Crossroads of The Past & Future

Published by The Bee News

February 8, 2024

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Crossroads of the past and future. That might be a fitting tag line for the promotion of Kingman, Arizona if the ambitious plans of the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation come to fruition.

In 2014, in partnership with the City of Kingman, the foundation established an embryonic EV museum at the Powerhouse Visitor Center. The display of historic electric vehicles opened during the 2014 International Route 66 Festival. That festival included a first of its kind conference that speakers representing European Route 66 associations, the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation program, and the foundation. The conference was the cornerstone for the annual Route 66 Miles of Possibility Conference.

Dawn of A New Era

Even though the display has been relatively stagnant since its opening, work to create a museum and educational complex has been ongoing. A diverse array of electric vehicles were acquired by the foundation. And recently the foundation acquired the city’s orignal fire station and the territorial era Oddfellows Lodge on Fourth Street in the historic business district.

Electric vehciles are currently a hot topic of conversation, and a point of contention. Rapid and dramatic developments in battery technology as well as charging facilities are ensuring that electric vehciles are now becoming a viable competitor for gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. And various types of hybrids bridge the traditional and the futuristic.

Even though interest in, and develop of, the EV and the hybrid generate a great deal of media attention, few are aware of the history behind these vehicles. Education about the history of these vehicles, and their future, is the foundation of the historic Electric Vehicle Foundations plans to create a comprehensive museum as well as educational center in Kingman.

In The Beginning

Surprisingly, in the mid 1890s, the automobile was viewed as the solution for the pollution. Specifically the electric or hybrid vehicle.

In 1894 a study determined that the more than 100,000 horses on the streets of New York City were producing 2.5 million pounds of manure each day. Then there was the gallons of urine. Even worse, unscrupulous owners would often leave dead or dying horses on the street.

The primitive automobile offered an alternative. Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago established in 1899 began manufacturing electric taxi cabs and busses. The company would be an industry leader during the first decades of the 20th century. And in 1916 the company introduced the Woods Dual Power, a gasoline electric hybrid.

Before the advent of a practical electric starter first introduced on production vehicles in the 1912 Cadillac, the electric vehicle was quite popular, especially for urban use or for women. In northeast cities such as Boston and New York City, it was easier to find a facility for charging a v ehicle than it was to buy gasoline. But for travel beyond urban areas, or in rural communities without electricity, the electric vehicle was not a practical option.

Crossroads of the Past and Future

Between the teens and the dawn of the 21st century, the electric vehicle and its proponents were largely relegated to the realm of eccentric visionaries. The Henney Killowatt on display in the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation collection that was produced in 1959 and 1960 is just one example of the electric vehicle during this period.

But introduction of the Telsa and development of supportive infrastructure was the literal crossroads of the past and future. For the first time in history the electric vehicle was practical for use beyond the confines of urabn areas.

Companies such as Karma, Rivian, and Tesla are rapidly advancing related technologies. One example is development of sodium iodine and solid state batteries. The battery was an Achilles heel for the early EV, but that is changing at a very faced pace.

This automotive feature for The Bee was written by author Jim Hinckley, creator of the Jim Hinckley’s America network and former associate editor for Cars & Parts.

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