How Will The Electric Car Affect The Great American Road Trip?

With current electric car technology featuring relatively limited range (up to 100 miles – 160 kilometres usually), what is the future of the Great American Road Trip? Generations of Americans have packed the station wagon and set off on road trips with friends or family, driving hundreds or even thousands of miles across the US and stopping in at sights like the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, taking photos and creating memories that last a lifetime. Are these the final days of the road trip? If you have an electric car with a 100 mile range, driving cross country will involve stopping and waiting 8 hours for a recharge. Or will it?

Driving coast to coast on Route 50 is a total distance of 3,073 miles which works out to 31 x 8 hour stops in all. However, purpose-built electric car recharging stations offer high-powered 30 amp  440 volt recharging, which reduces recharge times down to 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on your electric car’s specifications. This isn’t as quick as a your usual gasoline splash n’ dash it’s a far more enticing option than an 8 hour layover.

Interestingly, small towns across the US have been hard at work, perhaps realising the potential revenue from electric car drivers spending money on goods and services in town whilst their car recharges, towns like Vacaville have more electric car recharging stations than any other place in the country on a per capita basis, other towns like Westport, Madison, Woodland aren’t far behind and these are just the first of many across the US that are hoping on board the electric car bandwagon.

All this new infrastructure is potentially, all be it slowly,  leading towards a revival of the economies in small towns across North America. With affluent electric car drivers travelling cross country needing to stop off every 100 miles or so to refill their lithium with electrons small town businesses like diners, bookstores, cafés, supermarkets and cinemas can expect to see a much needed boost in out-of-town revenue. The electric car’s early adopters have been shown to be wealthier and slightly older than you might expect, more or less exactly the demographic that small towns hope to attract. Obviously, adoption of electric cars will have to be much higher than it is today in order for this to have a serious impact, it is worth keeping in mind that the Nissan Leaf has already sold initial its production run for the US – 13,000 units and counting. This trend is widely expected to continue as more electric cars become available over the next 2-3 years and gas prices continue their gradual increase. Could the electric car be the saving grace of well equipped towns as well as the environment? We won’t know for 5-10 years how big the impact will be but it is certainly worth thinking about, especially if you live in Small Town, USA.

Top image courtesy of CaryP Photography

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5 Comments

Battery swap stations- they’re here, NOW. Well, by here- meaning planet earth- not in the US, yet. Change your batteries in less time than it takes to fill up your tank, a win-win on all fronts!

http://inhabitat.com/2010/06/16/better-place-starts-a-real-world-battery-swapping-test-in-tokyo/

It might not be full-scale at present, but I have faith that our engineers will make it so very quickly. Either way- small town america should see a revival from more frequent stops.

I don’t know what the big hype is about electric cars. Although they do sound a little more friendly on the pocket instead of shelling out money for foreign gas. Figure, this power is still going to come from COAL power plants for the most part. The batteries still contain hazardous material not friendly for the environment. So when we have millions of batteries all around what are we going to do with them?

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