Electric Road Trip

Meet the drivers of the Electric Road Trip

We thought you'd like to get acquainted with the drivers hosting the Electric Road Trip as it traverses 6,000 miles of America. First thing to know is that we aren't automotive reporters in the regular sense — we're energy reporters whose day-to-day work includes big doses of business journalism and climate reporting.

Energy, for its part, is a tough thing to report on. Everyone experiences it — easy as screwing in a lightbulb, right? — but the power plant is impossibly complicated. And the system that delivers your energy is vast and strange, a choreography of pipes and wires and magnets, of engineers, traders, executives and regulators. We delve into this complex system and emerge with stories that help it all make sense.

These are skills that will come in handy on the Electric Road Trip.

We are excited to relate how it feels to drive an electric car and what it's like to plug instead of pump. As importantly, we want to explain the forces behind it. They include the economics, politics and agendas shaping the electric vehicle, as it makes a transition into the showroom and into your garage.

You'll see that for most of the trip we have two reporters in the car. That's to double our reporting power. Often at least one driver is a resident of that region, so we can give you local expertise.

Here are the bios of the reporters, in their own words:

Peter Behr

I live in: Falls Church, Va.

Where I'm driving: One leg across Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, and a second through Montana, Idaho and Washington state.

Twitter: @PeteBehrEENews

What I do at E&E: I report on power grid security, technology and policy.

My most memorable car: A 1992 Maserati (borrowed from auto columnist Warren Brown) and my own 1972 yellow VW convertible Beetle.

What I bring to the trip: Having covered the auto industry and the power grid for many years, I'll be looking at how innovation, consumer attitudes and policy will impact EV adoption.

What I look forward to the most: I'm eager to see the EV experience from every angle and track the climate benefits of battery-electric motoring.

David Ferris

I live in: Spokane, Wash.

Where I'm driving: First North Dakota and Montana, then down the entire West Coast.

Twitter: @DavidFerris

What I do at E&E: A longtime energy reporter, I coordinate our EV coverage and am the leader of this motley road trip crew.

My most memorable car: My 2005 Scion xB, basically a purple toaster on wheels, which my passengers either loved or absolutely hated. Thieves finally took it away.

What I bring to the trip: A desire to tell you about the electric vehicle future, warts and all. I also have a habit of saying funny things with a deadpan expression.

What I look forward to the most: Arriving to Los Angeles without a single crash; engaging strangers in fascinating conversations about EVs.

David Iaconangelo

I live in: New York City.

Where I'm driving: All around California.

Twitter: @diaconangelo

What I do at E&E: I cover the rise of clean transportation and renewable energy technologies.

My most memorable car: I've never owned my own car but often found myself behind the wheel of a friend's '84 Dodge 400 with all four doors welded shut.

What I bring to the trip: My head is a bony book of Bruce Springsteen sheet music.

What I look forward to the most: California landscapes, including wind, solar and geothermal power plants that may one day be repeated, ad infinitum, in a new energy economy.

Maxine Joselow

I live in: Washington, D.C.

Where I'm driving: Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.

Twitter: @maxinejoselow

What I do at E&E: I report on how the transportation sector (cars, trucks, planes and trains) intersects with climate change.

My most memorable car: My sister and I shared a white Volvo station wagon in high school. She eventually totaled it in a fender bender.

What I bring to the trip: A millennial perspective and an active Twitter account where I will post updates about the trip.

What I look forward to the most: Not running out of juice and having to call AAA.

Joel Kirkland

I live in: Silver Spring, Md.

Where I'm driving: Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Twitter: @JoelKirkland2

What I do at E&E: Enterprise editor.

My most memorable car: A maroon-colored 1978 Cadillac. This boat of a car has to be one of the largest cars in human history. Bought for a song with a trunk full of eight tracks.

What I bring to the trip: An interest in the evolving business story around electric cars and major automakers.

What I look forward to the most: Meeting with the members of an eco-conscious order of nuns founded in 1812 in western Kentucky.

Edward Klump

I live in: Houston.

Where I'm driving: Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Twitter: @edward_klump

What I do at E&E: I cover electricity trends in Texas and beyond, with a dash of oil and gas.

My most memorable car: A Toyota Corolla that survived a spring break trip from Missouri to California and back.

What I bring to the trip: Energy knowledge gleaned from 13-plus years in Houston, the self-proclaimed energy capital.

What I look forward to the most: Visiting colorful cities and documenting how people, policies and businesses are changing.

Mike Lee

I live in: Fort Worth, Texas.

Where I'm driving: Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Twitter: @mikeleefw

What I do at E&E: I write about oil and gas issues and state governments, which puts me on the road every few months. I've visited 13 states since I started reporting for E&E.

My most memorable car: A 1978 Chevy LUV pickup. It was my first car and gave me my first whiff of freedom.

What I bring to the trip: I've been hooked on road trips — and books about road trips — since I read William Least Heat-Moon's "Blue Highways" in high school.

What I look forward to the most: I'm interested in seeing how people and communities will handle the transition away from gasoline-powered driving. Plus, it's a chance to drive a new car to a new place.

Kristi Swartz

I live in: Atlanta.

Where I'm driving: Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.

Twitter: @BizWriterKristi

What I do at E&E: I write about energy policy in the Southeast, which is also home to the nation's only nuclear construction project.

My most memorable car: Chevy Lumina, my first car, but I love my Honda Accord.

What I bring to the trip: A desire to learn whether the Southeast's auto industry can use EVs to bridge the gaps between the rural and urban Southeast.

What I look forward to the most: Seeing my co-workers; driving an EV through Atlanta and going to the EV Club of the South meeting.

Jeffrey Tomich

I live in: St. Louis.

Where I'm driving: Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Twitter: @jefftomich

What I do at E&E: Write about all things Midwest electricity.

My most memorable car: For all the wrong reasons, a 2014 VW Passat diesel.

What I bring to the trip: An adventurous spirit, an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism.

What I look forward to the most: The unexpected: things I'll do, places I'll see, people I'll meet along the way.

Sign up for updates from our Electric Road Trip and follow @EENewsUpdates #ElectricRoadTrip on Twitter and Instagram.

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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.

Where our 6,000-mile Electric Road Trip is going (and where it's not)

There's never been anything quite like our Electric Road Trip that starts next month. Until now, a squad of professional journalists haven't knocked around America for two months in an electric vehicle, investigating how electric transportation will change our lives.

Until now, doing such a thing would have been silly. Electric vehicles (EVs) have existed on the fringes and haven't been numerous enough to matter. But now that's changing: Every major automaker has several all-electric models in the pipeline. Just a year or two from now, they'll be a burgeoning reality in the showroom and on the road.

We have a hunch this once-in-a-century transformation of the automobile will have a big impact. But where?

One answer is "everywhere," since cars are in the business of moving around. That's why we resolved to go to tons of places and log thousands and thousands of miles. What's it like to drive an electric car? We'll try out lots of models. What's it like to make an electric stop instead of a gas stop? We'll test every scenario.

Looking deeper, we realized that certain places augur the future more than others. Switching from gas-powered to electric-powered cars is a really big deal. The more we researched, the more we realized that the switch is going to alter our economy, our environment, the patterns of daily life in ways that few have gamed out. We're seeking to visit these places and share them with you — in an electric car, of course.

So, after months of careful planning, dozens of interviews and some agonizing decisions, we can share where we’re going. Take a gander at the map at the top of this post.

Over two months, for most of September and October, we will drive 6,000 miles and report from 17 states. In teams of two, we reporters will pass the car like a baton from region to region. We will visit mayors' offices and city streets, the manufacturing plants and the labs. We'll interview executives at the power companies, drop in on auto dealers, talk to gas station owners and the restaurateurs who host charging stations. We'll learn about the hopes and fears of entrepreneurs and factory workers. We'll find out what in the electric revolution stands to be gained and lost.

Some of you will have questions, like: How did you decide where to go? Why are you starting in Houston, but going nowhere near Boston? Why are you skipping Denver but going to Des Moines? And why are you trekking across North Dakota?

An important thing to know is that we are professional journalists. We are staff writers and editors for an organization called E&E News, which provides objective coverage of the fast-changing world of energy and the environment for people across the political spectrum. That means that, when we head out on the Electric Road Trip, we aren't wearing rose-tinted goggles. We'll tell you the good stuff and the bad stuff — and figuring out the route for this trip revealed a lot of what's wrong with electric vehicles today.

As the organizer, I started mapping back in May. I got on the phone with dozens of activists and experts and consulted with colleagues who work all over the country. I spent hours on a site called PlugShare, which has the best beta on where to charge an electric car. I tried out different routes around the country, testing the EV's battery range against where we wanted to go.

THE WEST

Reporters gravitate toward places that are changing fast. And nowhere is the world of transportation and electrification changing faster than California — home to Tesla and Uber, home to the most stringent air regulators, and to Los Angeles, which invented the freeway but now is gridlocked in smog.

Just up north, in Portland, the Oregonians have had a love affair with EVs for years, dreaming up innovations that belie the city's small size. Keep going to Seattle, and you find bold civic experiments and the country's largest electric bus fleet.

So it's a no-brainer. Our Electric Road Trip would sweep the West Coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles.

OIL COUNTRY

Reporters don't seek out just change, but conflict. If clashes are coming, where rifts are opening, we want to be there, detecting the fault lines, canaries tweeting from the coal mine.

So obviously we have to go to Texas.

It isn't that Texans have a quarrel with electric cars. We have interviewed many Texans who love their EVs. It's that demand for oil — the cornerstone of the state's economy — ebbs a bit with every new electric vehicle that rolls off an assembly line. That's a paradox that will one day deliver to Texas an economic and cultural earthquake. We will report on the early tremors.

While in the neighborhood, it made sense to steer our electric steed east to Tennessee. A slew of cars are made in the Southeastern states, though they get less attention than Detroit. Just outside Nashville is where the oldest production electric vehicle in the country is made — no, not Tesla, but the Nissan Leaf. Does the EV revolution mean that autoworkers have to fear for their jobs?

MOTOR CITY

We also couldn't miss Detroit. If EVs in Texas are upending the oil business, the upheaval in Motor City is about manufacturing. The auto industry is in the early days of a drastic reimagining of the vehicle as one that is autonomous, connected, shared — and electric.

An EV requires far fewer parts than its gas-powered sibling. What does this mean for the auto industry's vast network of suppliers? And what about the automakers themselves? Will a new kind of car send General Motors and Ford, two pillars of the U.S. economy, toward oblivion or a renaissance?

We also sniffed an opportunity to the west, in Iowa. We couldn't miss the opportunity to drive up to a rally, in the heat of the presidential primary season, and ask the candidates (and the voters) for their views on our curious machine.

... AND WHERE WE'RE NOT GOING

This is where I ought to mention that there are plenty of other intriguing places in America to visit in an electric car. But we aren't going there, and the reason is revealing.

For example, our wish list included Colorado, which has become an EV hotbed, and Orlando, Fla., the site of a grand but failed experiment to introduce electric rental cars. We also had many reasons to visit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, from Maryland to Maine. This arc is sometimes called the "the ZEV states" because the bulk of states that follow California's rules for zero-emissions vehicles are located there. We would have encountered an enjoyable buffet of Maryland blue crabs and Boston clam chowder and a passel of EV pioneers.

But we aren't visiting those places, for a very simple reason: In 2019, an electric car only takes you so far in one day.

The maximum range of a production electric car is Tesla's Model S, at 370 miles per charge; among non-Teslas, there are a clutch of other electrics (Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf Plus, Kia Niro EV, Audi e-tron) that surpass 200 miles. After that, the battery empties, and recharging it can take all night unless you find fast chargers that are rare in many parts of the country.

This means doling out a road trip in little 200-mile doses. Today's electric cars are not yet capable of the 500-mile, just-get-the-hell-across-it day that Americans are wont to do, powered by Chevron and a big bag of Cheetos. The Electric Road Trip would take time, and we — like everyone — have limited amounts of that.

I calculated that driving electric from Orlando to Washington, D.C., would take four days. Boston to Detroit, three days. Minneapolis to Seattle, an astonishing nine days. We could do some of these routes, but we couldn't do all of them. Some destinations would have to get the heave-ho.

So, with apologies to Colorado, Orlando and the ZEV states, you won't be seeing us this fall.

After those painful decisions, the route came into focus quickly. We will get you to the places where change and conflict of electric transportation are coming — the West, the oil country of Texas, the auto manufacturing hubs of the Southeast, and the Midwestern Rust Belt.

To connect them, we will link Tennessee to Detroit by wending through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio — which turn out to be rich in electric-vehicle stories, once you look for them. And we will connect Minneapolis to Seattle by a perilous nine-day trek across North Dakota and Montana, which have fewer places to charge an EV than anywhere else in the USA (the experts warned us against this).

So there you have it: Our two-month Electric Road Trip across America is a journey into into a electric future that is exciting and scary, that few understand and that no one has come to terms with. Honestly, we don't know what is going to happen to us out there. But we sure look forward to having you along for the ride.

(Sign up here for road trip updates.)

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.

We're driving 6,000 miles in an electric car. Here's why.

We're doing something crazy this fall.

We're driving all over the United States in an electric car to explore how electric vehicles will change the experience of driving — and parking, and fueling, and other things you might not expect.

Because if you're like us, you've been wondering what the deal is with electric cars. Automakers say they're coming: Volkswagen pledged 70 new electric models within a decade, and Cadillac is supposed to be reborn as an electric brand. But the roads are still full of the same old gas cars. So ... are they coming or not? Is buying one worth it or just a hassle? Are they fun to drive?

We'll find out on the Electric Road Trip.

We're going to drive 6,000 miles around this beautiful country — a lot farther than today's electric cars are really designed to go. (Range anxiety? Yep, we're anxious!) We'll get behind the wheel of several electric models that are available today. We'll explore questions like: Do you save money driving one? How is charging a car different than filling it with gas? Does an EV actually help the climate? Or is it all just a lot of hype?

What we're finding is that EVs are going to change a lot more than just the kind of car you buy. The automobile has been running on gas for over 100 years, and when we start to switch to something else, a lot of other things start to shift. It changes how it feels to hit the pedal. It changes how you shop, where you park and the air we breathe. It alters how and where you spend time. It creates new kinds of jobs while sending others to the junkyard.

So, who is doing this trip, anyway?

We're reporters for E&E News. The two E's stand for energy and environment, so if you follow those topics closely, you've probably heard of us. If not, all you need to know is that we're good at making complicated things easy to understand and are committed to journalism, not opinions. We are a subscription-based news operation, but for the Electric Road Trip we're making our coverage available for free, including feature and investigative stories, a blog, a newsletter, and dashcam videos.

We reporters — a total of nine of us will take turns behind the wheel — are curious types who ask hard questions and find the answers. On the Electric Road Trip, we're taking almost two full months, September and October, to drive to the hidden corners and uncover how electric vehicles will change America.

We start in Texas, aka the "Nation-State of Gasoline," to explore how electric cars will transform the experience of fueling. Then to Tennessee, where there's a grassroots move to electric that surprises us. We'll zigzag through the Midwest to places like Detroit, where they've been making internal-combustion car engines forever. What changes when they start making electric cars instead? It's creating some winners, and yep, some losers too.

We'll go to Iowa in the heat of election season and see what the presidential candidates have to say about our electric ride. We'll traverse North Dakota, where there's almost no place to plug in an electric car. Are we worried about being stranded on the side of the road? In fact we are.

Then it's on to the West Coast, where we'll make lots of stops in California, where Tesla reigns supreme. We'll visit the places where pioneers are imagining that EVs could be the solution to all sorts of problems, from urban poverty to a polluted lake.

In short, it's going to be a fascinating ride. Join us on this Electric Road Trip by signing up and follow @EENewsUpdates #ElectricRoadTrip on Twitter and Instagram.

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.