KINGMAN - The upcoming International Route 66 Festival is beginning to attract some big guns to the city for the event.
The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to attend the festival and support making Route 66 the first national electric highway. The nonprofit foundation is located in Carlsborg, Wash., and its mission is to teach the history of electric vehicles and preserve examples of them. It wants to build the first international electric vehicle museum.
Roderick Wilde, the foundation's executive director, said the festival's theme of "Kingman - Crossroads of the Past and Future" first got the board's attention, but the conferences and exhibits clinched the deal. The conferences include "Route 66: America's First Electric Highway," which will feature presentations about the history and use of electric vehicles, and installing charging stations along the Mother Road to make it the nation's first electric highway. It also focuses on the development of Route 66 and includes an exhibit of alternative energy vehicles.
Wilde said electric vehicles are important to the future of the U.S. because they are an efficient use of energy, save money and release the nation from being hostage to oil-rich countries that demand top dollar for their fuel. Wilde said bringing electric vehicles to the festival helps educate people about their uses.
"Most people do not even realize that at the turn of the [last] century, in this country, there were almost twice as many registered eclectic cars on the road as gasoline-powered vehicles," said Wilde. "EVs have a very rich history and have continued to be a very important part of our economy, although until the last decade they were mostly used for industrial purposes. This is a very exciting time to be alive and witness the new age of the electric vehicle."
Topics at the conference will include the role of electric vehicles in the development of the American auto industry, use of Route 66 popularity to stimulate interest in electric vehicles, statewide initiatives for developing infrastructure on the Mother Road for electric vehicles, bicycle tourism, methods to attract a new generation to Route 66, projects currently under development, building coalitions to preserve historic infrastructure, the road's international appeal, historic motel acquisition, and Route 66 success stories.
A tentative list of speakers includes Wilde, Jerry Asher of the Tucson Electric Vehicle Association, local Mother Road author Jim Hinckley, Kumar Patel of Wigwam Motel in Rialto, Dan Rice of the Route 66 Alliance, Renee Charles of the Kansas Route 66 Association and Kaisa Barthuli, who is program manager of the National Park Service's Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.
Asher, who has driven across the U.S. in electric vehicles for years to show off their viability and endurance, will be speaking about plug-in hybrid cars, such as the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius, and the advantages of making Route 66 into what he calls the Green Mother Road.
"A conference like this is important," said Asher. "Energy independence has been the battle cry in the U.S., and it's nonpartisan. There are a lot of possibilities out there that we can tap into, and if we had energy independence, we could get away from importing oil and the possibility of the pollution that is found in China. Why don't we bring back our production base with this new technology?"
The foundation will be bringing six electric vehicles of historical significance to the festival for exhibition.
They include a 1930 Detroit Electric, a 1960 Electric Shopper, a 1961 Trident and the world's first electric street rod, a 1929 Ford Roadster that has been featured in several magazines and international car shows.
Also, John Wayland, the foundation's marketing director, will be driving a 400-mile range EV2 that he created from Oregon to the festival.