Ricketts, a Middle Tennessee State University professor, and his eight-member support team drove three Toyota hybrid alternative-fuels vehicles approximately 2,582 miles across country, using only about 2.15 gallons of fuel — much less than his 10-gallon goal —purchased at the gas pump, according to an MTSU news release.
A 1994, four-speed Toyota Tercel and an '05 Toyota Prius hybrid were driven on Sunday from Tybee Island, Ga., to MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tenn., then from MTSU to Conway, Ark. In the first 900 miles, zero gas was used, Ricketts said, adding that other fuel sources were solar (the sun), electric, ethanol and hydrogen from water.
From Conway and Fort Smith, Ark., to Long Beach, Ricketts and another driver drove a 2007 Toyota Prius hybrid, using E95 (ethanol-gas blend) and electric (two, 10-kilowatt-hour battery packs).
"I feel like I climbed Mount Everest," said Ricketts. "This has significance in life and it has significance for mankind."
Ricketts and his support team members calculated the five-day trip could be accomplished in 10 gallons or less. Behind the scenes, he and experts Terry Young of Woodbury and Mike Sims of Jackson, Mich., and several students believed it could be achieved using about 2.5 gallons of gas.
"Using 2.15 gallons of gas (to go across the country) is awesome," Ricketts said. "We had three bars left, which meant three gallons. So, officially, we used only 2.15 gallons."
As of March 8, AAA said national average gas prices were $3.76 for regular, $3.90 for mid-grade and $4.04 for premium.
An exuberant Ricketts, who has spent 36 years as an MTSU faculty member and invested 34 years into research of alternative fuels, took off his shoes and socks, waded into the nearby Pacific Ocean and let out a large whoop after achieving his goal.
After traveling across Interstate 40, the team arrived in Long Beach at about 3:15 CST, more than one hour earlier than they expected.
In addition to Young, who shared driving duties with Ricketts, and Sims, the team included MTSU students Travis Owens, Brett Harris, Steve Foe, Dawn Baker and Hayley Box, and Sonya D'Archangel, an Austin Peay State University student.
Ricketts said he also plans a similar coast-to-coast trip in 2013, using sun and water.