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 strive to drive vehicles that are easy on the natural environment that we are working to understand, protect, conserve, and educate you all about. We strive 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 Asher and family, Lake Toxaway Charities, Bob and BBSI, Jim & Alice, Mom, Marian,
Red Dog Welding, and Everyone who worked with us to 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 to our outreach programs in our community and region.
The foundation of the PoD is a 1995 Casita RV. The state-of-the-art solar panels, 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 and their portable habitats, have added considerable weight to the Casita which now weighs in at 3600+ lbs. - therefore, it requires a powerful vehicle to tow it safely.
Currently, and out of necessity, ENP is 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.
But using the old Honda to tow the PoD was not the way it was supposed to happen. Our need for finding support for a new vehicle was determined rather suddenly when a promised donation fell through - a donation that was to be used for the purchase of an all-electric outreach and utility vehicle whose primary purpose would be to pull our mobile outreach classroom – The PoD. When the donor’s financial situation unexpectedly changed, we suddenly found ourselves in a rather large vehicular conundrum with a wonderfully new and magical mobile outreach classroom - but without a reliable, safe, and educational outreach vehicle to tow it.
Due to the loss of this support, our current tow vehicle for The PoD is the before-mentioned Honda Pilot which is not well suited for towing something as heavy as the PoD. The Honda struggles to pull the PoD up hills, is unreliable, and is 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 expansion of domestically produced, distributed, renewable energy resources, as well as electric vehicles and their infrastructure..."
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.
A new, all-electric tow vehicle will take the place of the Honda and be able to tow our mobile outreach classroom anywhere in our service area without issue. It will also serve as a utility vehicle in our daily organizational operations and in our future Earthshine Nature Community Assistance Program (ENCAP).
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.
For all these reasons our goal for a third (and final) outreach vehicle for ENP would be a fully electric truck or SUV. We have looked at all the available options available to us today and determined that the best fit for our programming needs would be any of the following
The Tesla Model X would also work as a tow vehicle - but it would not allow the ENCAP program to be realized due to its lack of a bed for hauling and lack of electric power take-off infrastructure. The Tesla Cybertruck(when available) would be a future option but as it is not currently available and has an extremely long waiting list - so it could be many years before this could even be possible.
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 Ford Lightning or Rivian R1T, would be the most logical choices since they are trucks with better capabilities and 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 essential supplies* to/from our classroom, and as a community assist vehicle for our future ENCAP program working to help those animals, organizations, families, and individuals in need.
*Education animal habitats and materials such as cages/aquaria, as well as fencing, straw/hay, and gardening/construction materials such as mulch, manure, gravel, rocks, logs/lumber, pipes/conduit, fencing, farm animals, etc.
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).
You might be asking: "Why not just purchase a lower-priced, traditional internal combustion engine-powered, vehicle?"
Answer: As stated before, our 501c3 mission statement does not allow it:
"We function as a collaborative entity seeking to partner with other like-minded organizations in Transylvania County and beyond, with the goals of wildlife and nature conservation, education and exploration, nature and science awareness, and the promotion and expansion of domestically-produced, distributed, renewable energy resources, and electric vehicles and their support infrastructure."
Driving a petroleum distillate-powered 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 significant 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 averages ~10 mpg when pulling the PoD, we would need to fill the tank VERY often. However, by using an all-electric tow vehicle with fuel costs of ZERO (its battery will be charged primarily by the ENP classroom solar array ) - that ~$75 worth of hydrocarbon-based fuel that would have been burned up in a few hundred miles (and polluted the atmosphere and our health in the process), will not happen - and that $75 will stay available to ENP to be used for more important things such as outreach programming, educational projects, classroom/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/service 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. Again, 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."
As of 5/29/2023, we have raised $6,500 - but we still have a long way to go.
Visit 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 organization, please do share this information with them.
THANK YOU from the crew at ENP!
Steve and some of his awesome ENP volunteers Cade, Michael, Katrina, Rachel, and Ron with the PoD in the background at the LEAF festival in October 2022