Fastlane

November 22, 2011

Bill Destler – An evangelist for the Volt

Chevrolet once had an ad campaign that sang about baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

Dr. William Destler has his own personal campaign that includes banjos, blogs, the environment and the Chevrolet Volt.

Destler is an unapologetic believer in environmental sustainability. He is president of the Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology (RIT), and he told us that “RIT is probably the world leader in what I would call industrial sustainability. That is, helping companies improve their bottom line by using less materials, using less energy, reusing materials and remanufacturing products.” When asked about the concept that such environmentally-focused steps might cost jobs, he vehemently disagreed. He said, “That’s nonsense. In reality, the average company that we work with actually increases its profit margin as a result of these activities, and that helps to grow the business, and that usually results in the hiring of more people as well.”

Bill drives a Chevrolet Volt. When we asked him if he drove it because it was more environmentally-friendly than some other vehicles, he replied, “It’s very simple. The Volt is the most technologically-advanced automobile in the world, and being an American engineer and the president of one of our largest engineering schools nationally, I think the fact that this was designed by American engineers and produced by American workers is something to be proud of. So I drive one with pride.”

That covers the last two items in Destler’s campaign, but how about banjos and blogs? Destler explains that he has a collection of more than 150 banjos, plus a few other stringed instruments such as guitars and mandolins. He said that the collection started innocently enough. “I started playing the banjo in graduate school and when I was looking for one to buy – one to learn on – I had friends who said ‘Don’t try to find a new one they’re no good. Try to find an old one.’ That was the worst piece of advice I ever got because I searched around antique shops and flea markets. Then I found one made in the 1890s, and that started me on a collecting habit that has gone on to this day.” You can see more on his Bill’s Banjos Web site here.

On the blog front, Bill has been writing a number of articles about his experience with his Volt. He’s not compensated for spreading the word about the Volt; he just wants to share his learnings with a wider audience. He said, “My first article was why the Volt gets such good equivalent mileage, because people think it’s because electricity is cheap. It’s the same price as gas (Editor’s note: Depending on fuel prices and electricity rates in your area.) It’s because the electric drivetrain is so much more efficient.” He wrote a couple of follow up articles. One compared his Toyota Prius to his Volt, and another discussed the Volt in cold weather, and strategies for using it in cold weather.

“Banjos, blogs, the environment and Chevrolet Volt” may not sound like music to your ears, but Bill Destler is singing a happy tune with an engineering program focused on developing sustainable solutions for industry and a vehicle that he describes as “practical transportation meeting everyone’s needs while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

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