Cornell Alumnus Embarks on Carbon Neutral Road Trip

Brian Kent ’95 said he wants to disprove misconceptions about electric cars...

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By David Ticzon via Cornell Daily Sun, 8/25/15


“Johnny Appleseed meets the electric highway” is how Brian Kent ’95 described his plan for his all-American, 26,219 mile road trip to plant trees in all 48 contiguous states. His trip launched yesterday from his home in Albion, N.Y.

After driving 25,000 miles with his Nissan Leaf and never stopping for gas, Kent said he wants to disprove misconceptions about electric cars.

“I have talked to countless curious people, and typically I’ll sing the praises of electric vehicle driving only to hear things like ‘but they can’t go on road trips’ or ‘but I like to go on long drives, so that wouldn’t work for me,’” Kent said.

Kent said he wanted to change the way people thought about the power, efficiency and efficacy of the vehicles.

“I got tired of the unwinnable battle of trying to correct misconceptions with words,” he said. “I designed the Negative Carbon Road Trip as a nonthreatening non-in-your-face way of removing any possible validity to that stock response I’d gotten.”

The tree representing New York State was planted in Herkimer, N.Y. at approximately noon on Tuesday. Kent said he found many sites to camp at and plant trees by forging a relationship with KOA Campgrounds.

“They have been extremely generous and helpful; they’re putting me up at their sites, have given me the opportunity to plant trees in virtually all of the states, they have 485 locations, missing only Delaware and Rhode Island,” Kent said. “It was from this that I realized that KOA and then Airbnb would be the next frontier for the charging infrastructure to improve.”

Peter Smallidge, senior extension associate for New York State, said he was excited to help assist in the project.

“Tree planting brings awareness to the important role that trees and forests play for people, communities and society,” Smallidge said. “Most woodland are privately owned and Mr. Kent’s planting project is by a private citizen on private land. The logistical challenge Mr. Kent is undertaking is inspiring; no small feat.”

Kent will decide which species of tree to plant at each site based on location, Smallidge explained.

“There are hundreds of species to choose from. [Kent] has a preference for oak species, of which there are at least 15 to 20, so matching with each site condition is reasonable,” Smallidge said. “Other species will likely be used.”

Kent said he owes Cornell for inspiring him to embark on this adventure.

“Cornell inspired me to do something meaningful with my life,” Kent said. “It was the absence of having done anything that I personally consider very noteworthy that inspired it; the fact that I have capacities that I haven’t strictly used to their limits, and the desire to make a mark worthy of the education I took away from there.”

Kent said he may start an all-electric car company for Cornell students, depending on the success of the project.

“I think the time for electric vehicles to really take off is right now,” Kent said. “I think virtually all Cornellians would agree; we’re the forward-thinking sort — not the kind that like to clean up messes after they’re made.”

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