IN MEMORIAM – Dr. Tom Turrentine

Tom Turrentine Collage

As we at ITS-Davis mourn, cherish, and honor the memory of our esteemed colleague, Dr. Tom Turrentine, the following tribute was graciously provided by his longtime research partner and friend, Dr. Kenneth Kurani.


The University and the Institute of Transportation Studies lost an inspirational leader, colleague, and friend when Dr. Tom Turrentine died unexpectedly on June 2 of a coronary event while on a mountain bike ride in the Forest of Nisene Marks—outdoors and active as was his wont. Tom retired from the University in 2018 having served since 2007 as the founding Director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle (PH&EV) Center. He proved an empathetic and encouraging leader. Team-building through adventure, he invited colleagues, peers, and students to weave together intellectual and active, outdoor pursuits; many had the chance to join him to ski, or run, or rock climb, often in the high mountains he loved.

As a proponent of research-based policymaking, Tom guided the PH&EV Center through its formative years as the State of California’s premier center focused on electric vehicle markets and policy. Understanding the importance of varying policy contexts, he extended the Center’s reach around the globe founding the International Electric Vehicle Policy Council which presently counts members from fourteen nations. Under his guidance the PH&EV Center grew from a band of three to an internationally active team of nearly 30 students, staff, and researchers.

Prior to founding the PH&EV Center, Dr. Turrentine established a reputation over two decades at the Institute of Transportation Studies as an innovative researcher of household automotive purchase and use, especially with regards to environmental impacts, fuel economy, alternative transportation fuels, and electric vehicles. Tom was also a UC Davis alum, earning his PhD in Anthropology in 1994. As a Research Anthropologist, he foregrounded the marvelous variety of human behaviors in his study of consumers and their relationships to automobiles, energy, and the environment.

Tom leaves a legacy of innovative research, compassionate and effective leadership, a passion for life outdoors, and for finding ways for more people to appreciate and protect the places such activities are possible. For all this, his family was his greatest passion: his wife Pat and their daughter Sasha walked with Tom through life’s adventures. We admired and loved him; we remain inspired by his example.