Electric Road Trip

Crossing Texas

Welcome, passengers, to the first newsletter of E&E News' Electric Road Trip. You are receiving an update with the best of our 6,000-mile, two-month ramble, exploring how electric transportation will change America.

After months of prep, we're in motion! Our two Texas reporters, Edward Klump and Mike Lee, rolled out of Houston on Monday behind the wheel of a Kia Niro EV. They've been busy. Yesterday they filed dispatches from Austin, and as you read this they are in Dallas, with plans to make Little Rock, Ark., by nightfall.

In total you will receive nine weekly updates. Each is tied to a different region of the country as we press on to the Southeast, the Midwest and the West. Each edition has our best posts of the week. And we publish a special feature on how electric vehicles are changing that region — and altering America's economy, jobs and the rhythms of everyday life.

Forward this newsletter to your friends and tell them to subscribe. Join our Facebook group, where you can get up close with the reporters and the issues, and see every post as it appears on the blog.

— David Ferris

No city stands to be changed by electric vehicles like Houston. The center of America's oil industry, it is economically and culturally wedded to the gas pump. But EVs are making inroads there, and we found the Houstonians who are the first to feel the change, like Doug Vydrzal, whose finger-lickin' barbecue joint sees an opportunity in Teslas.

Read the complete story in Energywire.


AUSTIN, Texas — It's not every day you get to meet a gender-neutral dinosaur who's into electric cars. But there we were, in Austin, face to jaw with StEVie, the EV-loving Tyrannosaurus rex.

HOUSTON — In our interview with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the mayor suggested that the economic power of the oil, gas and chemical industries isn't enough to put the kibosh on the city's carbon goals.

HOUSTON — As our journey kicked off in a battery-powered car, no one seemed to know how well the nation's system of electric chargers really worked.

Here is a refresher on the 17 states we'll visit on the Electric Road Trip, which involved some tough trade-offs. Also, take a look at the eight electric cars we'll drive around the country.


Democrats running for president are proposing electric vehicle targets that would phase out the sale of new gasoline cars by 2030. Is the idea viable? E&E News

The White House wants to divide its rollback of Obama-era clean car standards into two parts, complicating litigation. E&E News

Moody's slashed Ford Motor Co.'s credit rating to junk status over doubts about major corporate restructuring. Automotive News

Ford is launching eight EV models in Europe as it charges ahead with multibillion-dollar investments to meet emissions standards. Reuters

Volkswagen introduced the flagship model of its new all-electric line. Car and Driver

Rivian signed a $350 million equity investment deal with Cox Automotive. Reuters


Our next newsletter will come to you from Atlanta, if the charging stations are willing and the creek don't rise. Until then, catch you 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.

Electric Rex: This reptile wants to make gasoline extinct

AUSTIN, Texas — It's not every day you get to meet a gender-neutral dinosaur who's into electric vehicles. But there we were, shortly after arriving in this capital city yesterday, face to jaw with StEVie, the EV-loving Tyrannosaurus rex. "StEVie is passionate about you saying goodbye to gas forever," said Austin Energy's Bobby Godsey. StEVie, he said, "is focused on spreading the word in the community."

We met StEVie on Electric Drive, a showcase street for new and emerging technology. It's a place where Austin Energy, the city's municipal electric utility, can discuss its vision of an electric future.

There are EV charging stations and an area powered by solar and storage that has free plugs to help people charge laptops, phones and electric bikes. People zip along a wide sidewalk on electric bikes and scooters.

Austin Energy said the fast charger on Electric Drive is one of the most used in the state. But it wasn't working when we tried it Monday. That meant we didn't get to charge on the street because a slower charger wasn't available to us during much of our visit. There's hope of adding more charging stations in the future as the street continues to evolve.

Education and outreach are priorities for Austin Energy. It has seen people become confused by technical language about EVs, and it wants to help simplify things. Adding more electricity demand is good for this utility, whose trajectory is shaped by priorities among city leaders.

StEVie remains an eye-catching way to tie fossil fuels for cars to a move toward electricity, which can be powered by wind and solar generation (and some fossil fuels).

The mascot is popular at events and in crowds. And StEVie is featured in a series of online videos showing the dinosaur in various roles, including playing drums in a band. StEVie was sporting a shirt Monday that declared "ELECTRIC > GAS." It's a message the utility uses in part to start a conversation about power, gasoline and energy options.

The dinosaur doesn't speak, or even roar. But StEVie held a sign during our meeting that declared, "Goodbye ForEVer, Gas."

At a meeting with EV enthusiasts Monday night, we heard positive words about StEVie and efforts in this city to reach people with information, especially since EVs and charging remain a mystery to many.

"I think Austin Energy really is trying to integrate it into the messaging of the community," said Robert Borowski, sustainability officer at the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Others at our meeting last night noted how Austin Energy might incorporate educational content into a new headquarters building that's in the works. That idea was discussed in a piece this year on a website about Austin's Mueller neighborhood, which is known for efforts around sustainability.

In the meantime, StEVie remains a popular attraction.

"StEVie's Outlook calendar is full," Godsey said. "Everybody loves StEVie, from the kids to the executives of the Fortune 500 corporations in town."

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.

America's charging network — a bumpy start

AUSTIN, Texas — After a long day on the road, we're happy to report we enjoy driving electric vehicles. We just wish the battery charging network were in the same league.

The second part is crucial, because the people we've talked to along the way agree that the perception of the car charging network is one factor keeping people tied to their internal-combustion cars.

Driving a battery-powered car requires a constant set of calculations, said Michael Osborne, chairman of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance. How much range does the car have left? Do I have enough battery life for this detour? Where's the nearest charger? How long will it take to charge?

"It's an acquired skill right now, and we need to make it a lot easier than that," Osborne said.

We spent part of Sunday in a rented Tesla Model S. It handles like a super-car. When you punch it, the car will bounce the passenger's head off the headrest. (Ask Mike. Edward, the driver, says he has no idea what Mike's talking about.)

But the Tesla can feel too futuristic. The car is supposed to automatically unlock when the driver approaches with the key fob. That feature didn't work at least once during our tour. And when Edward picked up the car, he couldn't start it because a battery in the fob didn't work.

The Kia Niro felt like an everyday car, especially for a couple of dads who are used to small cars. It doesn't have the Tesla's tire-squealing acceleration, but it's a lot faster than a comparable gasoline-powered car. On the highway, the car's range indicator seemed pretty accurate. When we pulled away from Hermann Park in Houston, the battery was about 95% full and the Niro said it could travel about 240 miles.

That's good, because charging a car in public turned out to be tricky. Charging stations come in three types:

  • Level 1 is the equivalent of a 120-volt household outlet and can take a day or more to power up a car battery.
  • Level 2 is the equivalent of a 240-volt home outlet and can charge a battery overnight.
  • Level 3, or DC (direct-current) fast chargers, can have you on the road in an hour or two.

We went to a Blink charging station near Edward's house Sunday afternoon and found that one of the two chargers was out of order. The screen on the working charger was so faded by the sun, it was hard to read. After some fumbling with the Blink app on Mike's smartphone, we were able to juice up the battery for a few minutes.

After a barbecue lunch yesterday in Columbus, Texas, we pulled into an Electrify America station with what looked like four new-looking fast-charging stations. The first one was out of order. We moved to the second charger and plugged in with no problem, but we noticed that it had been vandalized.

Pulling into Austin, we were hoping to plug into the fast charger that the municipal utility had installed as part of a demonstration project. Heck, they renamed the street Electric Drive. But it was out of order — and had been for a few days — and another car was using the nearby Level 2 charger.

By this point, we had mild case of range anxiety. Mike had booked a hotel near Lady Bird Lake. We charged for two hours while we met with Osborne and a bunch of other electric-vehicle advocates, but we still needed a place to plug in for the night.

By the time our last meeting ended after 10 p.m. local time, it looked like we were going to have to find a station on the PlugShare app and hope it was within walking distance of the hotel.

At a nearby parking garage, there was no charging station, PlugShare told us, but there were three electrical outlets on the top floor.

Relieved, we plugged in the car and headed upstairs for a well-earned night of rest.

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.

Houston mayor: EVs vital to carbon goals

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wants Texas' largest city to be a climate leader without demonizing oil and gas companies.

In July, Houston released a draft climate action plan that envisions having more public infrastructure for electric vehicles and converting the nonemergency, light-duty municipal fleet to EVs.

The destruction after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 changed some perspectives on the urgency of more aggressive energy and transportation planning. Today Houston relies heavily on renewable energy in its municipal electricity spending. But a proposed widening of Interstate 45 has frustrated some who see the project as a new source of pollution, flooding, safety issues and displacement in the city.

Turner, who's seeking reelection this year, spoke with me yesterday, the day before we began our Electric Road Trip. He is 64 years old and a longtime Democratic voice in Texas.

Can Houston be a climate leader when so much of its huge economy and workforce are dedicated to advancing oil and gas?

Absolutely. We no longer just talk about oil and gas. We talk about being the energy capital of the world. And that's inclusive of oil — oil and gas — and renewables.

So you can't continue to be the energy capital of the world and just focus on one sector. You have to focus on the diversification within the energy sector. And, quite frankly, there's no better place for it to take place than right here in the city of Houston.

To the extent we can put forth a successful, let's say, climate action plan in the energy capital of the world, it will speak volumes to people around the world.

Does global warming inform what you propose to do in Houston?

These storms are coming with greater frequency and greater intensity. And you don't have to talk about a hurricane. You could have 6 inches of rain falling in 10 hours or less, and you're going to have some flooding.

We recognize that the plan that we put forth has to be something that's uniquely Houston that achieves the end objective — carbon neutral by 2050.

How important could electric vehicles be in reaching that goal?

Electric vehicles will play a vital part, you know, in that equation. To the extent we can move people to electric vehicles, [that] would be a big, big plus in achieving our climate action plan end goal. Cleaner air. A more healthy environment. Enhancing the quality of life.

But in the effort to boost EVs, aren't you also shrinking the prospects for oil?

I think there's diversification in every market. You have oil and gas companies who are investing in renewables. I think people recognize the evolution of energy use.

It's not making Big Oil out to be a bad guy?

I'm not interested in creating a win-lose. What I am interested in is working to create a win-win and utilizing the intellectual capital that exists within our city as it relates to the energy market and saying, how can we achieve the end objective? How can we create a cleaner environment? How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Do you think we should have EVs at a certain level by a certain year, or is that still being worked out?

That is still being worked out. We know we have got to have a lot more charging stations.

We're taking a look at what they're doing out in LA. And I commend by good friend Mayor [Eric] Garcetti and the work that they have done.

We lost a large portion of our electric fleet — municipal electric fleet — from Hurricane Harvey.

Is there anything you want people to know about Houston that maybe they don't know about it?

We've always wanted to be out front. We like to lead.

We can still be a leader when it comes to climate action in this space and still be true to who we are. It's a win-win and not winners and losers.

We'll see if we can get it done. It's very ambitious and challenging — but exciting — all at the same time.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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.

Hello from Texas. Here we go

HOUSTON — To be honest, we're not sure what we're getting into.

We're the first drivers for E&E News' Electric Road Trip. Our route starts this morning in Houston at the iconic statue of Sam Houston, the city's namesake, a few miles outside downtown. We roll into Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, more than 1,000 miles later.

That's just the first chunk of a nation-size route. In all, nine reporters will log a combined 6,000 miles and pass through 17 states over two months.

Our Texas-based crew has more than two decades of energy reporting experience, spanning electricity, oil and gas. Edward has written about power and fossil fuels during his 13 years in Houston, which bills itself as the world's energy capital. Mike has covered oil and gas issues for about the same time from Dallas-Fort Worth.

We know where we're going, and we've done our homework. We know what kind of car we're driving. (We took a Tesla Model S for a spin yesterday, and we're relying on a white Kia Niro EV EX Premium from today until we reach Nashville.) We've read the online reviews. We've pinpointed charging stations. We've set up interviews with smart people on the route.

This week, we'll publish a story about how the switch to electric vehicles could affect Houston's historically oil- and car-dependent economy. As we travel, we hope to dig into how battery-powered vehicles may affect everything from the utility industry to car salesmen.

But there's a lot we don't know. Electric vehicles are a new phenomenon in the U.S., and the network of charging stations is still being built.

So far, no one seems to know how well this new system really works. We've seen the stories about how a routine eight-hour car trip can morph into a 13-hour ordeal. We're going to be watching for insights about electric vehicles — and eating barbecue along the way. Then we're going to hand the car off to another duo who'll continue the journey.

We're prepared. We've got a blanket, a flashlight, a first aid kit. Bottled water for us. Charging cables and adapters for the car.

Highway travel has gotten safer in the last few decades as the world has become digitized and connected. Between mobile phones and GPS, it's awfully hard to get lost these days.

But there's still a sense that we're stepping off into the unknown. If any other news outlet has driven a lap around the country in a fleet of battery-powered cars, we haven't heard about it. And that's what makes the journey so interesting.

Here we go.

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.

What we're driving on the 6,000-mile Electric Road Trip

In preparing for our Electric Road Trip that starts next week, we get one question all the time: What electric car are you driving?

So we are delighted to finally disclose the car — or actually, all eight of them. Here's our fleet, with specifics on each at the end of the post:

  • BMW i3
  • Chevrolet Bolt
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Jaguar I-PACE
  • Kia Niro EV
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Tesla Model 3
  • Tesla Model S

The whole purpose of the Electric Road Trip is to explore how electric transportation will change America. To convey the experience of motoring and fueling, we wanted to expose you to as many models as possible.

Not just any electric car would do. We focused on pure electric models, not plug-in hybrids, since our experiment is to cover 6,000 miles without a drop of gas.

Furthermore, we needed steeds that would cover 200 miles or more on a single charge, as we have a lot of distance to cover (see the route). All of the cars we'll use fit that description, except for the BMW i3, with a range of 153 miles, and an older-model Nissan Leaf, with a range of 75 miles.

Four of the cars — the Kia Niro EV, BMW i3, Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 — were loaned to us by their manufacturers.

Not coincidentally, these are also the workhorses of the trip. That's because in 2019, it is virtually impossible to rent an electric car that isn't a Tesla from one of the big rental agencies. (Believe us, we checked.) In other words, picking up an electric car from one part of the country and leaving it in another part of the country is difficult to do. The cars loaned by the manufacturers helped us solve the puzzle of a sprawling 6,000-mile route, and for that we're grateful.

The other vehicles will be based in a single metro area. (Which metro area? Watch and bookmark this blog for updates.) Sometimes our reporters, in teams of two, will drive two cars simultaneously.

Finally, a note for Tesla aficionados. The question may be asked: If Teslas are available for rent and have better range than other EVs along with a robust, proprietary charging network, why aren't you just driving Teslas?

The short answer is that we aren't taking the easy road. Exploring the state of electric transportation in 2019 means driving lots of different cars and relying on lots of different charging networks. We're glad to have perhaps the largest fleet of all-electric cars ever to comprise a single Electric Road Trip.

Here are the cars. All the information comes from the manufacturers, with the following caveats.

Range, MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent) and time to charge originate from data at the Department of Energy and EPA. Figures on MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price) are courtesy of Edmunds; zero-to-60 estimates are from test drives by Car and Driver.

BMW i3

Model Year: 2019
Range: 153 miles
Electric motor: 135 kilowatts
Horsepower: 181
Battery: 42 kilowatts per hour
MSRP: $44,450 to $51,500
MPGe city/highway: 113
Torque: 184 pound-feet
Zero to 60 mph: 6.6 seconds
Time to charge: 5 hours at 240 volts

Chevrolet Bolt

Model year: 2019
Range: 238 miles
Electric motor: 149 kW
Horsepower: 200
Battery: 60 kWh
MSRP: $36,620-$41,000
MPGe city/highway: 119
Torque: 266 pound-feet
Zero to 60 mph: Less than 7 seconds*
Time to charge: 9.3 hours at 240 volts

Hyundai Kona Electric

Model year: 2019
Range: 258 miles
Electric motor: 150 kW
Horsepower: 201
Battery: 64 kWh
MSRP: $36,950 to $44,900
MPGe city/highway: 120
Torque: 291 pound-feet
Zero to 60 mph: 6.4 seconds
Time to charge: 9 hours at 240 volts

Jaguar I-PACE

Model year: 2019
Range: 234 miles
Electric motor: Two motors, total 294 kW
Horsepower: 394
Battery: 90 kWh
MSRP: $69,850-$80,900
MPGe city/highway: 76
Torque: 512 pound-feet
Zero to 60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Time to charge: 13 hours at 240 volts

Kia Niro EV

Model year: 2019
Range: 239 miles
Electric motor: 170 kW
Horsepower: 201
Battery: 64 kWh
MSRP: $38,500-$44,000
MPGe city/highway: 112
Torque: 291 pound-feet
Zero to 60 mph: 6.5 seconds
Time to charge: 9.5 hours at 240 volts

Nissan Leaf

Model year: 2013
Range: 75 miles
Electric motor: 80 kW
Horsepower: 107
Battery: 24 kWh
MSRP: Used
MPGe city/highway: 115
Torque: 187
Zero to 60 mph: 10 seconds**
Time to charge: 7 hours at 240 volts

Tesla Model 3

Model year: 2019
Range: 310 miles
Electric motor: Two motors, total 258 kW
Horsepower: 346
Battery: Figure not reported
MSRP: $35,000-$59,900
MPGe city/highway: 116
Torque: 376 pound-feet
Zero to 60 mph: 4.4 seconds
Time to charge: 10 hours at 240 volts

Tesla Model S

Model year: 2014
Range: 265 miles
Electric motor: Unavailable****
Horsepower: Unavailable****
Battery: 85 kWh
MSRP: Used
MPGe city/highway: 89
Torque: Unavailable****
Zero to 60 mph: 3.7 seconds***
Time to charge: 4.75-12 hours (depending on amperage and charger type)

* The Chevrolet Bolt is the only new car whose zero-to-60 speed was not measured by Car and Driver. This figure comes from a list of Bolt specs.

** A 2014 Nissan Leaf was clocked zero-to-60 in 9.7 seconds by the publication Top Speed and a 2011 model at 10 seconds by Car and Driver.

*** From Car and Driver's review of the 2015 Tesla Model S P85 all-wheel-drive.

**** Tesla did not make all information available in time for publication.

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.

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.

Have something to say? Join the conversation in our Facebook group.

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.


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.


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?


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.


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.