Biden’s Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm had the police called on her over a dispute at a charging station at a Georgia rest stop during her four-day electric vehicle road trip this summer.
The trip was intended to promote the ease and convenience of using EVs, but it backfired spectacularly.
A Department of Energy staffer in Granholm’s entourage reportedly parked a gas-powered car in front of one of the station’s working chargers in order order to reserve it for Granholm’s luxury Cadillac Lyriq, according a Sunday NPR story entitled “Electric cars have a road trip problem, even for the secretary of energy.”
Granholm’s 770-mile road trip through southeast, from Charlotte, N.C. to Memphis, Tenn., was “intended to draw attention to the billions of dollars the White House is pouring into green energy and clean cars,” wrote NPR’s Camila Domonoske, who rode along with Granholm on her trip.
At a series of townhall stops along the way, Granholm attempted to make her case for optimism regarding the transition from gas-powered to electric vehicles.
“Things are happening fast. You are in the center of it. Imagine how big clean energy industries will be in 13 years,” she told one audience in South Carolina, NPR reported. “How much stronger our economy is going to grow. How many good-paying jobs we’re going to create — and where we are going to lead the world.”
Although the secretary’s trip was “painstakingly mapped out ahead of time to allow for charging,” Granholm’s entourage ran into problems with the southern U.S. not having enough chargers, and chargers that were either broken or slow.
At a rest stop in Grovetown, a suburb of Augusta, Georgia, Granholm’s advance team encountered a charging station with four chargers, one of which was broken, and the others were being used.
When Granholm’s team realized there wasn’t enough plugs to go around, an Energy Department staffer parked a nonelectric vehicle by one of the working chargers to reserve a spot for Granholm — blocking the only free spot with a gas-powered car.
A family that was “boxed out” of the charging station by Granholm’s team, on a scorching-hot day and with a baby in their car, got upset and called the police.
The sheriff’s office could not prevent Granholm’s team from blocking the charger as it is not illegal for a gas-powered car to take up the charging spot, and the Energy Department staff “scrambled to smooth over the situation” by sending other vehicles to slower chargers so that the family and the secretary had room to charge.
Domonoske wrote that a major takeaway from the trip was that non-Tesla electric vehicles “have a road trip problem” — as Tesla’s high-speed charging stations are significantly better than their competitors’.
Tesla struck a deal with the White House earlier this year to open some of its superchargers up to the general public.
It’s unclear why Granholm’s convoy did not include any Teslas.
Ford has announced that its future electric vehicle models will come with a Tesla-style plug, and current Ford owners can buy an adapter to use the superior Tesla chargers.
In order to take a road trip in an electric car, a large amount of upfront work to plan out charging stations — involving the use of multiple apps to locate the stations and read reviews — is required.
“Clearly, we need more high-speed chargers, particularly in the South,” Granholm told Domonoske, adding that the Biden administration is distributing $7.5 billion to the states for building more public chargers.
“By the end of this year, I think we’ll start to see [those chargers] popping up along the charging corridors,” Granholm said.
“If you’re not persuaded by climate change or you think it’s not happening, well, you should be persuaded by lowering the costs,” she added, after one Energy Department staffer reportedly spent only $35 on charging for the 770-mile trip.