Electric Road Trip

America's EV divide, charging buses, cobalt conundrum

The Electric Road Trip this week hit the Rockies and Cascades. We trundled through a snowstorm on the Great Plains and then tested our battery on the steeps, finding meaningful highs and lows.

For example, we approached the Mountain West with both optimism and deep skepticism. We met entrepreneurs in Bozeman, Mont., who are finding ways to make charging stations better. In Billings and Missoula, we talked with auto dealers who believe EVs will struggle in the mountains while spelling hardship for the dealers themselves.

What does the future hold for electric vehicles in the country's wide-open spaces? That's the subject of this week's big story.

— David Ferris

North Dakota is the worst place in the United States to drive an electric car. With conservative politics, an economy based on fossil fuels, and a fondness for big trucks, it is also the worst place to build a political movement for them.

Or so it seems. A reporting trip across the state revealed that power companies, coal lobbyists, school districts and Republicans are seeing an opening to go electric. One major automaker is quietly tapping local dealers to get ready for the coming fleet of heavy-duty electric pickup trucks. It's possible that the unexpected traction means electric vehicles aren't as far off for rural America as people think.

See the full-length story in Energywire.

TOP STOPS

In our latest video blog, E&E News reporters explain how they slogged through the northern Plains during the fifth leg of the 6,000-mile Electric Road Trip.

BILLINGS, Mont. — Reporter David Ferris drove out of Miles City, Mont., into the teeth of a snowstorm. He veered off the interstate in Billings, with 30 miles of range left and breathing a sigh of relief.

MISSOULA, Mont. — Bill Underriner, who owns a clutch of auto dealerships in the Billings, Mont., area, is grim about his service business in a world of electric cars.

DICKINSON, N.D. — A four-member crew of local Tesla owners met with our reporter at the Prairie Hills Mall. The hearty bunch know how to face harsh winters in their EVs.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Rhombus Energy Solutions, in Dearborn, Mich., is turning out high-voltage chargers for bus and truck fleets. A team led by engineer Kent Harmon persisted for a quarter-century in the development of the technology. E&E News

Montana entrepreneur Bill Clem's custom-designed public charging units are going into two Harley-Davidson dealerships offering the LiveWire electric motorcycle. E&E News

Cobalt in EV batteries has been tied to child labor. Carmakers aren't doing enough to monitor their supply chains, a report says. E&E News

Lawmakers are imposing fees on EVs with dramatic consequences for the pace of electric car adoption. E&E News

Scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Large-scale use of the batteries is giving rise to electric cars. The New York Times

Dyson Ltd. scrapped its $2.5 billion electric car ambitions. After two years of trying, the maker of vacuum cleaners couldn't find a way to build autos. Bloomberg

NEXT TURN

Now we begin our journey down the West Coast and into the heart of the electric vehicle revolution. Starting in Seattle, we will head through Portland, Ore., and Silicon Valley, exploring what is working (and not working) in this alley of experimentation.

There's more to the trip than the newsletter. Check the blog each weekday and lend your opinion to the Facebook page.

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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