Biden Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm had a rocky electric vehicle tour that included a confrontation with a family who called the police on her staff over a charging station standoff.
Granholm’s staff got into a tiff with an unhappy family earlier this summer after her team tried to hold an electric vehicle charging spot by parking a gas car there, according to an NPR story from Sunday headlined, “Electric cars have a road trip problem, even for the secretary of energy.”
The four-day trip from North Carolina to Tennessee was “intended to draw attention to the billions of dollars the White House is pouring into green energy and clean cars.”
Granholm’s ambitious southern trip that was “painstakingly mapped out ahead of time to allow for charging,” however, drew the ire of one family in particular, due to a familiar problem for electric car vehicle drivers.
“But between stops, Granholm’s entourage at times had to grapple with the limitations of the present,” NPR’s Camila Domonoske, who accompanied her on the trip, wrote. After Granholm’s staff realized there weren’t enough charging spots for electric vehicles at a stop near Augusta, Ga., “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 did not go down well: a regular gas-powered car blocking the only free spot for a charger?” Domonoske continued.
“In fact, a family that was boxed out — on a sweltering day, with a baby in the vehicle — was so upset they decided to get the authorities involved,” she explained. “They called the police.”
In the end, the team arranged for the family to also charge its car while Granholm charged hers.
Domonoske, who drives an electric car herself, acknowledged the issue the confrontation underscored for the future of electric automobiles, and for the Biden administration as well.
“I drive an electric vehicle myself, and I’ve test-driven many more as NPR’s auto reporter. I know how easy it can be to charge when everything goes well and how annoying it can be when things go poorly,” she wrote. “Riding along with Granholm, I came away with a major takeaway: EVs that aren’t Teslas have a road trip problem, and the White House knows it’s urgent to solve this issue.”
For most electric car drivers, if they have a charging station at home, their typical daily routines allow them to avoid those situations that Granholm’s team encountered. But even a new all-electric Chevy Bolt – described as “affordable” in the NPR story – starts at more than $27,000, according to the Chevrolet website. Many other all-electric cars are still prohibitively expensive for American families.
“Ultimately, we want to make it super-easy for people to travel long distances,” Granholm told NPR.
NPR explained that Granholm’s electric vehicle road trip required careful planning, but still failed on a number of basic levels.
“On the secretary’s road trip, that stop in Grovetown included a charger with a dead black screen,” NPR wrote. “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.”
This article has been updated to include the following statement from the Department of Energy:
“For over a decade, while our global competitors geared up for the clean energy transition, America lagged behind. Now, with President Biden’s historic Investing in America agenda we have over $7 billion to build out convenient and reliable EV charging infrastructure, a portion of which is already awarded to every state, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The private sector is following suit with equally ambitious investments – growing our workforce and keeping money in the pockets of hardworking Americans.”