Journalist Takes Road Trip in Electric Car, Spends More Time Charging Than Sleeping - Now Says Gas Smells So Sweet


Electric vehicles are supposed to be the next big thing. So, why did one Wall Street Journal reporter, after taking a road trip with one, say that the fumes of expensive gasoline “never smelled so sweet”?

In a piece published by the Journal on Friday, Rachel Wolfe described charging a Kia EV6 for more time than she spent sleeping during a trek from New Orleans to Chicago.

Wolfe’s opening statement, which should serve as a portent to anyone who thinks the charging infrastructure or the capabilities of electric vehicles are there yet: “I thought it would be fun.”

Spoiler alert: It was not. Despite the fact that the EV6 is a hot new vehicle and the fact Wolfe had made several long trips in her (relatively) antediluvian 2008 Volkswagen Jetta, the experience turned into a nightmare of public-charging infrastructure frustrations and waiting around.

(Here at The Western Journal, we’ve chronicled some of the serious issues with electric vehicles — and this is hardly the only one, as we’ll discuss in a bit. We’ll continue to point out how EVs aren’t ready for prime time yet, despite President Joe Biden’s administration insisting they’re the answer to slashing America’s carbon emissions. You can help us bring readers the truth by subscribing.)

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Wolfe wrote that she “plotted a meticulous route” using an app that showed public chargers along the 2,000-mile round-trip route. Most of the chargers, however, were only Level 2, which means they would take eight hours for a full charge.

Fast chargers can get the car to 80 percent of its full charge in roughly a half-hour — “Longer than stopping for gas — but good for a bite or bathroom break,” Wolfe noted.

“Over four days, we spent $175 on charging. We estimated the equivalent cost for gas in a Kia Forte would have been $275, based on the AAA average national gas price for May 19. That $100 savings cost us many hours in waiting time,” she wrote.

Over the trip, she noted that the vehicle had lower range than advertised, charge stations had slower speeds than advertised, many had problematic cords and plenty of the country had almost no fast-charging stations at all.

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Take, for instance, what happened when Wolfe and her traveling partner couldn’t find the wall-mounted charger at a Kia dealership in Meridian, Mississippi, during the first day of the journey — an experience that perfectly encapsulated the trip.

“When I ask a mechanic working on an SUV a few feet away for help, he says he doesn’t know anything about the machine and points us inside. At the front desk, the receptionist asks if we’ve checked with a technician and sends us back outside,” she wrote.

“Not many people use the charger, the mechanic tells us when we return. We soon see why. Once up and running, our dashboard tells us a full charge, from 18% to 100%, will take 3-plus hours.

“It turns out not all ‘fast chargers’ live up to the name,” Wolfe noted.

“The biggest variable, according to State of Charge, is how many kilowatts a unit can churn out in an hour. To be considered ‘fast,’ a charger must be capable of about 24 kW. The fastest chargers can pump out up to 350. Our charger in Meridian claims to meet that standard, but it has trouble cracking 20.

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And while the first day was the worst, Wolfe wrote, it never became “all smooth sailing.”

“At one point we find ourselves wandering through a Kroger, sopping wet, in search of coffee after wrestling with a particularly finicky charger in the rain. By this point, not once have we managed to back in close enough to reach the pump, or gotten the stiff cord hooked around the right way on the first try,” she wrote.

In one instance, Wolfe and her traveling companion had to turn off the cooling system and radio in a rainstorm while reducing the rate of the windshield wipers to make it to a charging station while running “on electric fumes.”

“At zero miles, we fly screeching into a gas-station parking lot. A trash can goes flying and lands with a clatter to greet us. Dinner is beef jerky, our plans to dine at a kitschy beauty shop-turned-restaurant in Memphis long gone,” she wrote.

Overall, Wolfe wrote, she spent 16 hours sleeping during the trip — compared to 18 hours waiting to charge spread over 14 charges.

“The following week, I fill up my Jetta at a local Shell station. Gas is up to $4.08 a gallon,” she concluded. “I inhale deeply. Fumes never smelled so sweet.”

It’s not just the inconvenience or the charging networks that are problems, either — although that certainly is a problem, as this Business Insider reporter demonstrated in a March tweet:

EVs cost significantly more than internal-combustion vehicles, for one thing. The average price of a new electric vehicle was $64,685, according to the Kelley Blue Book. As the New York Post noted in April, that’s “nearly 2.5 times the average price of a new compact car ($26,196), almost twice the average cost of a new compact SUV ($33,732), and 52% more expensive than the average sports car ($42,555).”

Beyond that, there’s convenience. Even when charging stations are available, that doesn’t mean they work. In the deep-blue California Bay Area, over 25 percent weren’t fully functioning, according to a recent study.

Then there are the fires (if not explosions) or the reports tires on EVs wear out more quickly. And then there’s the environmental damage caused by mining for the components electric cars need.

It all adds up to a “solution” that’s a problem all on its own. Gas fumes never smelled so good, indeed.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture