VTCEE Alumnus Steve Ahart seeks to break records in cross-country trip

Baseball is considered America’s pastime. It is followed by fans across the country and many think of baseball when they think of summer activities. Virginia Tech Civil and Environmental Engineering alumnus Steve Ahart (B.S ’85, M.S. ’86) and his brother Dave are among those people. They are spending 28 days this summer driving across the country and stopping to watch 30 Major League Baseball games. There is more to their trip than just baseball, though. The brothers will be making the trip in a Tesla Model 3 to raise awareness of electric vehicles and will also be using the trip as an opportunity to fundraise for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

So how did this idea become reality? “I’ve been interested in electric vehicles for a couple of years and when Tesla announced that they were coming out with a new model, I went overnight so I could be one of the first people in line to reserve the car,” said Steve. He waited in line for 20 hours to reserve the car that more than 135,000 people reserved that first day without seeing the vehicle. “I actually became interested when I rented a Tesla for a business trip a couple of years ago and had a fantastic experience. I was sold at that point because I am always looking for ways to be cleaner and more energy efficient.” Steve thought it could be up to three years to receive the newly ordered Tesla Model 3 from the factory on the west coast so, in an attempt to get the car more quickly, he planned to fly out to California and get the car there to drive back. While that plan didn’t pan out, he and his brother had already started trying to figure out how many baseball games they could have fit in on that drive back to Virginia. They built out a schedule that would visit 30 games in 28 days, breaking the current world record at 30 games in 29 days, which was set in 2005. They are also attempting to break the record for the longest journey by an electric vehicle (non-solar) with their 18,000 mile trip. The current record was set in 2016 in Switzerland with a 13,881.2 mile trip.

“I suddenly realized that there was an opportunity in this trip. Most people don’t think of electric cars as being capable of long trips. However, new models are now able to go longer distances and I want to use this trip to raise awareness,” he said. In fact, according to research done on over 100 drivers of the course of a year by Jianhe Du, Hesham Rakha, and John Sangster at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 90% of single trips were found to be less than 25 miles. Therefore, the majority of trips were within a short distance making electric vehicles practical for everyday use. However, Steve wants to push that idea by taking his electric vehicle on this 18,000 mile trip across the country. He hopes to educate thousands of people along the way about the reliability and use of today’s electric vehicles.

His ideas didn’t stop there. “Why not make this trip into something more and raise funds for a worthwhile cause?” he thought. As an avid volunteer for local youth groups, he wanted to find a charity that he could fundraise for along the drive. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (link to their page) fit the criteria and he later found out that it is one of Major League Baseball’s top charities as well.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he admitted. “While I’m excited about the adventure, I am aware of the obstacles that are in the way of making this trip work.” However, the opportunity to spend time with his brother, travel the country, see the character of each ballpark, and raise awareness about two topics he is passionate about outweigh those concerns. “It will be a spectacular opportunity,” he said.

While Steve and Dave are both lifelong northern Virginia residents and primarily follow the Nationals baseball team, they are excited to view the different parks and cities along the way. To follow along on their trip, follow the Epic EV Roadtrip Facebook page and you can keep up with blog posts along the way on their Epic EV Roadtrip website. They will be leaving Virginia on May 7 and completing the trip on June 7.