CalCom’s Interconnection Coordinator Ventures 1,600 Miles in an All-Electric Chevy Bolt

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Calcom’s Interconnection Coordinator, Sarah Kelly, recently took a 1,600 mile road trip from Colorado to Michigan in an all-electric Chevy Bolt.

On the day of their departure, Hurricane Laura mowed through Louisiana. Fourteen people were killed, half of them by carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of generators indoors. Power was knocked out for days for 360,000 people. As late as September 2, tanker access to liquid natural gas plants and oil refineries was still limited by debris and salvage operations in the waterways which lead to those plants.

On the trip’s second day, they passed through Iowa, where three weeks before an extreme straight-line windstorm with winds up to 126 mph destroyed 7- to 8-million acres of corn and beans. It crushed many empty silos, setting the state’s farmers up for problems finding grain storage this fall. Four people were killed. 1.9 million people across several states lost power, some for as long as thirteen days.

Both events highlighted the importance of accelerating build-out of resilient, distributed power generation and storage, and bolstering demand for locally produced renewable electricity. Transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) for cars, trucks and heavy equipment will play a big role in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions which are speeding up global warming and aggravating extreme weather across the globe.

Back on the road trip, while fossil fuel supplies were still backed up in Louisiana, Sarah was filling up on free, fast-charger electricity provided by MidAmerican and Alliant Energy companies in Iowa, where wind energy produces 42% of the state’s electricity, the highest of any state.

Drawbacks? The trip took longer. On past trips, driving a gas car, the trip took two very long days driving. In the EV, stopping to fast-charge took three, 1-hour stops a day. But each day started with a full charge provided for free by a hotel. The EV trip was three days of more relaxed driving. The pace was easier to take. Sarah and her husband Mike used the stops to stretch their legs walking and eat without having crumbs fall in their laps. The trip felt less stressful because they weren’t pushing for maximum miles. They arrived at their destination less achy and irritable. The inconvenience was vanishingly small when compared to the climate-related catastrophes being suffered by people coast-to-coast on a now yearly basis. Person-by-person, mile-by-mile we can make a difference.