United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm recently embarked on a four-day, 600+ mile journey from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee. Her mission? To champion the electric vehicle (EV) movement and showcase the potential of all-electric transportation. However, her entourage’s selection of electric vehicles raised a few eyebrows, as it notably excluded any Teslas. Instead, the fleet included remarkable EVs like the Cadillac Lyriq, the Ford F-150 Lightning, and the Chevy Bolt. Although combustion-powered cars joined the convoy, the absence of Teslas became a noticeable talking point.
Granholm’s journey spanned a distance that, for Tesla owners, would typically require just one or two stops at a Supercharger station. Being a staunch advocate of EVs, Granholm’s EV knowledge is extensive, having previously owned a Chevy Bolt and currently driving a Ford Mustang Mach-E.
NPR reporter Camila Domonoske, herself a Chevy Bolt driver, revealed that meticulous planning preceded Granholm’s EV road trip to ensure charging opportunities. The entourage strategically selected hotels with Level 2 chargers and scheduled stops at rapid chargers between cities. In some instances, advance teams even preemptively secured fast chargers to guarantee swift recharging for the official and her EV team.
However, the efficacy of this plan hinged on the assumption of an expansive and dependable rapid charging network across the United States. Regrettably, this is not the case. Beyond Tesla’s privately operated Supercharger Network, the US’s rapid charging infrastructure falls short.
This deficiency in charging infrastructure became evident during a crucial stop in Grovetown, a suburb of Augusta, Georgia. Upon arrival, the official’s advance party encountered an issue: one of the station’s four chargers was out of order, and two were already in use. With only one remaining rapid charging stall available, an Energy Department staffer resorted to an unconventional tactic – ICE-ing. This entails blocking an EV charging stall with a combustion-powered vehicle, a nuisance electric car owners have endured for years.
Unsurprisingly, the move to reserve the charging spot for the Secretary of Energy sparked discontent among EV owners. One family, unable to access the charging stall due to the blockade, contacted the police. Their frustration was justified, considering the scorching heat and the presence of a baby in their car.
NPR’s Domonoske detailed the aftermath of this ICE-ing incident, noting that the sheriff’s office couldn’t take action since it’s not illegal for non-EVs to occupy charging spots in Georgia. To rectify the situation, Energy Department staff had to coordinate the relocation of vehicles to slower chargers, finally accommodating both the irate family and the Secretary’s entourage.
Domonoske’s report underscores a prevailing issue for EV owners in the United States: the scarcity of reliable charging infrastructure outside Tesla’s Supercharger Network. Fortunately, the adoption of Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) by an increasing number of automakers and charging companies promises a brighter future. This move will extend the convenience long enjoyed by Tesla owners to a broader spectrum of electric cars.