustion engine vehicles, nor can they accomplish the same tasks,” Benoit explained.
During filming at Fort Irwin, Col. Chris Vitale, director, Operational Energy & Army Climate Directorate with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Installations, Energy and Environment, spoke with Downey, Jr. about the Army’s environmentally-friendly future.
“We discussed the significance of Army’s research, development, and testing related to tactical vehicle electrification and the increased capabilities it can provide from the tactical to the strategic levels of warfare,” Vitale said. “The Army’s ability to push the needle on fuel demand reduction on the battlefield will place our fighting force in a position of advantage and reduce risk to our Soldiers.”
The U.S. military showcasing these advancements in technology and proving their capabilities for thousands of Soldiers speak volumes, Benoit said.
“It certainly makes people think if our military, which is known for the most cutting-edge technology, supports it, maybe there is something there for the rest of us,” Benoit said.
Benoit said that his biggest takeaway from the military’s advancements in renewable energy sources shows that they are thinking about a sustainable future.
“On TV and recruitment commercials, we are used to seeing thousands of big trucks, and 6-wheeled military vehicles blowing smoke everywhere,” he said. “The fact that the military sees a need for quiet, more efficient, and more powerful vehicles shows that they are not only thinking of the safety of our nation, but the safety of the Soldiers that have to service, maintain, and operate the vehicles on a daily basis.”