Youth Program’s New Electric Vans Promote Sustainability to Participants, Local Community

April 13, 2021

Listen to this article:

In partnership with: SDG&E

SDG&E Logo

For more than 20 years, Outdoor Outreach has been imparting lessons on the importance of environmental stewardship to at-risk youth in the San Diego area with a variety of open-air adventures. Recently, the non-profit added some clean-tech transportation to ferry these children around Southern California, furthering the message of sustainability it promotes to its young leaders.

“In order to practice what we preach in advocating for the environment, we purchased our first two electric vehicles that will allow us to run our programs in a way that is also sustainable and protective of the environment,” said Kaylie Erickson, the organization’s marketing and events senior manager.

“Our first two electric vehicles will allow us to run our programs in a way that is protective of the environment.”

The project was made possible by a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and grant funding from Citizens Energy Corporation. The utility’s Power Your Drive for Fleets program helped Outdoor Outreach install the electrical conduits and prepare the site for the installation of EV chargers. This is the first site to be energized as part of this program, which aims to deploy at least 3,000 EVs in the region and install charging infrastructure at 300 sites by 2025.

Electrifying Training

To train the Outdoor Outreach group once their two new Lightning eMotors’ Zero Emission Transit passenger vans were delivered, the EV manufacturer sent a representative from Colorado to provide onsite training for the driver team. Upon EVSE installation, charger manufacturer ChargePoint provided a walkthrough of the online portal for management of the back end of its system.  Despite having zero experience with electric vehicles and charging infrastructure prior to this, the Outdoor Outreach team found it easy to navigate it all.

“The charging process and charging units themselves couldn’t be simpler — just plug in and go,” said Erickson. “Additionally, we can set the chargers to only charge at off-peak hours to get the best rates.”

After the training, any predisposed notions related to range anxiety were soon eased.

“In actuality, the electric vehicles range is more than enough for the vast majority of our outings.”

“At the beginning of the project, there were definitely conversations on whether or not electric vehicles would have the range to be sufficient for our program sites,” said Erickson, adding, “In actuality, their range is more than enough for the vast majority of our outings.”

Making the Introductions

The vans, as well as some of Outdoor Outreach’s Leadership Program graduates, were center stage at a recent media event alongside the SDG&E team to share the news to the local community. As COVID restrictions lift, and the group is able to transport youth to outdoor programs, many of the group’s returning participants are sure to be excited by the new vans, according to Erickson.

“With climate change happening at an increasing rate, and its effects seen most dramatically in low-income communities and communities of color, it is important that we engage a diverse cadre of youth in efforts towards conservation, environmental protections, and sustainability,” she added. “Through our programs, youth learn at a young age that the environment is theirs, and that their voice and actions, big or small, can have an impact.”

Improving the community is a key element for SDG&E as well, “It’s not just about the people in the vehicles benefiting from electrification, it’s about the whole community benefiting from clean air as a byproduct of electrification of transportation,” said Jeni Reynolds, Director of Clean Transportation for the utility. Check out SDG&E’s Power Your Drive for Fleets program at