United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm went on a four-day, 600+ mile journey from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee, with a fleet of all-electric vehicles. The official’s entourage was impressive, as it included EVs like the Cadillac Lyriq, the Ford F-150 Lightning, and the Chevy Bolt. There were some combustion-powered cars in the entourage as well, but zero Teslas.
Over the US official’s journey, things would get so challenging that members of Granholm’s advance team resorted to eyebrow-raising tactics to secure fast chargers for the official. At one point, an ICE-ing incident happened, and police got involved. Needless to say, the Secretary of Energy’s EV road trip became a story worth telling — for better or for worse.
The distance itself between Charlotte and Memphis is not that far. At over 600 miles, the distance would likely require a Tesla just one or two stops at a Supercharger station. Granholm is knowledgeable about electric cars too, being one of EVs’ biggest advocates in the government. She also previously owned a Chevy Bolt and now drives a Ford Mustang Mach-E.
As noted by NPR reporter Camila Domonoske, who drives a Chevy Bolt herself, the US Secretary of Energy’s EV road trip was painstakingly mapped out ahead of time to allow for charging. The entourage stopped at hotels with Level 2 chargers and stopped at rapid chargers between cities. Advance teams would even head to fast chargers to make sure that the official and her team of EVs can recharge their batteries quickly.
Now, such a plan would probably be sufficient if the United States is known for having an expansive and reliable fast-charging network. But it’s not. Outside the Supercharger Network, which is privately operated by Tesla, the US’ rapid charging infrastructure leaves much to be desired.
This became evident when Granholm’s team was planning to fast charge at a station in Grovetown, a suburb of Augusta, Georgia. Upon arriving at the site, the official’s advance party realized that one of the station’s four chargers was broken and two were already occupied. With only one rapid charging stall open, an Energy Department staffer tried to ICE the stall to reserve it for the Secretary of Energy, who was on her way to the charging station.
ICE-ing, or the act of blocking an EV charging stall with a combustion-powered car, has been a headache for electric car owners for years. It was then no surprise that when the Energy Department staffer blocked the only free rapid charging spot in the site, EV owners were not pleased. A family that was boxed out of the charging stall was so upset that they called the police — and for good reason too. The day was extremely hot, and they had a baby in the car.
NPR’s Domonoske described the aftermath of the ICE-ing incident. “The sheriff’s office couldn’t do anything. It’s not illegal for a non-EV to claim a charging spot in Georgia. Energy Department staff scrambled to smooth over the situation, including sending other vehicles to slower chargers, until both the frustrated family and the secretary had room to charge,” she wrote.
As noted by Domonoske, outside of Tesla’s Supercharger Network, long road trips in the United States are still an issue. Fortunately, Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) is being adopted by an increasing number of automakers and charging companies, so it won’t be long before other electric cars can take advantage of a benefit that’s long been available to Tesla owners.
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