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Modding a Better Future

Tom Holm is the founder of EcoTrek Foundation, a nonprofit with the goal of preserving cultural and natural resources through renewable power, products and practices. A major part of EcoTrek’s business involves converting and modifying vehicles to be more environmentally friendly for demanding expeditions.

On the outside, EcoTrek vehicles look like ordinary gas guzzlers—but take a closer look and you'll be amazed: a Hummer H2 that gets 24 MPG and runs on biodiesel made by American farmers, a FlexFuel Chevrolet Avalanche that ran 50,000 miles without any petroleum fuel and a Ford F350 powered by cutting-edge algae-based biodiesel.

But make no mistake, EcoTrek’s mission goes far beyond building concept vehicles.

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“It’s not the truck for the truck itself, but it’s that truck as a vehicle to get me somewhere, to be able to fulfill a purpose, to be able to do archaeological or environmental expeditions,” says Holm. “And we want to do so in the least invasive ways. We don’t want to go to these pristine, naturally beautiful locations and pollute them or be very intrusive.”

Former host of the TV show Adventure Highway, Holm was no stranger to epic road trips to some of the country’s most beautiful outdoor locations. But the show often traveled with massive 4x4s and motorhomes, taking them through pristine locations like the redwood forests. “It was kind of getting under my skin that we were doing that,” recalls Holm.

Holm’s son had been diagnosed with leukemia around the same time, something that added to the unease he felt about driving huge diesel motorhomes through the outdoors. That’s when Holm decided to commit himself to helping protect the environment—and a few years later, he EcoTrek was born.

The expeditions Holm has been involved in aren’t just incredible, they’re actually helping the world—and without EcoTrek’s modified vehicles, they wouldn’t be possible. In 2017 alone, EcoTrek was involved in reintroducing native species to California’s Channel Islands and charting ancient seaborne trade routes in the area; releasing olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings in Mexico; and exploring Mayan cultural sites.

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“You can die in many of the places we go if your vehicle isn’t there for you. started, all that went away.”

Nearly every expedition takes place in demanding and remote environments, giving Holm the opportunity to put his ideas to the test. “I’m often going to very extreme environments. It’s not like running Moab where you’ve got buddies with winches and ropes. You can die in many of the places we go if your vehicle isn’t there for you,” says Holm. “We have generators, watermakers and life-sustaining equipment, but if we can’t get back to civilization, we’re dead!”

Holm is filled with visions and opportunities for EcoTrek, but he makes sure to keep his aspirations modest. “I’m bright, not brilliant. And I think I am passionate, but not fanatic,” he says. “I’m not looking at the entire journey. I’m just looking at the next few steps in front of me because I can impact them.” No matter how far down the road Holms is looking, we hope his future is filled with plenty more expeditions.

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