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Tom  Turrentine

Tom Turrentine

Director, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center and Research Anthropologist, Institute of Transportation Studies

University of California, Davis

Dr. Turrentine studies the role of travel and movement in the evolution of culture, society and lifestyle. He focuses on understanding automobile-based lifestyles, applying anthropological methods and theories to explore potential responses of car users to new technologies and policies aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of automobile infrastructure and use. He has studied consumer responses to electric vehicles, alternative fueled vehicles, micro-vehicles, station car systems, advanced traveler information, and other intelligent transportation systems. Dr. Turrentine also studies travel behavior and road systems in environmentally sensitive areas, focusing on Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada region in California.

Dr. Turrentine uses methods and theory from anthropology to guide research on potential consumer response to alternative fuels, vehicle technologies, road systems, and policies with environmental benefits. Dr. Ken Kurani, (a Civil Engineer at ITS) and he have studied potential markets for electric, natural gas, hybrid, fuel cell, neighborhood electric vehicles, traveler information systems, station cars, and automated cars. They have implemented multi-phase, multi-year projects that stand as authoritative explorations of the future of automotive technology.

These projects have included the following innovations and contributions:

  • Adaptation of social theory to transport research pathways, notably the critical theory of Anthony Giddens, to understanding the automobile and "green auto technologies" in the cultural context of late-modernity.
  • Development of "interactive" interview gaming approaches with small samples of households (25-100) that look closely at their lifestyles, values and goals to explore household automotive consumption choices for new technologies and policies.
  • Subsequent mid-sized surveys (several hundred) using "reflexive" methodologies that elicit deeper consideration of alternatives by participants to increase the validity of transport surveys exploring future behavior.
  • Technology demonstrations that place new vehicle and other transport technologies in households and businesses for greater realism and lifestyle feedback.

Current Project
Dr. Turrentine is Director of a new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle research center at UC Davis funded by the California Energy Commission that began this February. The Center is funded for $3 million for 3 years.

Electric Transportation Track Director for the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program at the Institute for Transportation Studies. This is a consortium funded study, with over 20 major oil, energy and manufacturing companies involved. This is a 4 year program

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