Even if you’ve never visited the U.S., the chances are you’ve heard about its iconic Route 66. No longer an official part of the U.S. highway system having been decommissioned in the 1980s, Route 66 still draws visitors from all around the world to experience its legends and live its dreams.
That’s with good reason. Route 66 was the first U.S. highway to be paved along its entire length. It was home to the first drive-thru restaurant and McDonalds fast food outlet.
And if the Route 66 International Festival committee — helped by the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation and Electric Highway Route 66 Alliance — get their way, Route 66 will also become the first national electric highway anywhere in the U.S.
Roderick Wilde, executive director of HEVF, says the electrification of Route 66 is not only a fitting tribute to its long history, but gives EV drivers a chance to enjoy Route 66’s famous blacktop without getting range anxiety.
“The concept of it becoming America’s First Electric Highway was started in 2006,” he told Transport Evolved earlier. “It continues to this day as a grass roots effort to have free charging along the entire length of what’s left of the original Route 66 Highway.”
What’s more, Route 66 joins some of the United States’ EV hotspots, from Los Angeles in the west to Normal, Illinois near its northernmost tip. At some points, the historic Route 66 is already served by electric car charging infrastructure, ranging from simple 110-volt outlets through to Level 2 public charging stations and even Tesla Superchargers.
But the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation wants Route 66 to be entirely traversable by electric car, from Los Angeles, California to Chicago, Illinois. That’s more than 2,400 miles of road. To mark the start of that endeavour, the HEVF will exhibit some of its finest historic electric vehicle exhibits at this year’s Route 66 International Festival, which takes place at a different location alongside Route 66 every year.
In today’s world of long-distance, coast-to-coast Tesla Model S travel and entire electrified Interstate routes, travelling long-distance by electric car isn’t exactly new. But, says Wilde and the many Route 66 Electrification supporters out there, electrifying what remains of highway route 66 is a completely different matter.
For a start, instead of travelling from point A to point B as quickly as possible via freeway, travel by highway is as much about the journey as the destination. It’s about stopping to take a look at the scenery. Enjoying the unknown. Taking your time.
Because of the time electric cars take to recharge, even ones capable of rapid recharging, travel by highway, not freeway, makes sense for EV owners making a longer-distance trip, especially those travelling in older or limited-range electric cars.
And by encouraging independent businesses along Route 66 to support EV adoption by offering free charging to EV owners, the Electric Highway Route 66 Alliance hopes to promote this historic route as an alternative to today’s impersonal I-5 freeways. Naturally, those offering charging can look forward to increased revenue from travelling EV owners. It’s a win-win situation and one which is open to all types of EVs, from home-conversions and historical EVs through to factory-built production cars.
“Electrifying Route 66 will enable people to have a great American adventure traveling silently by electric vehicle across the nation on this historic stretch of highway,” Wilde explains, adding that exhibiting some of the HEVF collection at the Route 66 International Festival this summer is a great way of capturing the imagination.
Cars currently expected to be on display include a 1930 Detroit Electric, a 1960 Electric Shopper, and a 1961 Trident EV. Also present on the HEVF stand this August will be the country’s first all-electric Street Rod, a 1929 electrified Ford Model A, and the EV2 — a converted all-electric first-yen Honda Insight built by drag-racing legend John Wayland using the same electric motor found in GM’s legendary but now crushed EV1 — to cover more than 400 miles per charge.
“I envision a road where EVs with less range can tour this important part of American culture in such cars as the Niisan Leaf and even in conversions,” he continues. “This electrification will help revitalize many of these small towns. Think of it as helping to save the history or this important part of American culture.”
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