Craig Matthew Childers, an engineer with the California Air Resources Board who championed electric vehicle technology, died Aug. 22 of a sudden cardiac event, his family said. He was 57.
Inspired by a lifelong love of cars and a desire to save the world from climate change, Mr. Childers was a firm believer in zero-emission vehicles. A Davis resident, he drove prototype electric cars around town and owned 21 City El vehicles, a small, three-wheel model from Germany. He volunteered in communities to help create charging stations for electric vehicles.
At the Air Resources Board since 1999, he helped develop regulations for automakers to produce and sell zero-emission vehicles in California. As a technical expert on batteries and charging stations, he led the way on requiring manufacturers to use standardized plugs and on other infrastructure issues.
Mr. Childers preached the benefits of electric vehicles in car-conscious California. He volunteered many hours setting up displays and demonstrations at community events. He helped judge a contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy among teams of university students who build electric cars.
A mechanical engineer and patent owner, he had a gift for explaining technology and an infectious enthusiasm that engaged listeners. He organized a parade of electric vehicles at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day event and showed youngsters how electric motors and batteries work.
"Craig was very eager to educate people about electric vehicle technology," CARB supervisor Analisa Bevan said. "He was a kid at heart."
Born Oct. 29, 1955, at North Island Naval Station on Coronado Island, Mr. Childers grew up working on muscle cars in his parents' garage in suburban Los Angeles.
An Eagle Scout, he graduated from Glendora High School and earned a degree in mechanical engineering and materials science from UC Davis in 1978.
He received a patent for developing an early 3-D printing technique while working for various companies in Southern California. He returned to Davis in 1993 and worked at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District before joining CARB.
He was a registered mechanical engineer and active member of SAE International, formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers. He helped organize the SAE's annual symposium on hybrid and electric vehicles and was a regular at automobile manufacturer trade shows.
Mr. Childers had an enthusiasm for life, endless curiosity and a penchant for innovation, friends said. He rarely appeared at social gatherings without a backpack full of books, reference materials and notebooks that he filled with ideas.
"He had that kind of mind that is always making connections between things," friend Lisa Lien-Mager said. "He was a geek, but totally cool."
Mr. Childers was a fan of classic rock and loved going to concerts. He played 12-string, classical and electric guitars.
"On Fridays and Saturdays, two hours were reserved for him to play electric guitar," his wife, Kacey, said. "Everybody left the house."
Besides his wife, Mr. Childers is survived by his parents Alfred and Josephine; brothers Russell, Glenn and Douglass; and stepdaughters Jessica Lieding, Katelyn Lieding and Callie Lieding.
A celebration of life is set for 3 to 8 p.m. Sept. 14 at Putah Creek Lodge at UC Davis.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.