One of the most electrifying attractions on Route is located in Kingman, Arizona. Currently it is in an embryonic state. But now, with an eye on the fast approaching Route 66 centennial, the envisioned electric vehicle museum and educational complex is moving closer to becoming a reality.
The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation‘s current display of electric cars at the Powerhouse Visitor Center is the only collection of its kind. With the foundation’s recent acquisition of two historic buidlings on Beale Street, and the city’s purchase of a buillding in the same block, plans initially made in 2014 to ensure Kingman is known as the crossroads of the past and future took a major step forward.
Tesla, Rivian and electric vehicles being developed by leading manufacturers, and the development of related infrastucture are popular topics of discussion. But there is a surprising lack of awareness about the history of electric vehciles, a shortcoming that is being addressed by the EV display, and planned museum in Kingman.
Ferdinand Porsche’s began his automotive association with electric vehicles. Studebaker, the world’s largest manufacture of wheeled vehicles in the world in the late 19th century, initiated automobile manufacturing with an electric car.
Electric taxi cabs and busses were a common sight on the streets of New York City in the years bracketing the dawn of the 20th century. Many of these were manufactured by the Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago established in 1899. At that time the $10 million in capital stock sold to several Standard Oil executives and investors from Toronto, Canada, Europe and the United States was a record.
In 1917 the company produced the Woods Dual Power, a gasoline/electric hybrid. The car was revolutionary, but it was not the first vehicle to use this configuration. In 1896, Henry Dey, an electrical engineer, developed a gasoline/electric hybrid that was also the first car with an electric starter.
Dey had patented a revolutionary storage battery in 1889. Six years later he established Dey-Griswold to produce an electric phaeton. The car used the second generation Dey High Potential Series Battery, The revolutionary car also featured a primitive version of the fluid drive automatic transmission.
One of the historically significant vehicles in the foundations collection is a Henney Kilowatt manufactured in 1959 and 1960. Historians estimate that there are fewer than 25 of these unique Renault bodied vehicles in existence, and of these less than ten are functional.
In 1959, Russell Feldman, president of the National Union Electric Corporation, parent company of the Henney coachwork firm, and battery producer for Exide Batteries, asked Renault to deliver 100 Dauphines without powertrains. The Dauphine was chosen because there was some remaining stock in the United States, remnants of an aborted attempt to gain a foothold in the American market.
There were additional reasons for Feldman’s decision to use the Renault Dauphine. It was lighter than most American cars of the period. And the rear-mounted engine compartment was ideally suited for a General Electric motor unit.
Since 1946 people have been humming a tune about getting your kicks on Route 66. But now people can get a charge on Route 66. With their their Tesla plugged in at the Powerhouse Visitor Center, Kingman visitors can learn about the cars and technology that are at the foundation of the modern EV revolution.