A 1938 Packard on Route 66 provided startling contrast to the EV adventure in an VW ID4. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

An EV adventure on Route 66. Me. The fellow that courted his dearest friend forty two years ago in a 1946 GMC. The same person that envisions an adventure on Route 66 during the centennial year in a 1929 Ford Model A just made a 400 mile trip from Kingman to Winslow, Arizona, and back again, in an EV VW ID4.

Seldom do I need a great deal of encouragement to embark on a road trip. I will drop what I am doing in a heartbeat if given an opportunity to travel with a friend, enjoy some lively conversation, and meet with like minded people that are using Route 66 to transform their community.

But added incentive for this odyssey was an opportunity to get some real world, from the passenger seat, experience with an EV on the open road. This was going to be a Jim Hinckley’s America adventure for the record books.

Blurring The Line

Cowboy philosophers met during my years working ranches in the southwest filled my head with adages, bits of wisdom and witticisms. A few of these are applicable to this story. “Ignorance is curable but there is not a damn thing that you can do about stupidity.” “Don’t follow the herd over the cliff.” “You are the only one to blame for buying what the grifter is trying to sell.”

In today’s world, when it comes to the electric vehicle (or election integrity, health care, face masks, inflation, or the price of gas) myth, rumor, conspiracy, and the opinions of talking heads on “news” networks masks the truth, muddies the water, gives the illusion that ignorance is a virtue, and taints conversation. So, before forming an opinion I prefer to do a bit of research. So, as my knowldege of electric vehicles wasn’t much better than a frogs understanding of tap dancing shoes, this trip was a golden opportunity. Before setting out on this voyage of discovery my experience with electric vehicles was limted to a few local cruises in a Tesla.

Aside from the Tesla charging stations, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency or standard for charging facilities. In my mind that blurred the line between past and present.

Currently I am reading Motoring West: Automobile Pioneers 1900 to 1909, a compilation of articles orignally printed in the first decade of the 20th century. I found a number of similarities between the EV adventure on Route 66 and that of early “automobilists.” An article about a cross country trip published in 1905 noted that, “Gasoline has commenced to come pretty high, while the quality goes in the opposite direction. There was a time in Ohio when we could get fuel at 15 or 18 cents a gallon. Now it is 30 to 35, and even 45 cents a gallon, and every hundred miles farther west it is reported as being a few cents more.”

On The Road

Our destination when we left Kingman was the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona communities meeting in Winslow, Arizona, a drive of a little more than 200 miles.The first leg of the trip to Williams was almost all up hill, 3,300 feet in elevation to 6,755 feet. Aside from the futuristic (at least to me) dash, there was nothing to differentiate the drive from hundreds that I have made along this road.

The car still had ample range, but mi amigo was an experienced EV owner and so he stopped to top off the batteries. My dearest friend and I have a habit of making our first pit stop in Williams during our travels. So, that too seemed fitting.

Electrify America

But the charging process was completely foreign to anything that I was familiar with and so I found it quite fascinating. Using the Electrify America charging facility during a twenty minute pit stop didn’t provide a full charge but it was more than adequate for what was needed.

The Winslow Visitor Center and chamber of commerce housed in the historic Hubbell Trading Post has a charging station on site. This provided an additional education. It was a free slow charger. At the end of the meeting that included lunch, the charge to the batteries was less than what we had gotten in 20 minutes from the station in Williams. Consistency, as it was with gasoline in 1905, was an issue. So, on the return leg we made another stop in Williams, but for only ten minutes.

My short adventure provided me with a glimpse of the future. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Recent and dramatic development of battery as well as charging technologies will ensure that in coming years they will be even better suited to compete with gasoline powered cars. But there is a caveat. The Achille’s heel with EV vehicles aside from Tesla is not the availability of charging facilities, but the consistency.

Past Meets Future

It may come as a surprise to learn that electric busses and taxis were operating on the streets of New York City in the 1890s. Then as now the electric vehicle was practical for urban usage. Their practicality for long distance travel is a recent phenomenon.

And I am confident that as with the automobile itself 120 years ago, the rapid development of supportive infrastructure will also fuel their popularity. Education is key. On the highway it is hard to tell the difference between and electric or fossil fuel powered vehicle. But charging and the charging station is nothing like the gas station.

And that takes me to a closing thought. The gas station today is almost unrecognizable from the gas stations of my youth. I survived the transition by learning to adapt. And I learned to have a balanced perspective. The gas station today is better than the gas station of old. The gas station that I remember fondly with the bell that announced the arrival of customers was better than the souless mini-mart of today. It’s the old best of times, worst of times scenario.






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