Electric Road Trip

Struggling for an outlet

FORT WORTH, Texas — You can always charge an electric vehicle at home, they say. Our first foray showed it's not always so easy.

The best place to plug in, unless you've installed a proper charger, is the 240-volt outlet for a clothes dryer. We thought of doing this in Houston a few days ago but were rebuffed: Edward's 1930s-era bungalow has a stacked washer and dryer that are immovable.

Tuesday, at Mike's house in Fort Worth, we tried again. The setup seemed promising. The 240-volt outlet was easy to access because Mike's dryer runs on natural gas and doesn't use electricity. We could plug in only 20 feet from the garage.

This isn't quite the proper way to do things. We talked to Joseph Barletta, the CEO of Smart Charge America, during a stop in Austin. He advises customers to spend the extra money on a dedicated charger when they buy an electric vehicle, and his warehouse in an industrial park is crammed with bundles of heavy wire and padded boxes. The equipment usually costs a few hundred dollars, although prices can range up to a few thousand, and it can cost a few hundred more to install a heavy-duty circuit.

But reporters are stubborn, and there's nothing we love more than finding a workaround. Besides, David Ferris, the ringleader of our electrified crew, had equipped us with enough charging cables and adapters to fill a big plastic bin.

After emptying the bin, we discovered none of the connectors would plug into the outlet.

A Google search and a quick run to the big-box hardware store (Mike, a dedicated DIYer, has done this a few times), confirmed the worst: There are a few adapters on the market that may do the trick, but they only seem to be available online.

Downcast but not defeated, we plugged instead into the 120-volt outlet — the standard kind for an iPhone or a lamp — and our Kia sipped a thin gruel of electrons that bought us a few more miles for the next day's drive.

And that nice, big outlet in Mike's laundry room is still lonely.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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