Solar Advocate Retraces Historic New York to Detroit Drive in Ford Focus Electric

By Sean J.

Seeing really is believing. That’s why – regardless of claims, data or advertising that boasts a vehicle’s capabilities – sometimes it takes a good, old fashioned field test to get people to believe it.

Take for example the story of Roy Chapin. Roy was an engineer and auto executive at the turn of the 20th century who drove his automobile from Detroit to New York. His mission: to assuage the public misconception that automobiles were of limited range and impractical for driving long distances.

Flash forward to 2012, where environmental concerns and high gas prices create demand for alternative means of powering vehicles; where technology and innovation have coalesced to create a new market that contains vehicles that can run exclusively on electricity.

But it’s a world where many believe EVs are of limited range limited range and impractical for driving long distances. Sound familiar?

It did to Ty Newell, a mechanical engineer and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. Ty has been a solar power advocate for decades, and was one of the first in the nation to purchase a 2012 Ford Focus Electric .

Upon receipt of his new Focus EV, Ty and his wife Deb set forth on a journey, retracing the route (in reverse) taken some 111 years ago by Roy Chapin.

“The original trip in 1901 was a first for its time. Americans at that time believed automobiles were for cruising around town much like they view the current electric vehicle,” said Ty.

The Newells departed Long Island, New York on July 7th with a profound sense of historical irony and a mission to prove the concept of the all-electric vehicle. Their destination would be to return from whence it came, the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan where the Focus Electric is built.

It wasn’t all business, though. During their roughly 120 mile per day journey, the Newells made sure to visit a wide variety of historic landmarks and places of interest. This was also a honeymoon of sorts for Ty and Deb, who were celebrating their anniversary on the road.

As the Newells sparked their trail across the eastern U.S., they became familiar with the in-vehicle technology of the Focus Electric and the joys of being EV owners. Good route planning and adept navigation were both essential. But as they would soon find out, there’s only so much planning you could do ahead of time.

Ty and Deb completed their journey on July 13th , 2012, as Ford representatives applauded their arrival at the Michigan Assembly Plant.

Also on hand to greet the Newells was Bill Chapin, President of the Automotive Hall of Fame. Bill is the grandson of Roy Chapin, the man who drove from Detroit to New York over a century ago, and whose journey Ty and Deb had just completed in reverse.

And wouldn’t you know it? Ty’s grandfather had, at one point, worked with Bill’s grandfather, bringing this incredible journey full circle.

Will Ty’s journey in his Focus Electric do the same for the EV as Roy’s did for the automobile over 100 years ago?

You can learn more about Ty’s solar power advocacy on his blog Focus on Solar . The blog documents the journey from Long Island to Detroit in their 2012 Ford Focus Electric (nicknamed “The Sun Catcher”) and contains lots of information on “EV-ing,” as well as living a solar lifestyle.
Larry H 09/10/2012
A cross-country trip in my new Focus sounds like fun!
Randy G 07/25/2012
I offered to buy a Focus Electric and drive it from the plant in Michigan to California over a year ago. The marketing company refused saying the idea had to come from them. Sad. They lost a customer. I have a 1975 Honda and a Prius. It would have been my first american car.
betty j 07/25/2012
Really like what I read.
Solar Advocate Retraces Historic New York to Detroit Drive in Ford Focus Electric
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