Kenyon Kluge, Electric Motorcyle Engineer

Kenyon Kluge

As we all know and love about the sustainability movement, anyone can combine their passion with respect for the planet. Even when that passion is far from being green. Case in point: Motorcycle racing.

Speed demon Kenyon Kluge would attest. After graduating from ITT Technical Institute with an associate's degree in electronics, his long love affair with motorbikes took an earth-friendly twist. He scored a gig directing electrical engineering at Zero Motorcycles, an electric motorcycle company, where he engineers motor-bikes that produce one-eighth of the CO2 emissions than gas-powered ones, using non-toxic, lithium-ion technology. Kenyon is a member of IEEE, the world's largest organization of engineers.

How did you get into this line of work?

I have been an electrical engineer and motorcycle road-racer for many years. A friend of mine who knew about my motorcycle riding asked me to come test ride a bike for Zero Motorcycles and it turned out they needed some electrical engineering help as well.

What was your "a-ha" moment?

It was the moment I first rode the electric motorcycle and realized that I could combine my profession with my love.

Who is your green hero?

Anyone that rides, drives, engineers, or promotes alternative fuel vehicles. I love motor-sports and recognize that the only way we will be able to continue to enjoy them responsibly, is if we find a way to make them less of an impact on our environment.

What is your ultimate green goal?

To create an electric vehicle that is more fun to ride than a comparable combustion engine machine.

What is your motivation?

The preservation of motorsports. Many riding locations are being shut down due to pollution which is forcing enthusiasts to travel farther to pursue their sport. This also creates overcrowding in approved riding locations. Legislation is also being imposed on the motorcycle community about where people can and cannot ride and how loud their machines can be. Electric motorcycles eliminate a lot of the obstacles this legislation is based on.

What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?

I think this is summed up in the last question.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

This industry is so new that its engineering and invention period is a process. It makes development slow.

What is the most rewarding?

The very thing that is challenging is also the most rewarding. Being at the very front of a technology and having the ability to define a product and how the public perceives it makes me feel like I am working on something really great and important.

Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?

One of my engineers, Nathan Knight. I feel like I am able to push him to make large leaps of engineering and he comes back to me with something that satisfies the need we identified--and improves the product beyond what people were expecting.

What green thing do you do every day?

I ride an electric vehicle.

What do you wish you could do?

I often wish I had more time to be involved in improving the programs working to eliminate pollution in the outdoor areas I enjoy using recreationally.

What is your biggest eco-sin?

I still race petroleum-based motorcycles and with this I have a large truck needed to transport my equipment to and from the track. I am sad to say it gets very poor gas mileage as my race vehicles do.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

To ensure that people working to mitigate usage impact on riding facilities, public lands, recreational facilities and other outdoor locations have all the funding they need to enact change, fight litigation, and maintain these facilities for public use.

What is your best green advice?

Actively look around your area for people doing interesting and important work. I have people tell me all the time that they never knew my business was right around the corner from them. Or when I go to events with other green participants, I am always amazed at how many people I connect with that are right in my area that are doing really great and interesting work.

Change Makers is series of interviews with people famous and obscure who are creating a more sustainable world through their work. Meet more Change Makers here.