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Road Trip | Southeast States | Travel Inspiration
Unlocking the Secrets of an Electric Vehicle Adventure: Neon, Synths, and Hot Rods



Electricity is mesmerizing. Powerful. Unfathomably dynamic. It’s kind of the coolest thing ever. And the fact that we can now use it to power our vehicles? Impressive. We hit the road to harness the power of supercharged protons, electrons, and other sciencey particles to take an electric vehicle (EV) road trip from Atlanta to Nashville and back, making electrifying stops along the way.

We picked up our futuristic-looking mid-size Hyundai Ioniq 5 in Atlanta, the home of the Braves, the world’s juiciest peaches, and an artist who uses our most versatile energy source to make his city glow.

Craig Weido at The Neon Company making a signSign-maker Craig Weido tube bending; Photo courtesy of Boston Heath

Welcome to The Neon Company, known for crafting eye-catching signs bent, filled, and assembled near the Beltline in the heart of Atlanta. Their signs are everywhere you look—from your favorite bar or restaurant to tv shows like Will Trent and programming from Tyler Perry Studios. Sign-maker Craig Weido couldn’t be more proud of his work or craft.

“We do everything from mom-and-pop pizzerias to TV and film projects to man caves to weddings,” said Weido. "We can put neon on just about anything you can think of and a few things you probably haven't imagined yet."

Weido has about 40 years of experience constructing neon signs.

“In slang, we just call it ‘tube bending,’” he shared.

Being a tube-bending master, Weido knows a thing or two about electricity.

“Electricity in the neon shop is basically like catching light in a tube. It’s throwing art into a vacuum from one electrode to another, so you actually get to see the presence of electricity through the gas,” explained Weido.

But it’s not all just science.

“I’d have to say making a neon sign would be about 50-50 art and a little Mr. Wizard weird science,” said Weido. “You have the skill set in the toolbox to bring your true artistic dream to life. Without me knowing, I guess I’m a little more creative than I really thought I was.”

And that kind of creativity makes a particular type of impact.

“When you light up a neon sign, you can see it just touches [someone’s] soul. They light up from the inside and smile from ear to ear,” said Weido. “It’s just the best feeling.”

Hyundai Ioniq 5 chargingThe AAA Mobile app can help EV drivers find charging stations near them; Photo courtesy of Boston Heath

From Atlanta, it’s off to Nashville. We’re all charged up from our conversation with Weido, but the car could use a little electric top-off. It's off to a charging station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for a quick 15-minute charging stop—or so we thought. Getting the charging station to work took several tries—one of the hazards you must plan for on an EV road trip. Luckily, a neighboring charging station had all the juice we needed to get us to Music City before dark.

Our next day is all about music. And just like with our car, going from acoustic to electric opens up entire worlds of sound design and unique genres. And no one knows that better than Michael Hix and Jack Silverman of Nashville Ambient Ensemble.

“The idea of the ensemble was to be a very open platform,” Hix described. “It’s soundscapes with various kinds of instrumentals.”

Silverman added, “It’s electronic music, synthesizers, and a lot of improvisation.”

While Music City has no shortage of musical artists, this was the first time we had heard something like this. And apparently, neither had they – nearly every song they play is completely unique.

“Having seven people improvising with nobody keeping time, I kind of thought he was crazy,” joked Silverman, referring to Hix.

Hix agreed. “I honestly didn’t know if [ensemble] would be any good at all. We got in the studio, and there was just an electric energy, and it was just so much fun."

man in studio with electric keyboards and guitarMichael Hix, Nashville Ambient Ensemble; Photo courtesy of Boston Heath

They combine calming synthesizer soundscapes with traditional instrumentation, all improvised on the spot. We wanted to know more about that magic energy and how it influences their writing process.

“I think acoustic instruments are more organic, but electric instruments lend themselves to more possibilities,” said Silverman.

Creativity flows freely during the ensemble’s performances and recording sessions.

"I very rarely get into a creative block because there's always some new gadget that I can use to open up my creativity," noted Hix.

It was exciting to discover how they used something so technical to get to the core of the intrinsic parts of being human.

“I believe that people who make music, make movies, make art of any kind—it’s a way to help everyone process the experience of being alive,” said Silverman.

And with that, it’s time to head out. After a recharge, we’re headed back to the Atlanta area for a stop that’s all about science and engineering with a heavy dose of adrenaline. After carefully navigating the winding roads of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, we entered a hidden racing oasis.

 electric converted DMC 12 DeLorean and electric replica of a classic 1952 pick-up truckCustom electric replica of a classic 1952 pick-up truck and Ampere EV’s converted DMC 12 DeLorean; Photo courtesy of Boston Heath

Welcome to Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP), a true motorsports playground. Here, we're meeting up with Lawson Sumner of Ampere EV and Dan Paul of Southfield Classics—two companies at the forefront of building electric vehicles you might not guess are electric.

"At Ampere EV, we provide a full one-stop, full drivetrain solution. People think it's hard to convert a vehicle, but our whole company's mission is to make it as easy as possible," said Sumner.

Paul has the pleasure of using the Ampere EV drivetrain system to create classic hot rods with a modern twist.

“Our part of the process is to basically take Ampere’s system and build the car. We stopped making gas-burning cars about two years ago. I'd been making gas burners for 30-something years," said Paul. We still do hot rod stuff, but they just have a different power plant and a different drivetrain.”

Racing laps at Atlanta Motorsports ParkDriving in Ampere EV’s converted DMC 12 DeLorean; Photo courtesy of Boston Heath

First, we took a spin in Ampere EV’s converted DMC 12 DeLorean, hitting the long stretches of the two-mile AMP track at high speeds. There was no engine noise accelerating on what is considered one of the top ten tracks in North America—simply road noise.

"Just the [DeLorean] itself is unique. It has the gull-wing doors, and everyone knows it from Back to the Future. Originally, these cars were super slow and very unreliable,” commented Sumner. “But for us, I feel like we brought the future to it with an EV drivetrain.” 

Next up, we took a few laps in a custom electric replica of a classic 1952 pick-up truck.

“We call it the SC31T. It's our first production model: a 1950s truck, which wasn't intended to go 80 miles per hour. It kind of modernizes their feel," said Paul. "They're fast; they get there fast. Basically, you hear the wind."

Sumner and Paul had some advice for first-time EV road-trippers.

“The advice I would give right now is to plan your charging stops where you have something to do,” said Sumner.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 chargingHyundai Ioniq 5 at charging station; Photo courtesy of Boston Heath

Finding chargers at places like restaurants, markets, and even hotels is essential. Apps and websites make this process much more manageable.

“A lot of people have forgotten that, back in the day, you had to plan your gas stop. You’ve got to get back to that a little bit, so you have to plan your trip a bit more,” echoed Paul.

But Sumner expects EV road trips to become a bit more convenient in the years ahead.

“[The technology] is growing, but it takes a long time to build out all of that infrastructure,” noted Sumner.

Of course, we had to ask them about the phenomena at the heart of it all.

"The way I always think about electricity is that power is a way to produce some sort of action. It’s a light that you turn on. Now it’s shifting into the cars that you drive,” remarked Sumner.

“It’s that power that makes it punch. I find it very exciting,” Paul shared. “It renewed my love with the automobile, I will say that.”

We couldn’t agree more. This trip has really inspired us by all the ways electricity powers our lives and how the interactions between these tiny particles are catalysts for creativity and ingenuity in art, music, and technology.

And now, you can even use it to power your next road trip. So, the next time you plug in your phone or turn on a light, take a moment to acknowledge this invisible force. It’s dynamic. It’s inspiring. It’s electric.