Racer, self-proclaimed vegan hippie chick, and passionate environmentalist Leilani Munter is continuing her efforts to share her renewable energy message through her racing.
In fact she will do just that at the next ARCA race in Kansas for Venturini Motorsports, in addition to making a special energy stop along the way.
“I’ll be running Kansas on October 3rd with Venturini Motorsports,” Munter said. “It’s called the Energy Freedom car to address all of the environmental issues that I am passionate about. I think the race will air on Fox Sports 2 at 7 PM on October 3rd.”
“Prior to the race, I’m going to this really cool town, Greensburg, Kansas,” Muter continued. “They were hit with an F5 tornado and it basically took out the whole town. It was devastating and demolished the whole town.”
“But they did something really amazing,” Munter said. “They rebuilt the town on 100% renewable energy. The last place that you would expect is that this little tiny town could become an example to the world that you can run completely off of renewables. So, I’m going to sit down with some of the families that lived through that tornado and saw how the renewable energy has changed them. I’m going to document this and talk to the Mayor and we’re just going to produce a short film that we will share on line to tell the story of this amazing town and how they rebuilt. I want to show that Kansas is doing this as part of the race weekend. I think it’s a story that many have not heard. I’m really excited about it and will put that out after the Kansas race.”
Munter has also been sharing her renewable energy passion by taking electric routes to the race track. In fact, she has taken her new Tesla across the country to the race track to demonstrate just how easy and convenient that mode of transportation really is.
“I bought my Tesla about a year ago now,” Munter said. “It’s just a wonderful car and I haven’t been to the gas station for a year now. But I’ve also discovered in owning this car how many myths there are about electric cars. One of the many things that people don’t understand is that there is a charging network throughout the country that makes it possible for me to easily do cross country trips.”
“That’s the purpose of behind why I wanted to drive to Chicagoland Speedway because I wanted people to see and have an example that long electric road trips are possible and they are convenient,” Munter continued. “I was able to stop for 15 minutes, just long enough to get out of your car, use the rest room, have a cup of coffee, walk back to the car and go. And it is a free charge and it is also a very fast charge.”
“I think one of the myths that people have is that it is not convenient and that you cannot go long distances,” Munter said. “I felt like it was important to do that to show a real time example. I partnered with my friends from the Solution Project, an organization that I joined on the Board of Advisors. Their goal is to push forward with the notion that the US can be using 100% renewable energy by 2050.”
“The other thing I wanted to bring out with that road trip was to show that one of the problems with gasoline is that a large amount is coming from OPEC, from overseas and oftentimes from countries that don’t like us or countries where there is conflict, which makes gas prices go up,” Munter said. “When you are charging with electricity, there are several advantages. One is that all that money is staying locally in the United States. So, it’s very patriotic to drive an electric car because you are paying money to travel but all of the money stays where domestically. When you fill up with a gallon of gasoline, a large portion of what you are paying is going to OPEC. So, if you don’t want to fund or be part of the problem of spending dollars on foreign oil, then you would want to drive electric. Who in their right mind would argue about keeping money in the United States?”
While Munter has seen her share of resistance to her renewable energy message in the past, she has definitely seen some changes in recent years, with more understand and embracing of the technology.
“There are always going to be people that I’m not going to win over,” Munter acknowledged. “I understand that there are those who are resistant to change. I’ve been talking about this for many, many years and there was a great deal of criticism.”
“But I see that changing now,” Munter continued. “For example at the Daytona race that I ran last year, we actually had the Green Tea Party out there. This is the Tea Party, which is definitely conservative not liberal side of things. They were there because they are fighting for energy independence. They don’t think it is fair that the utilities are trying to stop Americans from putting solar on their homes. They can agree that we as Americans can choose the type of power we want.”
“That is the most important conversation to have.”
Munter also acknowledged that her environmental passions have at times negatively impacted her racing passion. But in the end, she has chosen to be true to her convictions and not compromise her strongly-held beliefs.
“I definitely did make a choice,” Munter said. “There were a few offers that I’ve had in the past to be in the car full-time at higher levels than I am at now. But those companies offering that opportunity to me were not in line with my environmental views.”
“In essence, I want to work with people that are trying to make the world a better place,” Munter continued. “Ethically I ended up making the decision to walk away from being in the race car full-time and possibly have a full-time career as a driver but possibly selling out in terms of who I was as a person personally.”
“That was probably a defining moment for me,” Munter said. “The racer in me thought ‘Oh my God, I could be in a car full-time.’ At the end of the day, I couldn’t do it. So, in that respect, the environmental front to my racing because I made that conscious choice did impact my racing career. I did choose to walk away and in some cases, yes it has hurt my racing career because I’ve had less races than I could have.”
“But I wouldn’t have felt good about it,” Munter continued. “I would have felt badly about not aligning myself with who I want to be and how I want to live.”
While it may have taken some time for her energy and racing passions to come together, Munter is most hopeful for the remainder of the 2014 racing season, as well as the new ARCA season ahead next year.
“Hopefully as the world has woken up to our environmental problems, I have definitely seen a lot more people recognize that what I’m doing makes sense,” Munter said. “And so I’m hoping that they are making choices and that I can find companies that understand why I did walk away and want to support the difference I’m trying to make.”
“Sponsorship is looking pretty good to race in Daytona and things are looking good for me to actually race full-time next year,” Munter said. “I feel like I have more momentum than ever but I will definitely be getting to Daytona in my Tesla.”
“As long as I’m in a race car, it gives me this amazing ability as a biologist and environmentalist to talk to a huge demographic of people that normally wouldn’t hear this message,” Munter continued. “The race car gives me a voice that amplifies my message to a group that we need to talk to.”
“I think we are seeing more and more people seeing that this is a good thing.”