WHILE America’s Route 66 is internationally known, Britain and Ireland’s Route 57 is more of a mystery.
Yesterday, the first electric car to make the 2,570 mile trip, stopping at 57 must-see destinations along the way, came to Swindon.
The environmentally friendly trip, lasting 20 days, began in Plymouth last Wednesday and will finish in Galway in Ireland on April 26.
It will take in stops of every size, from the smallest villages to the largest cities, along the way.
The electric car, a KIA Soul EV, was met on its arrival in Swindon by the town’s mayor Andrew Bennett.
The route, inspired by its better known equivalent in the USA, was designed by the hotel chain Jurys Inn in an effort to boost tourism in lesser known parts of the UK and Ireland – giving people a reason to stop off at the places they may otherwise just have passed by.
An estimated 200,000 people travel from across America and the world every year to drive all or part of the American route which stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles.
It is estimated to be worth a staggering $170 million to the US economy in tourism revenue and while Route 57 is unlikely to reach those levels, the travel industry would no doubt be delighted with even a small slice of that success.
An electric car is being used in an effort to bust some of the myths associated with a mode of transport that has yet to truly take off among the general public.
Defying the milk-float come golf-buggy image of an electric car, the Kia Soul EV can do 0-60 mph in 11.2 seconds and has a top speed of 90mph.
A full charge costs just £2.80 and will provide enough power to travel up to 132 miles at a time.
One downside is the time it takes to top up – unlike the normal 2 or 3 minutes at a petrol pump, a full charge on this car can take up to 5 hours if the battery is fully depleted.
The car is being driven by motoring journalist and blogger Jess Shanahan, she has been sharing her progress via social media and keeping followers up to date with her journey so far.
When she arrived in Swindon, Jess said: “This is the first time I have driven an electric car so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
“It’s very smooth, a bit like an automatic but you can definitely feel the difference.
“Charging hasn’t been an issue, it has actually been nice to break up the journey.
“We drive a little bit, then we stop to charge it up, then we drive a little bit more – it’s quite relaxing.”
To follow Jess’ progress and to learn about the Route 57 itinerary, you can visit www.route57.org.uk