An EV driver in Georgia called the police on the US Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, after her staff blocked a public charger with a gasoline car to “reserve” it for her upcoming convoy of EVs that she was using to highlight the White House investment in electric vehicles.
Earlier this summer, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm set out on an EV road trip in the southeast between Charlotte, N.C., to Memphis, Tenn. with her staff and an NPR journalist with the goal of “drawing attention to the billions of dollars the White House is pouring into green energy and clean cars.”
The federal government has announced $7.5 billion in funding to advance EV charging infrastructure in the US – with the grants about to be given out soon.
They set out in a convoy of three EVs – a Cadillac Lyriq, a Ford F-150 Lightning, and a Chevy Bolt (EV or EUV, they didn’t say).
Of course, that was for her, her staff, and the NPR journalist, as there were also Secret Service in regular gas-powered SUVs following them.
While the effort might have been well-intentioned, it wasn’t well executed.
Granholm, herself a longtime EV driver, knew very well going into it that the group would face some difficulties charging in the south, but it doesn’t look like they prepared for that very well.
They realized that an Electrify America station in Grovetown, a suburb of Augusta, Georgia, would not have enough chargers for their gang of EVs because one of the chargers was broken and another was in use. So the solution was to send one of her staffers ahead, in an internal combustion engine vehicle, to park at the charger once empty in order to “reserve” it for them.
The NPR reporter explained what happened next:
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: They called the police.
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.
Several jurisdictions have adopted legislation to prevent just that, and there are hefty fines that can come with blocking EV stations; but not in Georgia, apparently.
The whole article is worth a read as it correctly describes the existing problem of non-Tesla EVs when it comes to charging on long-distance travel.
Not everywhere – there are more well-covered regions – though some stations still suffer from reliability issues, but the south is certainly not one of them.
I highlighted that in my EV road trip in the south report last year using the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Electrify America network.
But that’s quite a faux pas by the secretary and/or her team – the article doesn’t specify whose idea it was.
If anything, the road trip being difficult is a good way to show that we need the White House’s investment in the sector to support the growth of electric vehicles in the US. If you are going to do that, you can’t cheat by blocking charging stations.
You just wait in line like everyone else.