HOUSTON — To be honest, we're not sure what we're getting into.
We're the first drivers for E&E News' Electric Road Trip. Our route starts this morning in Houston at the iconic statue of Sam Houston, the city's namesake, a few miles outside downtown. We roll into Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, more than 1,000 miles later.
That's just the first chunk of a nation-size route. In all, nine reporters will log a combined 6,000 miles and pass through 17 states over two months.
Our Texas-based crew has more than two decades of energy reporting experience, spanning electricity, oil and gas. Edward has written about power and fossil fuels during his 13 years in Houston, which bills itself as the world's energy capital. Mike has covered oil and gas issues for about the same time from Dallas-Fort Worth.
We know where we're going, and we've done our homework. We know what kind of car we're driving. (We took a Tesla Model S for a spin yesterday, and we're relying on a white Kia Niro EV EX Premium from today until we reach Nashville.) We've read the online reviews. We've pinpointed charging stations. We've set up interviews with smart people on the route.
This week, we'll publish a story about how the switch to electric vehicles could affect Houston's historically oil- and car-dependent economy. As we travel, we hope to dig into how battery-powered vehicles may affect everything from the utility industry to car salesmen.
But there's a lot we don't know. Electric vehicles are a new phenomenon in the U.S., and the network of charging stations is still being built.
So far, no one seems to know how well this new system really works. We've seen the stories about how a routine eight-hour car trip can morph into a 13-hour ordeal. We're going to be watching for insights about electric vehicles — and eating barbecue along the way. Then we're going to hand the car off to another duo who'll continue the journey.
We're prepared. We've got a blanket, a flashlight, a first aid kit. Bottled water for us. Charging cables and adapters for the car.
Highway travel has gotten safer in the last few decades as the world has become digitized and connected. Between mobile phones and GPS, it's awfully hard to get lost these days.
But there's still a sense that we're stepping off into the unknown. If any other news outlet has driven a lap around the country in a fleet of battery-powered cars, we haven't heard about it. And that's what makes the journey so interesting.
Here we go.