Guest Post: Remembering William Robert Korthof – 1978 to 2014

[Here at Transport Evolved, we aim to cover all forms of future car technology, from new, cleaner fuels to advanced safety technology, congestion-reducing multi-modal transportation solutions, and technology that makes our every day travel more convenient. But despite the wide remit of our site today, those of us on the editorial team have a strong leaning towards the world of plug-in vehicles and renewable energy, with every one of us actively involved in the world of plug-in cars at both a professional and a personal level. 

William Robert Korthof: 1978-2014. Photograph by Phuong Vo

William Robert Korthof: 1978-2014. Photograph by Phuong Vo

Sometimes, we encounter someone so important in the evolved transportation sphere that they make an indelible mark on the industry, be it in the form of advocacy, engineering genius, or business acumen. And when that person leaves us, we are truly saddened. 

Last week, just a few days after his thirty-sixth birthday, William Robert Korthof, a bright, young electric vehicle advocate and solar power expert, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. His death has sent shockwaves through the tight-knit community of electric vehicle drivers who knew him in California, the U.S., and more widely around the world. 

We’ve reached out to electric car advocate Linda Nicoleswho knew both William and his family well, to provide us with an obituary celebrating his life. 

On behalf of the editorial team and our readers, we’d like to pass on our deepest condolences and thoughts to his family and friends at this difficult time. – ed]

As well as his tireless work with electric cars and renewable energy, William was a keen runner.

As well as his tireless work with electric cars and renewable energy, William was a keen runner.

William Robert Korthof was only 36 years old on October 2nd when he was tragically and instantly killed as a passenger on a motorcycle during a fatal collision with a car. Though his life was all-too-brief, that life was packed with diverse and meaningful action. It seemed as though there were nothing this young man could not do or could not accomplish. To name only a few of William’s passions, interests and missions:  marathon runner, committed environmentalist, scholar, licensed solar contractor and champion, hands-on technician, electric vehicle charging infrastructure installer, sustainable landscaper, energy efficiency expert, business owner and electric transportation advocate. This exceptional young entrepenuor owned numerous homes in the Pomona area which he rented out to young people who shared his life-long enthusiasm for green living. William retrofitted each of these communal homes with gray water / rainwater catchment and energy efficiency systems, sustainable landscaping and rooftop solar arrays.

Over the years William owned and presided over two solar companies:  EE Solar founded in 2001 and most recently, Sustainable Solutions Partners which was owned and operated by Mr. Korthof in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas with the motto:  “We Make Green Living Simple.”  While Sustainable Solutions installs and maintains hundreds of solar photovoltaic business and residential systems in the state of California, the company also reflects William’s holistically green vision by functioning as a full-service operation that promotes all manner of “Sustainable Solutions” from water-saving technologies to electric vehicle charger installation and service upgrades.

William was never far from a plug-in car.

William was never far from a plug-in car.

William was apparently born with a mission. And that mission was to not only install the hardware to make clean, efficient living possible, but to educate others about ways to produce cleaner energy, save resources and make this world a better, cleaner and healthier place in which to live. His practical, hands-on approach to energy efficiency and solar panel installation is reflected in this simple quote:  “Solar panels can become an important part of California’s power mix, especially as traditional energy sources become more expensive.”  When powerful words were not enough to accomplish his green goals, William would roll up his sleeves, bring out the tools and simply place panels on as many California roofs as his vision and scope allowed. William’s solar companies not only lassoed the sun on the roofs of hundreds –perhaps thousands –of California solar customers, his companies also provided solar power for the annual Burning Man desert festival as well as southern California environmental events like WorldFest.

William was passionate about the potential of solar-powered transportation and in that vein installed hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations in California. Historically, William categorically refused to return his electric Ford Ranger pickup for crushing by Ford Motor Company and, along with two other drivers, parked his pickup in front of a Ford Sacramento dealership in the cold winter of 2004 to help inspire Ford to stop crushing its electric Rangers.  This highly publicized action marked the beginning of the energized electric vehicle movement  — and it worked.  Ford immediately stopped crushing and offered electric Ranger drivers the ability to extend their leases.

William was fearless.  He inspired, he educated, he led by example and he always opened doors. He made possibilities become realities. He will be sorely missed.


Linda Nicholes.


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  • Linda Nicholes

    And, let me add, William was not only a technical genius with the energy and intellectual capacity to head two companies at such a tender age, but he also — as my friend Paul Scott said — “had an encyclopedic knowledge of all things PV and EV.” But more than that, William knew how to be a good friend! We’ve been friends ever since I met him as a bright-eyed 15 year old boy many long years ago. My heart is broken.

  • Wow, is that why I’ve felt so energized since around that same time? I hadn’t heard his name before, but he sounds like a brother with the same goals and same way of addressing this huge problem we’re facing. I don’t have nearly the resources he’s had – being 10 years behind him in age – but he sounded like he was born with that same mission I feel like I was given. To refine EV technology from both ends, making the tech better and making the world more aware of it. If nothing else I hope I can honor his memory by carrying on that vision and the mission, bringing the promise of EVs to new parts of the world and new industries, and continuing to inspire others to do the same. What a hell of a guy! Maybe we can all take a little piece of his vision and carry it on in memory, and keep pushing for a better tomorrow. 😀

  • Kitty

    Thank you Linda for putting into words what so many people are feeling. I relied on William for so much, and had so many plans with him for the future. Itu2019s hard to imagine life without him. He touched so many and made such a huge impact during his time on Earth. We are all going to have to step up our game to make up for losing such an incredible individual. Always grateful!! Kitty

  • PaulScott58

    We owe it to William to redouble our efforts in the EV/PV space and make the transition to a sustainable future a reality as soon as possible. I hope to see another bright young person with William’s intellectual capacity and work ethic come along to help out. It’ll be difficult to replace William, but hopefully not impossible. He is going to be missed. The world is a better place because William existed. The world will not be as good as it could be because he was taken from us too soon.

  • ka9q

    This hits hard. I knew Bill during the good ol’ EV1 days, when we really thought we were going to change the world. Bill was a large part of the reason we felt that way, and he was one of the sharpest and most dedicated people I knew. Sigh.

    • Phil- you guys did; still are. For all that happened, today’s plug-in drivers–now a quarter million in the US–are standing on the shoulders of the EV1 and other drivers of the 1990s, and your collective insistence on not letting that story go untold. William helped many of the newer drivers join us, and those who learned from him will continue to do the same in their own way.

      • Norma Williamson

        Chelsea, It is true that we stand on the shoulders of the EV1 drivers of the 1990’s! The 10 years of environmental technology education activities that I have coordinated at La Mirada High School, where I teach, have all been inspired by the EV1 that the Korthofs and Lisa shared with Alan and I. What a rocket! Bill Korthof generously donated solar panels and the students “solarized” the school’s electric golf cart; they built a solar “dollhouse” that operates an electric fan, he displayed many times his Toyota RAV4 EV to amazed students. Today, because of his good example, La Mirada High has a “Switch”, 3 wheel, highway ready electric vehicle (from Electric Autoshop) that the EV club is building. Unfortunately, our engineering teacher was transferred to another school and the kids are without a teacher. Bob Siebert, former EE Solar owner/solar engineer, has generously offered to help the students after school, on Thursdays, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. but we could use another EV enthusiast/teacher. Anyone interested?nBill has left us broken hearted. I visit this site often, just to feel his presence! Prayers to Lisa, Ed and family!

  • Such terribly sad news, Our world has lost a very special passionate person and intellectual genius. I met the very young Bill whilst installing his Dads Honda EV charger at the family home in Seal Beach, come to think of it, it may have been Bills Honda EV since he was the one that took the thing to pieces a week later figuring out what made it work. That was around 1994/95 and the start of a very special relationship with Bill and Doug Korthof installing EVSE’s and Solar PV systems. It was Bill and Doug that showed me the natural transition between intelligent people that drive EV’s who also have solar on their rooftops. It was Bills passion and scientific mind that steered me to my firm course and direction towards ‘Renewable Electrical Contracting’ from which I have never looked back. I am proud to have met you Bill and sad that we didn’t spend more time together these last few years although I know we were still connected somehow even thru the EV chargers that I install. You will be truly missed by all in our community and remembered for a long time to come. Prayers to Lisa and The Korthof family.

  • darelldd

    I keep trying to write something meaningful, and then have to step away to compose myself. And I still donu2019t have proper words to convey my emotions. Bill touched my life deeply and positively. Though significantly younger than I am, he was nevertheless my mentor and a huge source of inspiration. He and I shared a tight bond that centered around changing the world with facts, figures, truth and most importantly – humor. Bill was a close and trusted friend. I donu2019t know anybody who works harder, nor maintains a more positive attitude in the face of any number of adversities. He was a lovely human, and I still am learning the depth of my feelings for him.nnnnSimilar to what Kitty expressed, I had big plans with Bill for the future. He and I were involved in several projects together. Heck, we have always been involved in projects together, it seems. I have no idea who will now answer my questions and scheme with me to fix the world’s problems.nnnThis leaves a huge hole in my heart. nnnAnd while I will always have a piece of you on my roof making clean power, I miss you Bill.

    • I’d gladly step in (or at least raise my hand)… I need someone that can provide the resources to prototype and realize all the EV-related ideas I’ve come up with – big (F-16 scale) and small (rollerskates scale). Most of what I can offer is answers, as I have zero money and can’t even buy a $10 part when I need it (let alone a $400 lithium pack) – but I need someone else to help take those answers to the shop and provide the resources to build the darn things and bounce ideas around!

  • Jennifer Krill

    Ok everyone, I have to come clean about something. In 2004, when I first met William Korthof (along with many of you on this thread) at the Ford Ranger EV vigil, we did indeed save Bill’s truck, along with Dave and Heather Raboy’s and everyone else who had an EV that wasn’t already crushed, but we did not save Bill’s EV. He left the electric motor, battery and components in his garage and towed a hollow shell with its nice EV decals to Sacramento to park in the vigil at Downtown Ford. When we did test drives and showed people how the EV worked, we always used Dave’s truck. When it was time to move Bill’s truck so it wouldn’t get a parking ticket, we made sure there was no media around, disengaged the parking brake and pushed it.nnnIf we lost, and Ford had sent tow trucks instead of purchase agreements, Bill was determined that Ford wouldn’t get his EV. nnnHe also left me with a roll of cash for bail in case we got arrested preventing the tow trucks from pulling away his gutted truck. He was a class act, through and through, and was determined to live and drive without fossil fuels. Thank you Bill Korthof for setting the bar.

    • darelldd

      I LOVE that story! And I recall him whispering that very thing to me when I showed up at the vigil and asked which truck was his. His answer: “the shiny part is here is right here.”

    • That’s awesome. They can have the shell… but can’t have its soul! That’s safe back at the garage. 😉 Finances be damned, fight the bastards! There can always be another shell, but Ford – like GM – was determined to kill the EV. You don’t just get a group of people together to defy a lease… you get them together to save an idea. That’s powerful stuff!

    • Linda Nicholes

      Jennifer, that story about Bill highlights his determination, grit and cleverness. There was simply no way in hell that Ford was going to get the heart of his all-electric Ranger. Ford Motor Company didn’t have a chance, did it? That story makes me laugh, but it makes the tears come too, demonstrating as it does, that there truly was no one like William. He outsmarted them all and did it with such style!

  • Linda Nicholes

    There will be a memorial event in Lincoln Park in Pomona to honor William this Sunday, November 2nd at noon. Members of William’s Regen Co-op are organizing the event. Vegan food will be available. We will also have T-shirts honoring William’s life for sale created by Norma Williamson. The T-shirts will have a photo of our dear friend and a graphic of renewable energy / green living. The text is: “William Korthof’s Vision; Will You Follow?” The price is $20 — exact change, please. Sizes are medium for women and large for men. Color: light blue. Thanks.

  • Carol Hink

    Truly sorry to hear about William’s passing! So young and gifted. My heart goes out to his family and friends u2764

  • oocwpah

    Is this man still alive? DIVIDE AND CONQUER is what they do.

    Vote veteran someone that puts America before ANY party.

    No double standards put DC politicians on Obamacare and SS.Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word.