April is National Earth Month, so we reached out to some notable Chicago leaders in the environmental space and asked them: “What led you to the field of environmental work?”

These leaders — Yann Kulp with NextEra Mobility and John Truckenbrod with EV Energy Group — gave us thoughtful reflections on fate, making the world a better place, and the importance of passing along your values to your children.

What led you to the field of environmental work?

Yann Kulp, Director of Business Development – Fleet Electrification at NextEra Mobility

A Simple Twist of Fate

My environmental journey started by pure chance. During college, I met my future wife, quickly wanted a “real” job, and the first offer was from an electrical equipment manufacturer. In hindsight, it feels like each subsequent role was a serendipitous step toward sustainability.  

After earning my MBA, I joined Schneider Electric, the global leader in energy management, and started learning the business of energy efficiency and optimization. From 2012 to 2016, I developed an internal startup to create smart thermostats and home energy solutions. My next role at Schneider Electric was as the electric vehicle strategist for North America, which led me to the fascinating world of commercial fleets.

In 2018, after incubating a new business idea with my co-founder, we left our jobs and created eIQ Mobility in Palo Alto, dedicated to de-risking fleet electrification and helping more organizations adopt EVs. That was a crazy, intense, and incredible three-year roller coaster ride, with a brilliant climate-dedicated team that led us to work with some huge fleets.

We were acquired by NextEra Energy, the world’s largest generator of wind and solar energy, in late 2020, and that company became the foundation of NextEra Mobility – the premier provider of end-to-end fleet electrification solutions in North America. Making sustainability into a viable and high-growth business has been a great experience.

But for my wife and I, our best educators are our three kids. They live in Utah, Chicago, and one is at Purdue University. Two of them work in energy, all are avid hikers and campers, and they all take stewardship of the environment very seriously. We tried to create an appreciation for nature in them, and it seems like it worked! 

John Truckenbrod, Founder & CEO at EV Energy Group

Moving on from Media

I originally came to Chicago from Mendota, Illinois, in the early ’80s as a commercial artist seeking work in computer graphics. The Leo Burnett agency welcomed me to share my portfolio and told me computer graphics sounded fabulous, but they had one question: “What exactly is computer graphics?”

This confirmed in my mind that I could be an industry pioneer in a field with a great deal of potential. I worked any job I could find that generated images with computers, and I eventually owned my own production and post-production studio, serving major brands and creating TV commercials.

Decades of advertising broadcast content work served me well until the work changed; digital media emerged, and the 50-year-old ad paradigm dramatically shifted. I sold my business assets and began searching for something new that was interesting and rewarding.

In 2016, I bought a Tesla Model S all-electric vehicle and fell headfirst in love with electric vehicle charging equipment. My mind was blown by how efficient and cost-effective electric fuel was; I was driving a car that was powered by a 120-volt wall outlet, like how I charged my mobile phone. This was pure magic, not unlike digital effects and video. I saw that this was the birth of perhaps the largest technological transformation I had ever witnessed. I knew immediately I had to be a part of this revolution and make a significant contribution to ending burning fossil fuels.

So in 2017, I established EV Energy with the mission to accelerate EV adoption in the United States. Now, we curate a large portfolio of EV chargers and operate them with our own Chicago-headquartered port management network called EVXY. No solution fits every use case, so we offer a wide range of options that include workplace chargers, retail enterprise units, fleet charging, and travel corridors.

Our team remains optimistic regarding an all-electric future for all forms of transportation, but reaching scale has challenges and we need everyone to embrace this transformation in mobility. We’ll be at the Chamber’s Exchange on April 16 — please come by and say hello!