by Joni Astrup
Elk River Municipal Utilities has installed a public charging station for electric vehicles in downtown Elk River, and has plans to put in a second one next year.
“It’s kind of the wave of the future,” said Mayor John Dietz, who also chairs the Elk River Utilities Commission.
The new charging station is located in the parking lot at 716 Main Street, next door to Elk River Meats. A ribbon-cutting celebration is planned for 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, during National Drive Electric Week.
The station has the capacity to charge two vehicles at a time. A full charge takes about 3.5 hours, according to Tom Sagstetter, conservation and key accounts manager at ERMU. The cost is $1 per hour or $2.50 an hour after three hours to discourage people from parking there all day. People pay through a ChargePoint account.
The new charging station joins approximately 600 cords already available for charging electric vehicles at nearly 300 public locations in Minnesota, according to Jukka Kukkonen. He is an automotive engineer and founder of PlugInConnect, a Minnesota-based electric vehicle market and technology consulting firm.
Sagstetter said charging stations are found in a variety of places including some Goodwill and KwikTrip store locations. ChargePoint and PlugShare, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, show the locations of public charging stations on their websites or the information is available by downloading a mobile app, he said.
While the charging stations offer a place to recharge an electric vehicle while traveling, Kukkonen said it’s important for people to understand that more than 95 percent of vehicle charging actually happens at home. People plug in their electric cars at night and they are ready to go in the morning, he said.
There are more than 5,000 electric vehicles on the road in Minnesota and almost 200,000 nationwide, he said.
“It just keeps growing,” said Kukkonen.
In Norway, for instance, 42 percent of the cars sold in recent months were electric, he said.
Electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and the distance they can go on a charge is increasing.
Case in point is the Chevrolet Bolt, which recently became available in Minnesota. It has a range of 238 miles and costs about $30,000 after a tax credit, Kukkonen said. Other manufacturers are also bringing longer-range electric vehicles to the market, he said.
Kukkonen has been driving electric vehicles for some time. His family currently has a Nissan Leaf and a Tesla Model S.
He said electric vehicles are so much better than traditional internal combustion engine technology. He also isn’t a fan of using oil for transportation.
Electric cars, he said, are cheaper to drive, have a smoother ride and are more powerful.
“Anyone who gets an electric car, they’re like, ‘Wow. I’m never going back,’” he said.
Marty Kane, general manager of Cornerstone Ford Chrysler in Elk River, said it is a growing trend.
“It’s becoming more and more popular and it is gathering a lot of momentum,” he said. “Charging stations are going up all over the place.”
The ERMU charging station went online June 21. So far, it has been used five times, Sagstetter said. It is a “Level 2” charging unit, which adds 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
ERMU is looking at adding a “DC Fast Charge” unit next year at Ralphie’s, located at 13374 Highway 10 in Elk River. That unit can fully charge a depleted battery in as little as 20 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
If you go
What: Elk River Municipal Utilities celebration and electric vehicle charging station ribbon cutting
Where: 716 Main Street, Elk River
When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13
About the event: Ribbon cutting by Mayor John Dietz, who also chairs the Elk River Utilities Commission. Elected officials will be in attendance as will representatives from Drive Electric Minnesota and Fresh Energy. Electric vehicles will be on display and Cornerstone Automotive will sponsor a ride and drive. Sign up in advance to test drive a vehicle by calling 763-441-2020 or register online at http://tinyurl.com/yclsvlp5.
Fast Facts: Options for going electric
Electric-drive vehicles use electricity as their primary power source or to improve the efficiency of conventional vehicle designs. The vehicles can be divided into three categories:
•Hybrid electric vehicles: Powered by a traditional gas or diesel internal combustion engine and by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged by the internal combustion engine and through regenerative braking. The vehicle cannot be plugged in to charge.
•Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: Similar to hybrid electric vehicles but have a larger battery that allows it to travel on electricity alone. The battery can be charged by plugging in to an electric power source, through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine.
•All-electric vehicles: Run on electricity alone. They are powered by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle in to an electric power source and, to a lesser degree, through regenerative braking.
Search and compare dozens of models from all major manufacturers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s EV Everywhere Vehicle Search at energy.gov/eveverywhere/ and at FuelEconomy.gov.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy