The Negative Carbon Road Trip: 48 States, 48 Trees Planted, One EV

JUL 20 2015 BY JAY COLE 23

The Goal?  25,000 Mile Road Trip In A Nissan LEAF To Plant 48 Trees, In 48 States

The Goal? 25,000 Mile Road Trip In A Nissan LEAF To Plant 48 Trees, In 48 States

Chapter 1 of the textbook on electric vehicles clearly states that they’re not to be used for long trips. With ranges anywhere from a meager 70 miles for low end models to an impressive but still limited 265 for Tesla’s flagship Model S, vast stretches of American highway appear to be out of reach for EV drivers.

Know A Spot For Brian To Plant A Tree In Your State?  Perhaps Drop Him A Line (details below)

Know A Spot For Brian To Plant A Tree In Your State? Perhaps Drop Him A Line (details below)

Tell that to Norman Hajjar.

Hajjar’s 12,000 mile jaunt back and forth across the country last year planted an solid asterisk on that rule. His average of over 665 miles a day for the better part of three weeks begs what may appear to be an outlandish question, “How far do we really need to drive?”

For one EV driver the answer seems to be, further than that.

Brian Kent lives in rural Upstate New York and has spent the last year and a half putting 25,000 miles on a 2013 Nissan Leaf he picked up in Virginia in the middle of December 2013.

He plans to put another 25,000 miles on it in the next three or four months. Recently, we talked to him in the midst of what he called, “quite a bit of planning.”

*Editor’s Note:  Our thanks to Brian for getting in touch with us and giving us this recap of what is happening on his trip

Ok, first off, what is it that you’re doing?

I plan to drive through the contiguous 48 States and plant a tree in every one. In an all-electric car. A Leaf.

But that’s not 25,000 miles…

It is if you route the trip through all of the capitals and make sure you see the sights.

What…why?

I just think of myself as the little train that could. I relate to that story. I think the thing that makes me saddest is when people don’t see the potential around them. The potential in themselves. I see these beautiful stories we could write about our lives if we’d only just walk right out that front door and do it. That’s how I’m going to live my life. So that’s why really. Just because I can. Because the car can, really.

The Task At Hand

The Task At Hand

How do you know it can?

Well the car speaks for itself. It’s amazing, I love the car. I mean, my last car was a 1999 Honda Civic DX so it was gonna be a tall order to replace it. That Civic was still going great after 208,000 miles and getting 37-38 mpg most of the time. I thought, “How am I going to beat that?” And the Leaf does. I drive it more, it’s less expensive, and it jumps off the line like it got stung by a hornet.

This Was Going To Be A Glorious "Green" Picture...Then An Unholy Amount Of Mosquitos Arrived And Trapped Us All Indoors For The Rest Of The Day

This Was Going To Be A Gloriously Framed, Artistic “Green” Photo Opportunity…Then An Unholy Amount Of Mosquitos Arrived And Trapped Us All Indoors For The Rest Of The Day

Well how do you know you can? Have you ever done anything that takes that kind of endurance?

A few things. I’ve driven over a thousand miles at a stretch three or four times. Once almost two thousand miles. It’s harder doing it in a gas car than it is in an electric though. Much harder. I’ve driven the Leaf over three hundred miles in a day a bunch of times, and yeah it takes longer but it’s easier. Off the lot I had to go several hundred miles through desolate country in rural Pennsylvania and New York in the middle of a pretty unpleasant winter. I’ve also made two 700 mile round trips to New York City in the last ten or eleven months. Had to make the Climate March last September. I’ll miss it this year/ It’s looking like I’ll be in Tennessee.

But what’s with the trees?

Well, that’s about putting it back. No matter what kind of car you drive, you’re still going to be producing some carbon pollution. Sure, with EVs it’s much less, but there’s still carbon emissions from manufacturing and energy production for example. Trees are pretty good about putting it away, and it’s really not that hard to plant one. There isn’t even much controversy there. I mean, who thinks we shouldn’t plant some trees?

Well right, but do you have any experience in it?

Not much, really. The way I look at it, that makes me an excellent example: if I can do it, who can’t? I do have a couple Aces-in-the-hole though.

Like what?

Well, my uncles are both seasoned foresters, my middle brother is a recognized expert in landscape management, my eldest brother is an engineer in the automotive industry, and my father has been planting oaks from acorns for about as long as I’ve been alive. There’s some expertise I can tap. But I mean, there’s always people you can ask. You just need to be willing to ask for help.

Brian Kent's Negative Carbon Road Trip

Brian Kent’s Negative Carbon Road Trip

How are you going to make sure they live after you plant them?

Someone asked me that, and it’s a tough question. But I’ve got a tougher one: “How are we going to make sure we live if we don’t start doing things differently?” We’ve got to help one another, don’t we?

Brian's 2013 Nissan LEAF ... Feeling Particularly At Home

Brian’s 2013 Nissan LEAF … Feeling Particularly At Home

What kind of help do you need?

A Facebook like maybe. Or write me an email. The encouragement really does go a long way, and I respond to all my messages. I might even hit you up for a place to plug in along the way.

It seems like someone else didn’t get the memo about what electric vehicles can’t do.

You can find Brian’s trip here on Facebook, and here on Indiegogo.  We will be interested to see how this one works out and will be posted updates throughout the journey here at InsideEVs.

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23 Comments on "The Negative Carbon Road Trip: 48 States, 48 Trees Planted, One EV"

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Stimpacker

I don’t know whether to clap or to cry for him. All those sloooow driving to find a charging spot and all that waiting….

BraveLilToaster

You call it waiting. I call it visiting.

This past weekend we drove to a friend’s place out in the sticks. We parked our Leaf about a mile down the road, where the tourist info booth was (they’re the de-facto places for the government to put level 2 chargers around here), went to their place, and hung out for a while. It was an astonishingly pleasant way to spend the time.

Kind of like how we normally charge the car every day while we blissfully sleep.

Brian

I’m with you on that, Toaster. In fact I’m trying to live my life by the credo:

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

Certainly this trip is that for me. I grudgingly accept that I’ve reached middle age now, and I have yet to see much of this country aside from a small part of California, a bit more of New York, and a few of the major highways in between.

Among other things, I’ll be correcting that life omission along the way. I’ve met some really good people as an unexpected surprise while driving and while charging my Leaf. To say it was worth the purchase price is a ridiculous understatement.

Carcus

He might want to just plant in 47 states, … skip California.

There Are Too Many Trees In California Soaking Up Much Needed Water, UC Berkeley Study Says

“Stephens said research shows that after a century of firefighters suppressing forest fires, rather than letting them burn, water that flows into streams has diminished.”

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/09/22/there-are-too-many-trees-in-california-soaking-up-much-needed-water-uc-berkeley-study-says/

Ocean Railroader

The drought in California is being mainly caused by bad water management planning. I really don’t think the trees have much to do with it. A example is they diverted the Owens River to LA which triggered a giant inland lake to turn into a dust bowl.

Speculawyer

A drought cannot be caused by bad water management. A water shortage can be caused by bad water management. A drought can only be caused by climate and weather conditions.

Scramjett

As a resident of California, I second Ocean’s comment. Over a century of bad water management practices that favor the “I was here first” crowd and Agra-Business are the primary causes of the drought.

There may be some voracity to that article, however, I doubt it is very significant. This article is probably serving more as a diversion from addressing the real structural problems (and probably overlooks much of the clear-cutting that the logging industry has practiced for much of the last 100 years).

Brian

I suppose I don’t have time right at the moment to track down the full details of research, but I’ll say this:

Lawns are far and away our biggest water sink in the U.S.–when it comes to use on land:
http://scienceline.org/2011/07/lawns-vs-crops-in-the-continental-u-s/

I’m guessing that on balance, trees mitigate a good deal of the surface evaporation in the area adjacent to them, and even if they’re not a net positive in that regard, I find it astonishing that a UC Berkeley study’s real net conclusion is that in California of all places people should stop planting trees.

Grrr..now I’m dying to read what they wrote.

Pushmi-Pullyu
Brian said: “Lawns are far and away our biggest water sink in the U.S.–when it comes to use on land: http://scienceline.org/2011/07/lawns-vs-crops-in-the-continental-u-s/ ” That has got to be one of the biggest piles of B.S. I’ve ever read on any website with “science” in the title. It’s an excellent example of “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Here’s a reality check, quoting from Public Policy Institute of California: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=1108 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Water in California is shared across three main sectors. Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban. However, the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. Some of the water used by each of these sectors returns to rivers and groundwater basins, and can be used again. Environmental water provides multiple benefits. Environmental water use falls into four categories: water in rivers protected as “wild and scenic” under federal and state laws, water required for maintaining habitat within streams, water that supports wetlands within wildlife preserves, and water needed to maintain water quality for agricultural and urban use. Most water allocated to the environment does not affect other water uses. More than half of California’s environmental water… Read more »
Brian

I agree I could have looked at the article more carefully, but either way it’s hard to make the argument that lawn irrigation is not an extremely significant water sink in the U.S.–particularly when it tends to occur, quite obviously, when water is already in short supply.

My brother has been a golf course greens superintendent for a number of years and I’ve gotten the lectures on grass dormancy and how it’s unnecessary to water lawns in the vast majority of cases. But we’re splitting hairs, aren’t we? After all, we clearly agree that more sensible use of our resources is the order of the day.

We just have to stop behaving as if the world is as endless as it appears from our ant-speck perspectives.

james

Sure it is, after agriculture and golf courses…

Warren
Regulus Black

I’m with you, Norman! I planted a Dawn Sequoia and a half dozen California Redwood trees in my back yard a few years ago. The Dawn Sequoia is now about 30 feet tall and the California Redwoods are about 15 feet tall. All came from seeds purchased on the internet. I think I’m going to try Oak trees next. I’m hoping they will be here long after I’m gone.

Steven

+1000

FinkFarm

If you would like some acorns from oaks let me know and I will send you some. I also have hickory and black walnut. They should be falling this fall and I can get you as many as you would like.

Three Electrics

In most states his electricity would have been extremely dirty; I doubt he planted another trees.

Ocean Railroader

Guys I found out they are clear cutting large sections of US Forests to turn them into wood pelts to be burned in European Power Planets for this so called low carbon idea.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324082604578485491298208114

What burns my bacon about this is we try to cut back paper use and cut our coal use to have our old growth forests get chopped down into wood pelts.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Thanks for that, Ocean Railroader, but I think you meant wood pellets, not “pelts”. Last time I looked, trees didn’t have fur… 😉

Warren

“Sustainable” growth is an impossibility.

Read_Uncommon Carriers_ for an eye opener.

http://us.macmillan.com/uncommoncarriers/johnmcphee

We reduced sulphur emissions, after the clean Air Act, by switching from nearby, high energy density coal to low energy density coal from the middle of the country. It is now hauled halfway across the US in miles long, coal trains that creep down sidings waiting their turn along with many, many others. Now we are hauling bitumen from tar sands on those same rails. More traffic jams, more idling trains. Of course they are AC/diesel hybrids, so they are saving the planet while they wait. 🙁

Warren

The old brushed DC engines couldn’t handle miles long trains, with a crew of two. Modern AC motors, and computers made it possible to run engines front, center and rear of these monsters. Going over a 1.5% “mountain” they are using regenerative braking on the front engines, and full power on the rear engines, simultaneously, to keep from tearing these monsters apart.

Brian_Henderson

WOW … traveling more than twice as far as needs to, when attempting to visit all 48 capitals.
FYI: Shortest route is 11,698 miles
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~bryant/boolean/US48_shortest.svg

The longest route through all 48 capitals is ~18,000 miles. More details on routings at: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~bryant/boolean/maps.html

Perhaps Brian’s 25,000 mile drive is more symbolic … a trip around Planet Earth? (circumference if driving shortest path going pole to pole around the globe is 25,000 miles)

I wish Brian all the best on his tree planting voyage. Look forward to seeing photos of all the unique moments along the journey. 🙂

PS: a secondary challenge, finishing the trip before the 100,000 LEAF is delivered in the US. (I’m speculating in late December 2015)

Brian

I definitely appreciate the link to routing, though I will say that shortest and longest routes are hard to quantify terms when you’re intent on factoring in primarily level 2 and level 3 charging stops and also planning to start and end in about the same spot.

(Take a look at Plugshare’s map of North and South Dakota if you want to be a depressed Leaf driver.)

The trip is meant to be symbolic “round the world” journey; it was made more complex by the fact that you really can’t just plant trees anytime you want anywhere you want. Thankfully, the fall planting season coincides pretty well with the car’s optimal driving temperature, about 70 degrees.

I spent a good deal of time looking at historical weather information and changes in elevation from destination to destination, which I’m hoping will be pretty close.

In any case, I’ll definitely be passing through the Rockies long before mid-October. I have no interest in duplicating the fate of the Donner Party. (Yes, I know Donner Pass is in the Sierras in California, but you get my point. I’ll be looping around and far clear of them.)

Marc Lausier

Happy trails Brian!
In case you missed it, this article describes my bit to lower the carbon footprint.
http://insideevs.com/july-4th-2015-day-independence-fossil-fuels/
Take care,
Marc