When I was a young man, a cross country trip in your car meant short pit stops to refill and recharge. Hell, if my math is any good, most cars could go six hours without stopping. It was mother nature that made us stop more often.
Those days are long gone. Since the motor laws of 2030, the furthest a passenger vehicle can go is on average, two hundred and fifty miles. They all claim three hundred miles, but Americans are so fat now, the added weight is sapping miles from most of those longer claims.
I lament on this as I try and stretch my next recharge stop to the furthest possible. It’s kind of a game for me. I really want to do my best to achieve GM’s claims. I don’t accelerate hard, I almost never put the transmission in manual shift mode, and I take advantage of regen mode whenever I can. But alas, I rarely break the two-hundred-and-fifty-mile barrier.
They kept telling us that new discoveries would advance battery technology. That ranges would be extended, and recharge times shortened. Too bad physics wouldn’t give in. All the brightest minds in the world, all the private and government capital that was spent. Still, the technology just never advanced much beyond the limits achieved in the 20’s.
Therefore, instead of offering better technology when they outlawed most internal combustions engines, they forced us to adapt to a new lifestyle. Gas stations gave way to recharging stations, and those went from a dash and go, to a social gathering place.
Why not? If you had a brand-new vehicle, you would be there an hour. If yours was showing its age, then it could be two or more. Enterprising entrepreneurs approached the social gathering recharge stations in several ways. Most made it a place to eat. Franchise agreements filled out these oases along the freeways. A light snack every two to four hours. As if that didn’t add to the obesity problem in America. Make a cross country trip in the family SUV and gain twenty pounds.
An orange pulsing warning appears on my EV’s display telling me that if I don’t stop at the next available charging station, I will be running an extension cord to farmer John’s dairy barn. I groan and tap the Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Damn thing drives itself but leaves the decisions up to us dumb ass humans.
At the top of the ramp, I take manual control of the car. As I guide it into the recharging oasis, I take stock of the amenities offered. This one looks to offer three different food options, a burger franchise, a coffee pastry franchise, and a smoothie franchise. A squat two story building with what seemed like a solid wall of doors advertises bunk rooms for napping. “Sanitized after every use.” I doubted the claim, no body did menial jobs anymore.
“Maybe they do, this place looks like it can afford automots,” I say as I park my Chevy in the covered charging station. It’s a hot day here in South Dakota. The cover provides shade, and solar powered fans and chillers help keep the cars and their batteries cool while charging. Hot batteries do not charge as efficiently.
I contemplate the nap rooms, but instead look to see if there is a gym. I am feeling stiff from being in the car all day, then sitting around one of these places for over an hour. When these first started to spring up around the country, gyms were common in most of them. The developers actually thought that individuals and families would use the down time to burn some calories.
It always amazed me how short business’s memories are. Fast food chains kept introducing healthy options, mostly under pressure from the media, only to take them off the menu later because no one went to Mega Burger for a salad.
Well, it seems an extra hour or two of down time was not enough to motivate Americans to use it to burn calories, stretch some ligaments, flex some muscles. I wasn’t looking to run a marathon. Just thought a brisk walk on a treadmill or some time on an exercise bike would get the blood pumping.
However, after scrolling through the amenities offered by this recharge oasis, I saw no listings for a gym. Not even a small one. As I contemplated my options, I heard a very faint roar. A smile creased my lips and I walked out from under the canopy searching the sky for its source. I spotted the contrail before I saw the airliner cruising at somewhere in the thirty-thousand-foot range. I could almost smell the kerosene from here.
Aviation, the last of the internal combustion engines. Well, and the military, but my soldering days were over. There were electric aircraft, but most of those were used for training, again, the range and recharge issue. Aviation was the reason I was making this cross-country trip. I purchase a new airplane. Well new to me. My first radial engine aircraft. I could not wait to get to the airport in Ohio and smell avgas and hear the distinct thunder of a radial engine.
I am old enough to remember what gas used to smell like before they ruined it with alcohol. I take a deep breath, breathing in through my nose as I remember the good old days.
I decide to take twenty or thirty minutes to walk the perimeter of the oasis. Recently, CNN did a study about how much productivity Americans are losing to these oases. Sure, the businessperson with their 10G wireless connection never miss a beat. But for those of us traveling for pleasure. We must either add a couple of hours to are travel time or subtract it from our travel time. There is also the time lost to waiting for the service truck because someone thought they could stretch their charge a little longer. “You know, it was a cooler day. I can always run further on a cooler day.”
I don’t know if the world is a better place without ground transportation running on gas but is sure doesn’t feel like it to me. I check my device for the time and decide it’s time for a nap.
“How’s that for productive,” I say sarcastically.