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‘A scene out of VEEP’: Energy Secretary Granholm’s summer EV road trip hit some hilarious bumps

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When Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm departed in a caravan of electric vehicles on a four-day “People Powered EV Summer Road Trip” in June, the journey was meant to “draw attention to the billions of dollars the White House is pouring into green energy and clean cars,” but, much to the delight of many on social media, the PR stunt hit several hilarious bumps along the way.

“Got my coffee, my tunes, and a great group of folks working all through the southern Battery Belt to invest in our workers, our communities, and our future,” Granholm gleefully announced on what was then known as Twitter.

The trip would take her and a fleet of shiny EVs to South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Granholm said she was “very excited to point out all of the investments that are happening” and the jobs that were being created by the Biden administration’s push for so-called “green” energy.

NPR’s Camila Domonoske was along for the ride, and, according to a piece published on Sunday, “Granholm’s entourage at times had to grapple with the limitations of the present.”

“Like when her caravan of EVs — including a luxury Cadillac Lyriq, a hefty Ford F-150 and an affordable Bolt electric utility vehicle — was planning to fast-charge in Grovetown, a suburb of Augusta, Georgia,” Domonoske recalled.

“Her advance team realized there weren’t going to be enough plugs to go around. One of the station’s four chargers was broken, and others were occupied. So 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,” she explained.

And that move “did not go down well.”

In fact, one family with a baby to worry about in the sweltering heat and blocked by the “regular gas-powered vehicle” called the cops.

Planning a road trip in an EV, it turns out, requires a lot of planning “that a gas-powered road trip simply doesn’t require.”

“We stopped at hotels with slower ‘Level 2’ plugs for overnight charging and then paused at superfast chargers between cities,” wrote Domonoske.

Part of the problem is with the built-in apps that are meant to locate nearby charges.

“In reality,” Domonoske admitted, “I use multiple apps to find chargers, read reviews to make sure they work and plot out convenient locations for a 30-minute pit stop (a charger by a restaurant, for instance, instead of one located at a car dealership).”

And, she states, there are simply “not enough chargers” for a stress-free road trip.

“[I]f I want to drive through West Virginia, I can access only 11 fast chargers in the entire state,” she states. “That’s actually progress; three weeks ago, there were only eight.”

The chargers that are available, Domonoske wrote, are “not fast enough” — unless you’re driving a Tesla.

“[A]side from chargers reserved for Teslas and one charging station just for Rivians, it was more than an hour’s drive to the next actually-fast fast charger,” she reports.

“Of course, having a superfast charger doesn’t do you any good if the dang thing doesn’t work,” Domonoske continued. “On the secretary’s road trip, that stop in Grovetown included a charger with a dead black screen. At another stop in Tennessee, the Chevy Bolt that I was riding in charged at one-third the rate it should have.”

The road trip report was enough to send Elon Musk’s X into fits of laughter, with one user describing it as being “like a scene out of VEEP.”

Republican presidential candidate, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, called the trip a “fail.”

“This administration is one bad sitcom episode after another,” stated another X user. “The USA electricity network is not ready for a ton of EV. And this proves that the EV push is just so they can corral you into a 100 to 200 mile bubble.”

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Melissa Fine
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