In June 2023, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm embarked on a four-day road trip across four southern states to promote electric vehicles (EVs) and the Biden administration’s green energy agenda. She drove a Cadillac Lyriq, a Ford F-150 Lightning, and a Chevy Bolt, accompanied by a team of staff and journalists. The trip meant to showcase the benefits of EVs and the need for more charging infrastructure in the country. However, things did not go as smoothly as planned. Along the way, Granholm and her team faced several challenges and frustrations that highlighted the current limitations and obstacles of EV adoption in the U.S.
The Charging Station Debacle
One of the most glaring problems that Granholm encountered was the lack of available and reliable charging stations for EVs. According to NPR, which was along for the ride, there are only about three EV charging ports for every 10,000 people in the U.S.. This means that finding a place to plug in can be difficult, especially in rural areas or states that have not invested much in EV infrastructure.
Granholm’s trip carefully planned to avoid running out of battery, but even so, she had to deal with some unexpected situations. For example, in Grovestown, Georgia, one of the charging stations that her team had reserved broken, and the others were occupied by other EV drivers. To secure a spot for Granholm’s car, a DOE employee used a gas-powered car to block access to one of the chargers. This angered a family that was also waiting for a charger, who called the police to complain. The police could not do anything, since blocking an EV charger with a gas car is not illegal in Georgia. Granholm and her team had to apologize and negotiate with the family, while some of their cars had to settle for slower chargers.
This incident showed how EV drivers can face conflicts and frustrations over scarce charging resources. It also raised questions about the fairness and efficiency of EV charging policies and practices. As more people switch to EVs, there will be more demand for chargers, which could lead to more disputes and delays. How can the government and the private sector ensure that there are enough chargers for everyone?. And How can they prevent people from abusing or hogging the chargers? How can they incentivize people to share and cooperate?
The Cost and Convenience Trade-off
Another issue that Granholm faced was the trade-off between cost and convenience when it comes to EVs. On one hand, EVs can save money on fuel and maintenance in the long run, compared to gas cars. On the other hand, EVs can be more expensive upfront, and require more time and planning to charge.
Granholm tried to highlight the cost savings of EVs during her trip. She visited a Ford plant in Tennessee that produces electric trucks, where she praised the F-150 Lightning for being cheaper than its gas counterpart over its lifetime. She also visited an electric bus factory in North Carolina, where she touted the benefits of electrifying public transportation.
However, Granholm also had to deal with the inconvenience of charging her EVs multiple times during her trip. She had to stop at least twice a day to plug in her car, which took anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more. And she also had to plan her route carefully to avoid running out of battery or getting stranded. She admitted that charging was “a little bit of a hassle” and that she wished there were more chargers along the way.
This trade-off between cost and convenience is one of the main factors that affect people’s decision to buy or drive an EV. Some people may be willing to pay more upfront or spend more time charging if they can save money on fuel or reduce their environmental impact. Others may prefer gas cars that are cheaper upfront or faster to refuel. How can the government and the private sector make EVs more affordable and accessible for everyone? How can they reduce the hassle and uncertainty of charging?. And How can they educate and persuade people about the advantages of EVs?
The Green Dream or Nightmare?
Granholm’s road trip was an ambitious attempt to promote EVs and green energy in the U.S. She wanted to show that EVs are not only good for the environment, but also good for the economy, national security, and public health. And she wanted to demonstrate that EVs are fun, practical, and futuristic. She wanted to inspire people to join her in creating a “people powered” future.
However, Granholm’s road trip also exposed some of the challenges and limitations of EV adoption in the U.S. She encountered problems with charging availability, reliability, and accessibility. She faced conflicts and frustrations with other EV drivers over scarce resources. Ans she had to compromise on cost and convenience when driving an EV.
These challenges and limitations are not insurmountable, but they require more investment, innovation, and cooperation from the government, the private sector, and the public. Granholm acknowledged that the U.S. is “behind the curve” when it comes to EV infrastructure, and that more needs to be done to catch up with other countries like China and Europe. She also expressed optimism that the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan, which includes $7.5 billion for EV charging stations, will help boost the EV market and create jobs.
Granholm’s road trip was a green dream or a nightmare, depending on how one looks at it. It was a dream because it showed the potential and promise of EVs and green energy. It was a nightmare because it showed the reality and challenges of EVs and green energy. And it was both, because it showed the gap and the opportunity between where we are and where we want to be.
Granholm’s road trip was a bold and brave move to promote EVs and green energy in the U.S. She faced many difficulties and setbacks, but she also had many successes and achievements. She showed that EVs are not only feasible, but also desirable. And she showed that EVs can offer many benefits for individuals, communities, and the nation. And she showed that EVs can be part of a larger vision for a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous future.
However, Granholm’s road trip also revealed that there is still a long way to go before EVs can become mainstream in the U.S. There are still many barriers and challenges that need to overcome. There are still many gaps and needs that need to filled. And still many doubts and misconceptions that need to cleared. There are still many opportunities and potentials that need to explored.
Granholm’s road trip was not the end, but the beginning of a journey. A journey that requires more action, more innovation, more collaboration, and more education. This A journey that involves more people, more sectors, more states, and more regions. A journey that aims for more sustainability, more efficiency, more security, and more health.
Granholm’s road trip was a green dream or a nightmare. It was both. It was also a wake-up call. A wake-up call for us to join her in making the dream a reality.