Student Spotlight: Laura Schewel
Student Spotlight Directory
Laura Schewel sitting in a pilot plug-in vehicle. Laura’s masters work focuses on helping consumers have the courage to switch to an advanced vehicle.
Laura Schewel came to the Energy and Resources Group to be around the smartest people working on energy. Though she specializes in sustainable transportation and fusion of IT and new transportation technologies, her interests range from literature to history of technology to food sustainability and she is determined to pull them all into her final dissertation.
Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, she received an undergraduate degree from Yale University, where she double majored in Environmental Engineering and Comparative Literature, with senior theses in water quality control improvement techniques in rural Tanzania and connections between high medieval and high modern shape poetry, respectively. Laura was the first to pursue this double major at Yale. Even though the two fields seem divergent, she continues to find the two sides of her brain in constant conversation.
Laura went to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) after graduation, which is a non-profit think tank and consulting firm, founded by Amory Lovins, built around the belief that sustainability can be profitable. Laura worked on the electrification of vehicles at RMI, exploring how many diverse systems will have to change to welcome these emission-saving new vehicles. Inspired by President Obama’s call for young people to come to Washington, Laura left RMI to go to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in early 2009, at the Office of Energy Innovation and Policy, to create a regulatory strategy for electrified vehicles.
At ERG, Laura has been exploring the nexus of information technology and reducing emissions from personal vehicles. She became intrigued with the moment when an American buys a new car: because that one decision will impact the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint for the next 5-7 years. How can we give consumers the desire and the courage to go for a more efficient vehicle?
With a great team from ERG, iSchool, EECS, and Haas, Laura developed the Virtual Test Drive: a Smart Phone app that logs an individual’s driving patterns. Then, the team processes the data to show that individual what their driving day would have looked like, had they been in an efficient or even a plug in vehicle. How much money would they save on fuel? Would they have run out of battery? The system mimics the experience of a multi-day test drive, which studies have shown to be the most effective form of alternative vehicle education. For her masters work, she is testing this system and measuring its effectiveness in driving buying behavior compared to other education techniques.
Laura has recently become obsessed with an new component of drivingdriving to shop, which comprises 45% of miles driven in the U.S.and plans to focus on this and its interactions with the freight transportation system for her doctoral work.
Laura’s studies have been enhanced and supported by a variety of wonderful people and institutions: she’d like to thank the Berkeley Graduate Fellows Program, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship program which will fund her doctoral work, Dr. Daniel Kammen, Dr. Lee Schipper, Dr. John Harte, Amory Lovins, the ERG staff and most importantly her astoundingly creative, intelligent, and fun ERG peers. ERG has allowed her to explore her extremely diverse questions, introduced her to professors and collaborators across the campus and beyond, and allowed her to blend entrepreneurship with research. For this, she is extremely grateful.
Read more about Laura and the Virtual Test Drive Project:
Virtual Vehicle Company: Unlocking Green Car Data with Cell Phones
Smart Transportation: Synergizing Electrified Vehicles and Mobile Information Systems