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From the Editor: A Travelog from a Summer EV Road Trip

Robert Schickel on August 30, 2022 - in Articles, Column

This issue of Informed Infrastructure is focused on Sustainable EngineeringAs I write this column, there’s news about the U.S. Senate passing a climate, tax and healthcare package. While there are many details to be worked out, it’s encouraging that something positive is happening, in particular regarding a focus on climate change.

I noted in the August 2022 issue of this column that I was planning a road trip to the East Coast in our electric vehicle (EV). I spent a lot of time planning the stops required due to the vehicle’s range—even though it’s well more than 200 miles at an 80 percent charge.

Notes from the Trip

I hadn’t taken a significant road trip since before COVID-19 hit in 2020, so the changes I noted may have been happening for the last few years; I just didn’t have the opportunity to witness them firsthand. The trip took three days with stops at National Parks along the way. The following are a few observations related to climate:

First off, it was hot. Very hot. The temperature was in the upper 90s each day. Obviously, the air conditioning was on the whole time, but whenever we stopped, it was a bit uncomfortable setting up the charge and finding a place to walk for a few minutes. I remember temperatures hitting the 90s once in a while, but these last couple years have had many days in a row of extremely high temperatures. And it’s dry. While plants seem to be doing OK, the water levels in the ponds, lakes, ditches and rivers are low.

Second, trees already are beginning their trend toward darkening leaves (losing the summer brightness of the green colors). Normally this occurs in mid-September in this part of the country.

Third, the parks were not crowded. We have all heard about the popular National Parks being well-used across the country, mostly because people feel comfortable being out after the imposed isolation of the pandemic. But the parks we visited were mostly empty. I think it’s just too hot and dry.

In addition, the extreme heat in the East Coast area caused a “vigorous upwelling event,” as reported in the local news. The ocean temperature dropped to 58-60 degrees for a few days, which caused cooling breezes but also interfered with much of the planned and anticipated surfing and boogie boarding.

Am I sure these phenomena are caused by climate change? Probably not completely. But before I left and since I’ve been back, temperatures remain above average, and the few storms we’ve had have been fierce.

Recently, the U.S. states all submitted their plans for using the earmarked federal funds in the Infrastructure Bill to provide more EV charge stations. Here in Indiana, the plan is to install stations at approximately 50-mile increments along all interstate highways. Even though Indiana currently ranks 37th in the number of charging stations, I’m optimistic this program will be a positive step in moving us toward a more-sustainable travel network.

Doing Our Part

Back to the subject of sustainable solutions and our trip. The EV didn’t have any emissions during the 1,600-mile trip. No gasoline was used (although I used electrical energy that probably was produced using processes that caused harmful emissions), so I think the vehicle caused the least amount of negative effects on the environment it could.

I was happily surprised at how many EVs already are in use and how many new models are available. Although we only had to wait once at a charging station, there were always vehicles there. It was interesting to talk with other owners about their experiences during their travels and get to be a part of a new “community.”

Every one of them were extremely pleased with their EVs. We would talk about the range they were achieving and where the next charging station is located. At one station, there was a car with no markings except for a few barcode stickers. After some coaxing, we were able to find out that this was a new vehicle not yet on the market and was being road tested by some folks from Korea.

All the people I talked to said their EVs were a joy to drive, and they shared the conviction that we were all doing our part, however small, to move industry and our country toward more environmentally compatible travel. 

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About Robert Schickel

Robert Schickel was born in New Jersey and received his BS in Civil Engineering degree in 1971 from Valparaiso University in Indiana. His career started as a bridge design engineer and expanded to include design of various transportation facilities, including highways, bridges, rail lines and stations, and airport runways. Mr. Schickel managed engineering offices ranging from 20 to 140 people. He also served as a consultant to a large utility company. Mr. Schickel currently resides in Indiana and serves as Adjunct Professor for the College of Engineering at Valparaiso University. He enjoys his retired life at his lake house, playing golf, listening to music and spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren.

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