PERMIAN BASIN, Texas--Between my husband and myself, we have been driving electric cars for about 15 years now, and that does not include 15 years prior to that driving hybrid vehicles. We are what they call “early adopters,” when it comes to cleaner driving, even if it has set us back some greenbacks.
In fact, my first ride in an all-electric car was in a Tesla, before Elon Musk ran the company. Tesla’s co-founder, Martin Eberhard, drove an early version of the vehicle up from Silicon Valley to the production studio in San Francisco where I did my radio show, EcoTalk, on the former Air America Network. I didn’t get to drive it, but was excited enough to get a rush from the passenger seat just thinking about this snazzy new green driving machine and what it portended for the future.
That was back in 2005, almost 20 years ago!
So, to get stranded with an electric car for the very first time was…unexpected. And that’s why I’m sharing this story with you.
The past, present, and near future caught up with my husband Alan and me last weekend in Ozona, Texas, a small town ironically in the middle of oil and gas country. What were we doing in the heart of the Permian Basin? Enjoying a road trip from Austin to San Francisco, where we split our time.
With a new granddaughter in the Bay Area, we were heading west in our newly leased Lucid, excited to be trying something different after being fortunate enough to drive Teslas for many years.
Alan’s lease on his Tesla S was up in December 2023 and we were—like many—disappointed and a bit disgusted by Elon Musk’s increasingly manic antics. I used to say “In Musk We Trust” in the earlier days, when Elon was legitimately viewed as the man who made electric cars and reusable rockets attractive and appealing. As he grew more eccentric, I’d defend him to critics by pointing out that geniuses who change the world--like Steve Jobs before him—should be allowed some leeway to be difficult, or weird, because, well, they’re just not like the rest of us.
However, his license to be a jerk ended for me when he expressed support for Florida Governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, no friend of the environment, given his downplaying of the climate crisis, like all of his Republican counterparts. That was the first clue to me that Musk was not at all progressive politically, even while being the embodiment of technological progress when it comes to transportation. It went downhill from there with his increasingly odd comments and behavior. But when Musk declared—a few years ago—that the biggest threat to humanity was a shrinking population, I was ready to turn over my keys, or fob.
Really? With 8-billion souls now living on a planet in overshoot (www.footprintnetwork.org), and a climate crisis fueled by our rising emissions, population IS part of the problem, especially in the U.S. which has the highest per capita emissions. Our great green hope was turning into a great big dope in my view. And the many millions being spent trying to get to Mars rather than allocate more toward healing the Earth? Of course, that proclivity Musk shares with his fellow tech billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.
But it was Musk’s defense, if not outright support, for anti-semitic comments on his “X” (formerly known as Twitter) platform that pushed me over the edge. Like many, I’ve had to conclude that he was not as admirable as I had presumed.
Which brings me back to our aborted road trip…
Since we had planned to take six days, with stops in Marfa, Texas, Tucson, Arizona, and Palm Springs, California, we had downloaded some books on tape for the journey. My choice was Walter Isaacson’s 2023 biography, Elon Musk. Although he is no longer on my hero list, the guy is fascinating in terms of his breakthrough companies and game changing technologies. I was especially interested in Isaacson’s observations about what led Musk to grow seemingly more conservative politically, and stranger personally. Isaacson was granted almost carte blanche access to Musk during the past few critical years.
So, there we were, heading west on Interstate 10, traversing West Texas, while listening to accounts of Musk’s troubled childhood and youth at the hands of an erratic and abusive father. We were loving our Lucid and exclaiming how glad we were to no longer be in a Tesla. After all, it was Tesla’s top engineer who left to start Lucid, also made in the USA.
But not so fast…our Lucid lovefest came to a sudden halt when we stopped for our first recharge since leaving Austin with some 800 kilometers (500 miles) worth of electricity. My husband chose the Lucid-- after looking at the other luxury EV’s on the market-- because of its extended range. I fell in love with it in the showroom when the salesman turned on the “Massage” mode, available in both the driver and passenger seats! That, and the superior sound system, sold me. It was also sleek, roomy, and with the frunk (front trunk), had plenty of room for storage.
So, imagine our shock when after pulling into the Ozona, Texas Hampton Inn parking lot--where the Electrify America chargers recommended by Lucid were located—the chargers wouldn’t work. Alan got the device plugged into our car, but we kept getting an “error” message telling us to re-insert the charger. After several attempts, Alan called both Electrify America and Lucid seeking advice. The Lucid rep could not have been nicer, as he advised us to empty the seats, lock the car, and move away from it with the fob. We tried that a few times—we had of course already tried all four chargers there, two for 150 kilowatts and two for 350 kW. None worked. It was getting dark and chilly…so what now?
Our options were limited, since we were in a place where there were no other charging services. And we were far from any cities where there might be a better selection, if in fact, it was an issue with Electrify America and not our Lucid. But nothing was clear in that moment, except the darkening sky. The Lucid rep was very apologetic and assured us this had never happened before to his knowledge. The irony was not lost on us that we—early EV evangelists---were among the first Lucid customers to become stranded. The town of Ozona, with a population of 3,000, was too small to have any Uber or Lyft services, not even a local taxi company anywhere around!
We were advised to let Lucid transport our car back to the Bay Area, and they’d pay for a rental car for the rest of our trip. But there were no rental cars to be found, even in the nearest town of San Angelo, Texas, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) away, due to it being the weekend before Christmas.
It was beginning to feel like this road trip was going nowhere fast, so Alan managed to get us flights to S.F. from Dallas. But that was also a plane ride away, via San Angelo. We had seven hours before the 6:30 pm flight to Dallas, but the next challenge was getting to San Angelo!
My problem-solving better half thought the best place to find help in rural Texas on a Sunday morning might be the local church. He walked 1.2 kilometers (0.8 miles) to the United Methodist Church, and told the Pastor about our predicament. She kindly offered to pray for us and introduced him to the Bible study teacher in session down the hall. After hearing our plight, the angel-of-a-man named Casey Upham, offered to drive us to San Angelo after class ended in an hour. Alan of course offered to pay him for his kindness.
An hour later we were picked up and our bags thrown into the back of Casey’s pick-up truck. He and Alan chatted in the front seat while I sat behind them taking mental notes. It turned out Casey was an environmental engineer who cleans up oil spills! That ironic twist was made visible as we drove the two-lane highway for 90 minutes, past open space dotted with oil rigs and gas pipelines. I was relieved to hear Casey say that they welcomed the tougher safety standards on drilling and pipelines, but concerned to hear that they have plans to keep adding infrastructure for fossil fuel extraction and transport for at least the next decade or two.
By the time we got to the airport, we were fast friends and Alan insisted Casey take $200 for his time and kindness, plus a donation to his church. The small airport was empty with no other passengers, ticket agents, or coffee stand in sight. It wasn’t until several hours later that people trickled in for the small, short flight.
Our flights to Dallas, and on to San Francisco the next morning, were uneventful, the kind of transportation we appreciate. As for the car?
The Lucid rep who called Alan from their headquarters in Scottsdale, AZ where the car arrived a few days later, explained that they found a loose connection in the charging port and assured him it was a rare flaw. He also said that Tesla superchargers will be available to Lucid – and other electric car owners – beginning in 2025.
Until then we’ll hope this was our first—and last—major issue with an electric car of the future, a future almost here. And none too soon given the state of our climate.
Two weeks after our Texas adventure we picked up our transported Lucid, good as new, maybe better because their mechanics triple checked everything! The company also assured us that we’d be reimbursed for the night’s stay at Hampton Inn (conveniently located at the charger station in Ozona), our flights home, and all meal expenses. Now that’s what I call good “road service!” And no hard feelings Lucid, it’s a brave new automotive world and we’re grateful to be part of the inevitable transition to EVs.