Military Efficiency? Biden's Electric Vehicle Push Adds Hours to Routine Marine Trip

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July 10, 2023

At a small base in southwest Georgia, Marines are regularly tasked with making the roughly nine-hour drive to a much larger site: Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The trip is routine enough, spanning roughly 520 miles of mostly highway driving. A new Ford F-150 can even complete it on just one tank of gas.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, however, is no ordinary military site. It's the U.S. military's greenest base, having achieved carbon neutrality through solar panels and other alternative sources. As part of its push to go green, the base is electrifying much of its vehicle fleet, including through a brand-new F-150 Lightning, Ford's electric pickup. Marines stationed at the base aren't totally sold on the effort, however, with some expressing concern that if they make the back-and-forth journey to Camp Lejeune in an electric vehicle, they'll face charging complications that could turn a routine trip into a logistical nightmare.

That anxiety is justified, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis, which used a popular electric vehicle trip planning service to chart the charging stops required when making the drive in the base's electric truck. These stops make each leg of the trip at least three hours longer—and that's assuming the public charging stations littered between the Albany base and Camp Lejeune actually work. They often don't. In an electric truck, the roughly 9-hour trip balloons to at least 12 hours, if not considerably longer.

The inefficiencies associated with electric vehicle charging—particularly during long road trips—have not stopped the Biden administration from moving forward with plans to require the U.S. military to adopt an all-electric vehicle fleet by 2030. President Joe Biden last year said his administration is "spending billions of dollars" to "start the process where every vehicle in the United States military, every vehicle, is going to be climate-friendly. Every vehicle—I mean it." Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm endorsed this "process" in April, saying during a Senate hearing that she supports the military's adoption of an "EV fleet."

Common trips such as the one from the Albany base to Camp Lejeune, however, show how the Biden administration's embrace of military electric vehicles impedes efficiency.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany assistant fleet manager Zachary Haller told the Free Beacon that the base's Lightning includes a standard battery, as opposed to one with extended range. While Ford says the standard range Lightning—which costs at least $60,000—can travel 230 miles per charge, the truck typically maxes out at roughly 210 miles per charge when driving on highways, tests show. As a result, a Marine making the trip in a Lightning would need to make two charging stops to travel from the Albany base to Camp Lejeune.

Those stops, according to electric vehicle trip planner PlugShare, could be made in Augusta, Ga., and Florence, S.C., two cities that offer public electric vehicle charging stations and are roughly 200 and 350 miles from the Albany base, respectively. But these stations are hit or miss. Many "public" charging stations are located in hotel and car dealership parking lots and cannot be used by non-paying customers. Stations that are truly open to the public, meanwhile, are often crowded, broken, or charge at a much slower rate than advertised.

A pair of public chargers at a convenience store just outside of Augusta, for example, are compatible with the Lightning and advertise 62.5 Kilowatts of charging power. Those who have used the station, however, say the chargers sometimes deliver as little as 24 Kilowatts. Given that the Lightning would sit at just 5 percent battery after driving the 200 miles from the Albany base to Augusta, charging it to 90 percent at 62.5 Kilowatts would take an hour and a half, according to an electric vehicle charging time calculator. The task would take a whopping four hours at 24 Kilowatts.

For the trip's second stop, PlugShare pointed the Free Beacon to a charging station located in a Walmart parking lot in Florence. PlugShare reviews show that the station's charging units are routinely broken, and those that do work offer "very slow charging," delivering anywhere from 30 to 60 Kilowatts of power. The drive from Augusta to Florence is a shorter one, clocking in at 150 miles, meaning the Lightning would sit at roughly 20 percent battery upon arrival. Charging the Lightning from 20 to 90 percent battery would take an hour and 15 minutes at 60 Kilowatts and nearly three hours at 30 Kilowatts, according to the calculator. Still, those times do not include unforeseen issues such as broken charging units or wait times if the chargers are in use—issues that occur often at this particular station.

"Awful slow station took over an hour 20% to 80%," one user wrote. "Was able to charge after waiting for one of the 2 barely working units to become available," another complained. "Very slow charging," a third reviewer wrote. A fourth called the station "straight trash" while a fifth said the station is so "pathetic" that it could "kill EV adoption."

In total, the two charging stops would add at least three hours to the Camp Lejeune trip, thanks to charging wait times and added driving distance. But that figure assumes the charging stations operate as advertised. If they don't—a problem electric vehicle users regularly encounter on road trips—the routine drive from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany to Camp Lejeune could easily become an all-day affair.

Haller confirmed the Free Beacon's analysis, saying in a statement that while the base's Lightning "has not made a trip to Camp Lejeune, N.C., at the moment," using the electric truck for such a trip "would add 3 hours of charge time to the trip, stopping twice." Haller also told the Free Beacon the base's Lightning "is equipped with a credit card to use at public charging stations."

Some military leaders have defended the administration's electric vehicle aspirations, with former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment and Energy Resilience Richard Kidd telling the Washington Post that reducing greenhouse gas emissions builds military "resilience." But many conservative lawmakers and experts who served in the military disagree, arguing that the charging infrastructure issues in the United States pale in comparison to the logistical challenges that come with electric vehicle use overseas.

Former Marine Corps officer and deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger said he "encountered a lot of IEDs on dirt roads in Afghanistan, but no charging stations." Indiana Republican congressman and Afghanistan war veteran Jim Banks agrees—Banks last month introduced an amendment to block Department of Defense contracts for electric vehicles, which he called "the stupidest idea any American president has ever had."

"Joe Biden's EV mandate is political theater and a sham," Banks said in May. "But the damage it could do to our military is 100 percent real."