Our Outreach Vehicles
At ENP we believe an outreach vehicle should not be a huge drain on a small nonprofit organization's resources or the resources of our shared environment.
We want to drive vehicles that are easy on the natural environment that we are working to understand, protect, conserve, and educate you all about.
We want to drive vehicles that we can fuel with "homegrown" renewable energy produced by our classroom solar array when around the region, and domestically-produced electricity when on the road.
This is why, since 2013, ENP has been driving 100% electric vehicles in support of our organization's nonprofit activities.
Our first Outreach EV was a 2012 Nissan Leaf SL with 73 all-electric miles of driving range.
Read the LEAF's story on our EV Blog.
Our Leaf served us well for 6+ years and ~78,000 miles and then, in late 2019, we EVolved to a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV with a real-world driving range of up to ~250 miles - a mighty improvement over the Leaf.
We USE our Bolt EV and we LOVE our Bolt EV and we plan to drive it for as long as possible (we hope at least a decade or more).
In fact, read the latest Bolt Report on our EV Blog for more on the story and status of the "Mighty Bolt" as we lovingly call her.
Our 2nd and newest outreach vehicle is our mobile outreach classroom that we call the
SS NaSA PoD.
This is short for Science Steve's Nature and Science Adventure Pod of Discovery.
We use the PoD to bring our programming to local schools, camps, and other organizations
in an outdoor, well-ventilated, environment.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who has helped us make all this awesome possible!!!
Learn all about the SS NaSA PoD.
We dearly love our Mighty Bolt EV, and it is the perfect vehicle for our daily driver/commuting needs - but sadly, it is unable to pull the SS NaSA PoD.
The foundation of the PoD is a 1995 Casita RV. The state-of-the-art solar panels and their aluminum and steel support structure, lithium-ion battery bank, and related microgrid support equipment, as well as the ENP educational materials and education animals - have added considerable weight to the Casita, which now weighs in fully loaded at 3600+ lbs. - therefore, it requires a powerful vehicle to tow it safely. Currently, and out of necessity, I am using a personal vehicle - a gas-guzzling 2013 Honda Pilot that is on its last legs, er, wheels – to pull the PoD to outreach programs. However, this old Honda is not well suited for towing something as heavy as the PoD and it struggles to pull it up hills, is unreliable, and very expensive for ENP to operate. Its use as a tow vehicle for the PoD also undermines one of the core messages of the ENP mission statement: "... the promotion and increased usage of domestically produced, distributed, renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, as well as electric vehicles and their infrastructure."
ENP intentionally chooses to drive electric vehicles (EVs) and power them whenever possible on locally-sourced renewably-generated electricity.
But using the old Honda to tow the PoD was not the way it was supposed to happen. Early in the construction of the PoD, an individual had promised to support ENP with a donation of an all-electric truck or SUV that we would then use to tow the PoD. Sadly, that promised resource did not materialize - therefore, ENP is stuck in a bit of a vehicular conundrum with a wonderful new and magical mobile outreach classroom - but without a reliable, safe, and educational outreach vehicle to tow it.
This is why we feel that the Honda must be replaced with a new or lightly used tow vehicle, and we would like this new utility vehicle to be an all-electric truck or SUV. But why electric? Read more here for the answer.
Therefore, our biggest need for the future of our outreach programming, wildlife rescue, rehabilitation & conservation, and renewable energy/EV education - is an all-electric outreach vehicle with greater towing and hauling capabilities, better all-weather/all-terrain surface driving capabilities, and a far lower operating cost than the PoD's current tow vehicle - a 2013 Honda Pilot.
For all these reasons our goal for a third (and final) outreach vehicle for ENP would be a fully electric truck or SUV such as the Ford F-150 Lightning, Rivian R1T, Tesla Model X - or maybe even a Tesla Cybertruck(when available).
Any of these vehicles is more than capable to pull the SS NaSA PoD and will allow us to complete all of the tasks we need to complete on a daily basis. Obviously, the Rivian R1T or R1S, the Ford Lightning, or Cybertruck would be the most logical choices since they are trucks with better towing, hauling, and all-weather/terrain use so they would cover all the bases of what we need in an all-electric outreach vehicle. Below are some ideas I have Photoshopped of what a future ENP outreach vehicle might look like pulling the SS NaSA PoD
(not exactly to scale :-)
Whichever vehicle we are able to source will not only be used as the tow vehicle for the PoD, but it will also be used as a wildlife rescue/transport vehicle, for running errands around town/the region, and for toting supplies* to/from our classroom.
Being AWD/4WD it will also allow us access to our remotely-located classroom/office in all weather conditions as well as occasional longer-distance educational road trips to wonderful wild places in western North Carolina and beyond (these excursions will always be well documented on our youtube channel).
*Education animal habitats and materials such as cages/aquaria, fencing, straw/hay, gravel, and gardening/construction materials such as mulch, manure, lumber, pipes/conduit, fencing, etc.
You might be asking the question: "Why not just purchase a lower-priced, traditional internal combustion engine-powered, vehicle?"
Answer: Simply put, our 501c3 mission statement does not allow it:
"We function as a collaborative entity seeking to work with other organizations with the goals of wildlife and nature conservation, education and exploration, nature and science awareness, and and the promotion and expansion of domestically produced, distributed, renewable energy resources, as well as electric vehicles and their infrastructure."
Driving a legacy vehicle would be the antithesis of the current and future mission of Earthshine Nature Programs.
Again, we at ENP believe a vehicle should not be a huge drain on a small nonprofit organization's monetary resources thereby taking funds out of the hands of the primary purpose of the organization. Nor should a vehicle be a drain or detriment to our shared natural environment. Driving a traditional legacy vehicle might be lower in initial cost and a quicker way out - but it would also bring with it huge yearly fuel and maintenance costs as well as lasting environmental impact costs - all of these things would add up to be far more expensive to ENP and to everything and everyone moving forward.
Breaking out the numbers: if we continue to use a traditional gas-powered vehicle to pull the PoD to our outreach programming events, make supply runs, and occasional long-distance educational road trips, etc. - it will cost us an average of ~$75 each time we fill up the fuel tank - and since it only gets ~10-12mpg when pulling the PoD, we would need to fill up the tank VERY often. However, by using an all-electric tow vehicle with fuel costs of ZERO (because its battery will be charged primarily by the ENP classroom solar array ) - that ~$75, that would have been burned up in a few hundred miles (and polluted the atmosphere and our health in the process), will stay available to ENP to be used for more important things such as outreach programming and student education projects, classroom and education animal habitat maintenance and improvements, and our wildlife rehabilitation and wildlife and nature conservation education efforts.
Therefore, we at ENP choose to and strive to only use electric outreach vehicles that are free to fuel via our classroom solar array, serve as powerful educational tools for our students and outreach programming participants, are very low maintenance, and are easy on wildlife and the natural environment that we are working so hard to understand, protect, conserve, and educate you all about.
This is why, since 2013, ENP has primarily been driving 100% electric vehicles.
Please consider assisting us in finding the support needed to acquire an all-electric truck or SUV to complete our all-electric outreach vehicle "fleet."
Visit our outreach vehicle fundraiser page, our donate page or our GoFundMe campaign for ways you can support us. If you know someone who may be able to help us make this happen for our small, volunteer-owned and operated nonprofit, please do share this information with them. THANK YOU!