Senator passes high-priced gas, but at what cost in her EV?

Editor's Note: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on Tuesday bragged about buying an expensive electric vehicle amid a global semiconductor chip shortage and being able to bypass historically high gas prices on her road trip to Washington, D.C.  MotorwayAmerica contributor Chris Sawyer's response to a question as to whether the senator did, indeed, merrily pass folks queued up at gas stations paying five dollars per gallon, or is the truth a bit more, uhm, nuanced.

By Chris Sawyer

(June 12, 2022) Okay, if Sen. Debbie Stabenow got a regular Chevrolet Bolt, the EPA range is 259 miles. It’s 247 for the Bolt EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle). Adding anything to either gets you to $40,000 before government rebate, but I’m sure Sen. Stabenow got employee pricing — or (much) better.

British auto writer Neil Winton ( has shown that, in the real world, range drops by an average of 37% on the highway. At speeds above 70 mph — say 85 mph or so — that jumps to a near 60% drop. In addition, it’s recommended that you don’t charge beyond 80% of capacity, and do not draw the charge below 20% — just like your cell phone — if you want to do the least harm to your battery. In essence, you only get to use 40% of the battery. Also, cold weather can take 30% all by itself, but it’s nearly summer, so we’ll leave that for another time.

Let’s assume the senator bought the trendier Bolt EUV. If we follow the preferred charge/discharge protocol above, that means her best case scenario range is 247 x 0.60, or 148 miles. Since the bulk of the trip (approximately 700 miles) is on the highway, her range drops to 148 x 0.60, or 93.24 miles.

If we assume she regains approximately 10% of that range in urban areas, and under other situations where she can add back mileage via regenerative braking, this number increases to approximately 100 miles. Which means she has to stop a minimum of seven times on her trip. Thankfully for her, the weekend was dry and mild. Adding heavy air conditioning and wiper use
would have had a deleterious effect on range, to say the least.

                                                                                                                                             Getty Images

Unlike a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) — like the ones preferred by her security team — recharging takes much more time than the 5-10 minutes typical of an ICE fill-up. The average gas station carries in its underground storage tanks energy equivalent to a small nuclear power plant.

Automobiles, on average, use about 30% of the available energy from each gallon of gas (the percentage is about 10% higher for diesels). While EVs are much more efficient, only about 60% of the energy put into the grid comes out of the plug, so there is that loss to take into consideration. Nevertheless, if we assume she was able to take advantage of fast chargers at each stop, and they were both readily available and plentiful along her route (highly unlikely), she spent hours waiting for it to charge.

Why do I not believe her statement that she “smiled as she passed the gas stations” along her route? Perhaps because, if we assume the above math is anywhere near what she could expect on a trip that takes her through eh hills and dales of Pennsylvania, etc., she was probably driving with her eyes glued to the range meter as she climbed each hill while trying to maintain a speed that would prevent her from being run over by an 18-wheeler delivering goods to businesses across the country.

The downside regen would have brought some, but not enough, comfort. Certainly not enough to make her want to do it again.