Electric Cars & Roadside Architecture

Let’s look a few years into the future. Electric cars are starting to grab more market share as batteries get lighter and more cost effective. With tax incentives, they’re starting to look like a feasible alternative to traditional gas powered cars and hybrids. For the typical driver, hey make great commuter cars, but still lack the range to go many hundreds of miles on a single charge.

I know, this is some science fiction, but you’re going to have to come with me on this one for a minute.

So how is any true American supposed to fulfill the dream of a cross-country road trip with one of these things? That’s where I’m hoping we can see a resurgence by an American original, the roadside diner. There are still diners that exist, but not on turnpikes and interstates. That’s the domain of Roy Rogers hamburgers and coffee from a machine. This is due to how easy it is to fill up your car on the road. It takes you five minutes to fill up your tank, you send in your buddy to grab you a sandwich while you mind the car, and then you eat it on the road. But with electric cars, it’s hard to imagine charging times coming down significantly in the near future, and you can’t carry around a spare. So rest stops are going to need to start responding to the new demands of the electric car.

I think it’s an interesting architecture problem. Since diners haven’t been a thing for 50 years, all of your precedents are going to be in a pretty specific style, a gaudier cousin of mid-century modern. You’ll need way more space than a gas station, because a dozen charging stations are going to fill up fast and stay occupied for longer. And the people who aren’t hungry are going to need amenities to, even just a comfortable place to set up their laptop.

All of this is pretty idealistic, but it’s been fun to think on since last year, when the Volt and the Leaf came out. When I do some sketching on it, I’ll make sure it ends up on here.

2 thoughts on “Electric Cars & Roadside Architecture

  1. I actually thought about this while I was on the road in the Southwest last summer. In general, there were plenty of stretches of highway (we avoided the interstates) where there was nothing at all! No place to stop, save for a few ghost-like towns from a bygone era. The real trick, I think, is to get this concept rolling with small businesses so that it is actually helpful to local economies. After all, does anyone really want to stop for a meal at Denny’s? The only reason to go there is that there is nowhere else to go.

    • Exactly. Like Angela said when she read this, I kind of wish I would have thought of this for my thesis. Ah well, it’s more fun when it’s not for a grade anyways.


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