Motorsports and environmentalism, traditionally, don't go hand in hand. While undertakings like Formula E are trying to change that, the image of more popular and established race series are closely tied to the consumption of fossil fuels. It's common to see sponsorships from oil companies like Mobil, Shell, and Sunoco in series like Formula One and NASCAR. In the macho, gas-guzzling, BBQ culture of stock car racing, a self-described "vegan hippie chick with a racecar" is a bit of an anomaly. So when a racer like Leilani Münter sits down for an interview with famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (with commentary from comedian Eugene Mirman and research and deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists's Clean Vehicle Program Don Anair), greenies and geeks alike jump for joy.

Münter uses her NASCAR connections to help educate fans about climate, energy, and animal rights issues.

In the Earth Day episode of Star Talk Radio, Leilani Münter talks with science heavyweight Tyson about how she reconciles her racing career with her environmentalism, and it's quite interesting. She uses her NASCAR connections (Münter races in the ARCA stock car series) to help educate the racing series' huge fan base about climate, energy, and animal rights issues. She also doesn't accept sponsorships from fossil fuel companies or other groups that don't live up to her strict environmental and ethical standards. That means no oil, coal, or natural gas companies, and no sponsors that do animal testing or produce meat or dairy products, or use leather or fur.

On race day, Münter applies her global ethics in the pit. While most teams rely on gas or diesel generators, Münter uses a portable solar energy system to power her pit box. She says other teams became interested in her solar setup when they saw how much easier it is to communicate without having to shout over the noise of their generators. Also, she uses her sponsorships to highlight important issues. One of her favorite cars was liveried with graphics for the movie The Cove, which highlights dolphin slaughter and captivity. Although Münter blew a tire – and, subsequently an entire race – in the Cove car at Daytona, the TV commentator took the opportunity to talk about the livery, drawing attention to the issue. (Münter was also involved with the same filmmaker's latest work, Racing Extinction, which is discussed in this episode as well.)

Outside of racing, Münter minimizes her use of fossil fuels.

Outside of racing, Münter minimizes her use of fossil fuels. She drives a Tesla Model S, and hasn't fueled up at a gas station since September 2013. Her home photovoltaic system provides more than enough energy to power her home and charge her EV. She and Tyson discuss how she took her Tesla on a 5,000-mile road trip, zig-zagging across the country from New York to San Francisco using Tesla's Supercharger network. She and Tyson also talk about the inherent inefficiencies of internal combustion, and how the electric grid continues to get cleaner. In 2014, we interviewed Münter about her Energy Freedom car. You can read that here.

Also lending his own expertise to the Internet talk show is Don Anair from the Union of Concerned Scientists. He discusses how racing is a place where innovation occurs, improving safety and efficiency features that make their way into consumer vehicles. Tyson calls this "trickle-down engineering." Anair also touches on the topic of hydrogen fuel cells, and how they fit into the future of clean mobility. He talks to Tyson about battery production and recycling, including second-life applications. Listen to the episode below.


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