Granholm and her entourage used a fleet of electric vehicles to journey from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Memphis, Tennessee, with town hall events along the way, NPR’s Camila Domonoske wrote in a report published on Sunday.
The purpose of the trip was to “draw attention to the billions of dollars the White House is pouring into green energy and clean cars,” but Domonoske, who joined the caravan for the ride, shared how the four-day venture was not a smooth ride all the way through.
Energy Secretary Granholm recently took 4-day EV caravan trip across the southeast to "draw attention to the billions of dollars the White House is pouring into green energy and clean cars."
What happened next is like a scene out of VEEP: pic.twitter.com/D0uuGJjJIl
— Scott Lincicome (@scottlincicome) September 10, 2023
“[B]etween stops, 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,” the report said.
“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,” the report continued. “That did not go down well: a regular gas-powered car blocking the only free spot for a charger?”
“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 report added. “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.”
The story drew some mockery on social media, highlighted as being a encapsulation of the hardships that complicate the federal government’s push for a transition away from gasoline-burning vehicles.
Scott Lincicome, the vice president of general economics at the libertarian Cato Institute, shared a screenshot of the passage about the struggles experienced by Granholm’s crew and said it was “like a scene out of VEEP,” referring to HBO’s political satire series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus that ran from 2012 to 2019.
“Secretary of Energy boots family with baby so she can use their EV charger. For reference, Article I, Section 9 states ‘No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States,'” added Heritage Foundation research fellow Peter St Onge.
Domonoske noted in her report that drivers may face more issues with there not being enough chargers as the number of electric vehicles increases. She emphasized how this is particularly a problem for non-Tesla electric vehicles, as Elon Musk’s company still dominates the market in the United States, though some other automakers are embracing Tesla’s technology and its charging network is being opened to more vehicles.
Granholm, at the end of her trip, conceded, “Clearly, we need more high-speed chargers, particularly in the South.”