Famed U.S. Route 66 To Go Electric In Illinois, With State Support


Road trip on historic U.S. Route 66 (Images: Antony Ingram)

Road trip on historic U.S. Route 66 (Images: Antony Ingram)

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As the song says, you can "get your kicks" on Route 66--but soon you'll also be able to get a charge.

The historic highway and the towns it passes through were largely done in by the construction of the Interstate highway system, but the need to stop and charge every so often makes an electric-car road trip more suited to the slower pace of Route 66.

MORE: Can Plug-In Electric Road Trips Revitalize Fading Historic Route 66?

The Route 66 revival is picking up speed in Illinois, where the state government is investing $1 million to install charging stations along a roughly 300-mile section of the road between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River border with Missouri.

Chicago, by Flickr user Jamie in Bytown (used under CC License)

Chicago, by Flickr user Jamie in Bytown (used under CC License)

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Dubbed the Illinois Route 66 Electric Corridor, the project will facilitate electric-car travel between Chicago and St. Louis.

Eight cities--Plainfield, Dwight, Pontiac, Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, and Edwardsville--will each install at least one public charging station accessible from Route 66.

One of the cities along the route--Normal--is also home to a large number of Mitsubishi i-MiEV and other electric cars, thanks to an aggressive infrastructure and incentive program.

DON'T MISS: Cross-Country Electric-Car Trips: Reality For A Few, Getting Closer For Many

Each of the new Route 66 charging sites will include at least one DC fast-charging station--with either CHAdeMO or CCS connectors--and one 240-Volt Level 2 station.

Installation of these stations is expected to begin this month, and Illinois officials hope to have the entire network completed by summer 2015.

The effort is backed by BMW, Mitsubishi and Nissan--which will oversee charging--station installation in Edwardsville--with technical support from the University of California, Davis.

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

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The more urbanized landscape of Illinois may be far from the desert scenery and kitschy roadside attractions typically associated with Route 66, but the revitalized road will be as much an electrified intercity corridor as it is a tourist attraction.

ALSO SEE: Even Small Towns See Demand For Electric-Car Charging

As the national network of charging stations grows, longer-distance electric-car travel will become more convenient, breaking down one of the major barriers to widespread adoption.

For now at least, having to stop periodically could also make trips a little more memorable, and stimulate local economies--just as it did during the heyday of Route 66.

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