Electric Road Trip

The South, union jobs, used EVs

Hello from Week 2 of the Electric Road Trip and our visit to the Southern states. In the last few days, we've tooled across Tennessee in our electric car, touring the factories of Nissan and Volkswagen in our quest to understand how electric vehicles are starting to change America.

Plenty has happened since our last check-in from Texas. We met with used car dealers in Dallas; with grid coordinators in Little Rock, Ark.; and city planners in Memphis, Tenn. Each had a perspective on the obstacles and opportunities for electric cars in a region that revolves around oil.

In the world at large, we saw two developments with consequences for EVs. The bombing of Saudi Arabia's oil refineries raised the prospect of higher gas prices that could spur drivers to give EVs a second look. And almost 50,000 General Motors workers are on strike, demanding a bigger slice of the pie as the company pours money into new electric models. The latter is tied to our big story of the week.

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— David Ferris

Before this week's strike at General Motors Co., there was a summertime clash between workers and management at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The battle for unionization occurred just as the German automaker started on a sweeping plan to build electric cars in the United States — raising big questions about the future of jobs and scrambling alliances that have governed auto factories in the South for decades.

Read the complete story in Energywire.


Video blog — The first installment of the Electric Road Trip video recap by the reporters on the road. Edward Klump and Mike Lee look back on the highlights of their 1,000-mile journey from Houston to Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Reporters Maxine Joselow and Kristi E. Swartz, the second pair of drivers on E&E News' Electric Road Trip, started off in Nashville and are winding through the southeastern U.S., with pit stops in Atlanta and Greenville, S.C. They got an up-close look at a Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., and a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where VW plans an $800 million expansion for electric vehicle production.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Electric cars will have to crack car markets like the dealerships in this city just west of Dallas. By some estimates, nearly two-thirds of U.S. auto sales are used cars and trucks. Lots of them are sold to subprime buyers who can't pay full price or need unconventional credit.

AUSTIN, Texas — The nonprofit Pecan Street Inc. works in tandem with solar and storage ventures at Austin Energy to aggregate and manage battery power. That's a big deal in Texas, where it gets really hot in the summer.


General Motors Co. workers bore the brunt of the company's restructuring after its financial collapse a decade ago. Those sacrifices are coming home to roost. New York Times

Credit agency Moody's noted that GM is looking for enough flexibility from union negotiators to begin transitioning to the production of electric vehicles. Reuters

GM reportedly made a $7 billion offer of investments to union negotiators that included reopening a shuttered plant in Lordstown, Ohio, to build electric batteries. Electrek

EV drivers could choose their car's sound under a federal rule proposal. E&E News

States are singling out electric car drivers for eroding funds for highway repairs, according to a new analysis from Consumer Reports. E&E News


And with that, we're back on the road. We're making a curlicue through Georgia and South Carolina before heading north toward Detroit. Watch for updates on Facebook and the blog.

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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