Meet the Media: Sebastian Blanco, Editor-in-Chief of Automotive Engineering

I write with a focus on electric vehicles and other alternative powertrains. For over a decade, I was the editor-in-chief of AutoblogGreen and as of fall 2023, I became the editor-in-chief of the Automotive Engineering magazine published by SAE Media. I still freelance, and enjoy my work for a good roster of publications, including Car and Driver, Forbes, Automotive News, and others. Freelancing means you never know what you’ll be writing about on any given day, so my portfolio has broadened in surprising ways. Some days my editors must love to challenge me, like at CES a few years ago where one said he wanted to know what was new with automotive radar that year. That’s a broad request, but it ended up being a lot of fun to track down and write.

Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?

The continued growth of electric vehicles never bores me, even after 15+ years. In 2024, I expect to focus on the technical details of EV powertrains, ADAS and automated driving technologies – including sensors and silicon – as these are the building blocks for our future cars, and companies are absolutely working on them today. 

Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.

In 2014, I rode along with a group of passionate EV fans through Europe for two weeks. Every year, they gather for the grassroots WAVE event, seeing the sights and proselytizing about the value – environmental and societal – of plugging in instead of gassing up, talking to school kids and interested members of the public in whatever small towns their caravan drove through. I still think of their passion as I write about an OEM launching yet another EV. These days, these individual announcements are rarely tremendously exciting, but the idea that this one, whatever it is, might be the EV that gets one more person on board with the massive change we’re going through makes it worth it. 

What story or stories are you most proud of?

I remember being at the launch of the original Tesla Roadster, back when you could walk around the small airport hanger in Santa Monica and get Elon Musk to answer some questions. That night and a quick test drive a while later showed me that EVs are undoubtedly a blast and that things wouldn’t ever be the same. I just didn’t realize how long it would take for the rest of the world to come around to this understanding. We’re not there yet, but the upcoming launch of electric trucks and SUVs can only help. Oh, and I almost elbowed Arnold Schwarzenegger in the crotch that night.

What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?

I’m  now most interested in stories that reveal a little something about how engineers attack problems. Whether that’s through collaboration (like the way the Honda Prologue and Chevy Blazer EV were put together) or simply a new way to look at things, what engineers are thinking about is a key way to understand the future.   

How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?

I wrote my first story when I was 16. It was for the local newspaper (I miss those) and about a kid getting his Eagle Badge. I knew I never wanted to do anything other than write for my living, but it wasn’t until getting a lucky break at Autoblog that I started writing about cars. Before that, I was the editor of an Arts & Entertainment magazine and covered lots of local politics in Michigan and Hawaii as well as writing personal essays from my time spent living in Japan. Aside from automotive writing, I also translate (German-to-English) articles for a board gaming magazine. 

Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …

Cooking, hiking, playing board games or following Pearl Jam around.

What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?

Make sure that you double-check the name on your pitch. I’m not XX and I might not write for the boilerplate publication you have listed. We’re all stressed for time, but when you don’t take the time to respect the people you’re pitching, they’re not going to respect your pitch. 

Any pet peeves with PR people?

Pretending like they know me when they say, “I read your article on …” at the start of their pitch. I can tell when they just linked to the first result of their search. I know it’s not a standard PR trait, but being honest and saying “We’d like to reach out to you, a stranger, because of …” will work on me more times than the pseudo-friend angle. 

Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, some fact about you that few people know, etc.)

I grew up and now once again live in rural Michigan, but have called Germany, Japan, Georgia (U.S.) and Hawaii home. It’s a good place to live, especially not that we’ve actually got a fiber internet connection.

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