Going cross-country, Electric Car Challenge begins

Paula Duffy's picture

A Ford Focus Electric auto left the N.Y. Auto Show on Wednesday April 11. The Electric Car Challenge is to travel cross-country for a new type of road trip.

UPDATE----Thursday April 12, 2012-----The first leg of the Electric Car Challenge was a trip from New York City to High Bridge, NJ. There they found the friendly folks at Mrs. Riley’s Pub on Main Street for their first recharge. The establishment installed a charging station in 2009. Through a combination of GPS information and smart phone apps the Ford Focus Electric vehicle is making its way across the country from charging station to charging station. Original story follows:
Organized by the folks at Men's Health magazine, the challenge hopes to rely on the "kindness of strangers" or in today's parlance, crowdsourcing to keep the 2012 Ford Focus Electric moving along, getting charges from public stations or those privately owned. The vehicle has a range of 76 miles before a charge is needed.

The origin of the idea is explained by David Zinczenko, Men's Health editor-in-chief: “With gas prices expected to reach nearly $5 per gallon this summer, the Great American Road Trip is poised for a Great American Renaissance. We created the Electric Car Challenge to demonstrate a more eco-friendly approach to the road trip that will have a positive effect on you, your wallet, and the environment.”

The Electric Car Challenge web page on the Men's Health site identified a team of drivers, some in for the long haul and others for short stretches of the trip.

They include X-Games gold medalist Tanner Foust, co-host of Top Gear USA; IndyCar and American Le Mans racer Martin Plowman; and former Navy SEAL commander Coleman Ruiz, executive director of Carry the Load, a foundation that supports the families of U.S. soldiers who’ve been killed in combat. There will be fundraising for the foundation along the trip route.

Part-timers on the road trip are: Men’s Health Girl Next Door columnist Naomi Piercey, Miss Indiana 2009 Nicole Pollard; and Carry the Load spokesmodel Katie Cwynar.

The team needs access to 240v, 40-amp outlets which they believe will be required up to 55 times during the Challenge. Since that kind of outlet is used for home clothes dryers it is hoped that homeowners will be following the route via the Challenge Twitter page and the Men's Health website and volunteer to act as a charging station.

NBC News said that there is resistance to purchasing electric vehicles because of something called "range anxiety" and the trip is aimed at changing public perception of the difficulty finding charging stations.

Ford had to be convinced to lend the vehicle to Men's Health. As one of the team drivers who is a senior editor of the magazine said: "The Focus Electric is designed for urban commuting, so we’re asking the car to do something it wasn’t intended to do,” said Eric Adams. We commend Ford for their willingness to put their faith in our planning skills and efficient driving.”

The auto recently received a 110 mile-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) rating from the EPA for city driving. The team will be accompanied by a Ford F-150 EcoBoost support vehicle and the driving team will rotate behind the wheel to allow for proper rest for all concerned.

The auto's route will take the Ford Focus Electric through Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Los Angeles and according to the website, will stay off highways for the most part.
The aim is to arrive in Los Angeles within 10-12 days of beginning the trip, possibly coinciding with Earth Day on April 22, 2012.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, January 2011 photo of Ford Focus Electric at Washington Auto Show

Electric Car Challenge official website linked, here.

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