NPR recently rode along on a four-day EV road trip with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm where she got to experience the realities of owning an EV in the U.S. firsthand.
Granholm is no stranger to EVs. The former governor of Michigan was the owner of a Chevy Bolt and recently traded it for a Ford Mustang Mach-E. But on a summer road trip from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee to promote the Biden Administration’s EV and green energy agenda she ran into some issues that EV owners will be all too familiar with.
The first trouble came when NPR’s Camila Domonoske, Secretary Granholm, and her entourage — which consisted of a Cadillac Lyriq, Secret Service in their usual black Suburbans and Tahoes, a Chevy Bolt and Ford F-150 Lighting— tried to charge in the small Georgia town of Grovetown.
Her advance team realized there weren’t going to be enough plugs to go around. One of the station’s four chargers was broken, and others were occupied. So an Energy Department staffer tried parking a nonelectric vehicle by one of those working chargers to reserve a spot for the approaching secretary of energy.
That didn’t work. It was a hot day, and there was a family waiting to charge in their EV who decided to call the cops on the advance team member attempting to hold the charger for the secretary. The cops couldn’t do anything, though, because it’s not illegal in Georgia for a gas-powered car to block an EV charger. So the Secretary’s team had to work out everything including sending some of their vehicles to slower chargers so that there was room to charge for everyone.
Other problems were not as surprising, like having to plan ahead for charging.
The secretary’s trip had been painstakingly mapped out ahead of time to allow for charging. We stopped at hotels with slower “Level 2" plugs for overnight charging and then paused at superfast chargers between cities. That required upfront work that a gas-powered road trip simply doesn’t require. At a stop in South Carolina, Granholm told audiences she recognized the importance of making chargers easy to find on apps.
The group also dealt with stations that didn’t have enough chargers, ones that weren’t fast enough or ones that simply didn’t work at all.
On the secretary’s road trip, that stop in Grovetown included a charger with a dead black screen. At another stop in Tennessee, the Chevy Bolt that I was riding in charged at one-third the rate it should have. Electrify America says that’s not an isolated problem; a faulty component has caused a number of chargers to be “derated” while the company works on a fix.
Still, Domonoske says that, despite the problems, most of the road trip was trouble-free. And with the 777-mile trip costing one of the drivers just $35 for charging, some on it might even call it a success. The whole NPR report is worth reading here.