A team of sustainability leaders from Orlando, Florida, drove a Tesla Model S Sedan 1,100 miles to the People’s Climate March in New York City to demonstrate that zero emission electric vehicles can be a part of the climate solution. The trip took 27 hours with stops at nine Tesla Supercharger stations along the East Coast. Their destination was the newest Tesla showroom at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, where the biggest climate march in history started with an estimated 400,000 people taking to the streets of Manhattan to demand climate action ahead of the UN Climate Summit.
The Tesla Climate Ride included U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Thatcher, IDEAS for Us Co-founder and Executive Vice President Chris Castro, Keep Seminole Beautiful Executive Director Mary Sue Weinaug, and her husband, William, President of Wekiva Island; a soon-to-be carbon neutral venue on the bank of the Wekiva River in Orlando.
Besides bringing awareness to the People’s Climate March, the trip coincided with National Drive Electric Week. The charges took 20-30 minutes and were located in order: St. Augustine, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Santee, South Carolina; Lumberton and Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Glen Allen, Virginia; Newark, Delaware; Edison, New Jersey; and finally the Time Warner Center in NYC.
Inhabitat asked the Tesla climate riders about their experience after they returned from the People’s Climate March. Here are their responses.
INHABITAT: Why did your team decide to drive a Tesla Model S electric vehicle from Florida to New York for the People’s Climate March?
William: The US Green Chamber had a showing of the movie “Disruption” at the Wekiva Island. About 40 people attended. During the exchange after the movie all agreed it would be nice for us all to be there or do something special in Orlando to show our support. Wekiva Island offered to cover half of the cost for the group to take the trip, thinking we would take a bus. In the week following, it became more and more important that I be there. This is without a doubt the most important issue in my life. My wife, Mary, agreed. After a few days of bantering back and forth it became obvious that most of the group who attended the movie could not break away no matter how much they wanted to. The trip became something only a few were going to make, which made the idea of driving in a vehicle a possibility. The search for the least impactful approach then started.
Mary: The bus became really expensive and flying used too much fossil fuel, and when I looked at the super chargers it made the decision really easy to decide to drive the trek!
Chris: As leaders of major environmental organizations, we wanted to lead by example and make our journey zero emissions from Orlando to NYC, using nothing but the Tesla Supercharger Network on the East Coast. This was important to show the feasibility of driving an electric vehicle to NYC, while showing others the importance of reducing our carbon footprints.
INHABITAT: What were some of the highlights from your 1,100 mile journey? What types of reactions did you get?
Mary: It was a rather relaxing trip—we got to relax at stops while charging. We had four riders in the car and so we each got to rest and sleep while others drove. We put all of our luggage in the “frunk” and that gave us room to put a seat (or seats) down and stretch out in the back trunk to sleep.
Michelle: One of the unexpected highlights for me was making use of the drive time to come up with solutions for our region with three of the top sustainability leaders in the Southeast Region. 27 hours each way allows for a good long retreat/work session. None of us would have ever been able to take that time off. We got lots of horns beeping at us and “thumbs-up” as we drove down the freeway. At one charging station, a passerby said “Wooo… that looks like a spaceship! What is that?”, and Bill proceeded to share the features of the Tesla with him.
William: All very positive reactions from my point of view. Most people in this country are concerned about our climate future. Every step of the way this became more and more clear.
INHABITAT: Why did you choose Tesla?
Chris: Tesla is transforming the way to transport throughout our urban areas, where the majority of the people live around the world. Tesla is also the premiere electric vehicle company today because of its leadership in manufacturing solely electric vehicles, so it was an ideal choice when we were deciding how we were going to get to NYC. 80 percent of people drive fewer than 40 miles every day, making electric vehicles a prime solution to eliminating our use of oil and gasoline.
Michelle: We chose the Tesla because we all try to “walk the walk” when it comes to sustainability. In addition, the Green Chamber always likes to highlight the green businesses that are leading the charge in the community, showing that you can absolutely be profitable and sustainable—they are one of the rock stars.
Mary: We wanted to take an electric vehicle and the range is so much better and with the super chargers it was a no-brainer. They are located about every 100 miles—I can’t wait to take another road trip and drive for free!
William: My wife and I have a Leaf, Tesla, Prius Hybrid and a Lexus Hybrid. The choice was relatively easy for us. I really wanted an all-electric vehicle to minimize our emissions. With the Leaf’s 100 mile range, that would have been painful, but Tesla’s super charging network’s 80 percent charge in 30 minutes made the choice obvious.
INHABITAT: What is the connection between electric vehicles and climate change action? Can EVs be part of the solution?
Chris: Our dependence on foreign oil is a main contributor to anthropogenic climate change, and it impacts our economy and national security as well. Electrification of our transport is undoubtedly the solution to curbing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and will inevitably be how people move to and from. The next steps are to make sure the electricity being used is coming from clean, renewable sources that eliminate the pollution that is attributed to transportation and mobility at a holistic level.
Michelle: Because highway vehicles release around 1.7 billion tons of greenhouse gases—mostly CO2—into the atmosphere each year, electric vehicles are a critical part of the solution when it comes to climate change. Many businesses that are looking at upgrading their fleets are moving toward electric vehicles because of both the environmental and economic impacts.
Mary: Traveling with zero emissions! I love driving an electric car. I absolutely love it! I love not paying for gas. A couple of the places we regularly charge at have solar power so it is totally free and from a natural resource!
William: The transportation sector is responsible for about 1/3 of the carbon we dump in the atmosphere. EVs have zero percent tailpipe emissions. Even when you take into account all the emissions from the power plants providing power to charge the car, EVs are still significantly better than the average new cars sold today, let alone typical older cars on the road. There is no question in my mind that EVs are part of the solution. Not only do they immediately cut emissions by more than half, they shift energy consumption to the evening hours, which is when power generation at the plant is at its highest. In addition, when the smart grid truly becomes a smart grid, having EVs plugged into it will make it even more efficient. Part of our approach is to incorporate solar PV generation at our home and business. If most EV owners add PV to their consumption approach their associated transportation footprint will be reduced even more!
INHABITAT: How were the Tesla Supercharger stations?
Chris: The Superchargers were an incredible resource. We calculated over 100KW of electricity was pumping into the Tesla at any given moment during the charging process using the Tesla Level 3 Supercharger. We also enjoyed the locations where the chargers were placed; sometimes near shopping malls, hotels and restaurants.
Michelle: The Tesla Supercharger stations were sleek, efficient and fast. All of them were placed in locations that were within walking distance of nearby shops, restaurants, and hotels, so it made for easy access when waiting for the charge to complete.
Mary: They absolutely rocked! They were clean and there was always an open spot, and the charging time was about 45-60 minutes each.
William: The Supercharger network rocks! I had no clue it was so convenient.
INHABITAT: What do you think will be the lasting legacy of the People’s Climate March?
Chris: The last legacy will be how the U.S. and the United Nations begin addressing climate change policy as a priority in their agendas moving forward. Next year will be the Paris Protocols, which will set targets for how we’ll be reducing our pollution impacts on our people and planet, and these targets must be strong enough to halt our current trajectory from reaching pollution levels beyond stable boundaries. The time is now for us to act boldly and solve the most critical challenge that humanity has ever faced, and this march was a way to show our elected officials that we, the people, are ready to make the switch from the energy that built our world, to the energy that will shape our future.
Michelle: A shift occurred in how we, as a nation and global community, will deal with climate change as of that Sunday. The 400,000 people who marched, and all the additional participants of marches that took place around the world, are not going to let our elected officials sit by idly anymore—they will continue to rise up if serious action and implementation aren’t taken. They won’t be silent any longer.
Mary: Hopefully they will see that things need to change, that a lot of people do care!
William: I pray our politicians heard the people’s plea. Not only us in NYC but the others that came together all over our country. We Americans need to lead the green revolution.
Images via U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce