Electric Road Trip

An ethical dilemma for the EV age

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — The cost to charge the car overnight at the hotel here: nothing. But to plug in with a clear conscience? That comes at a price.

Our plan for the night was solid. We'd made a reservation at a Courtyard by Marriott, which is listed on PlugShare as having four charging ports, including two Tesla plugs, all of which were available when we pulled in with only 30 miles of range remaining.

Unfortunately, the two non-Tesla plugs that were compatible with our Kia Niro EV weren't working. My colleague and I consulted the PlugShare app. There were no fast chargers within 35 miles, and no other Level 2 chargers anywhere near the hotel, except a half-mile away at a Best Western.

I drove down the street to investigate and found the Best Western charger unoccupied and working. It would be easy to plug in, lock the car and saunter back to the Marriott. But then I envisioned some weary fellow EV driver pulling in late at night in need of a charge, only to find the lone charger occupied — by someone who wasn't even staying at the hotel.

My co-worker and travel companion for the Midwestern leg of the trip, Peter Behr, discussed the options. One was to plug and run. I mean, there was no sign that explicitly said the charger was for hotel guests. But c'mon. It's implied that a charger located at a hotel is meant for guests.

Another option: We could wait until morning and find another charger somewhere down the road. But there are no fast chargers along our route, and hours of charging at a Level 2 charger would mean missing a morning interview in Chicago.

Ultimately, we decided on a third option — to pay for a room at the Best Western. I moved to occupy our room at the Best Western while our Kia took the charging space. It wasn't the cheapest solution. But it was the right thing to do.

To paraphrase the classic Mastercard commercial: The cost of a room at the Best Western? $94 plus tax. Sleeping without guilt while our Kia sipped electrons? Priceless.

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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