Many of our Great Plains Institute (GPI) staffers have become owners of fully-electric vehicles in recent years. Over the last several months, Minnesota Public Radio shared their stories on air. While there are some common threads in their electric vehicle (EV) experiences, some of the differences might surprise you. Read more below and click the links to hear the audio.

Katelyn Bocklund
Program Manager, Transportation and Fuels Program

Through her work at GPI, Katelyn is well-versed on the important environmental benefits of driving an EV.

“The transportation sector has the highest greenhouse gas emissions right now. So, from a sustainability standpoint, my husband and I were really keen on improving the environment, reducing our emissions.”

But that’s not the only reason she raves about driving electric.

“I think mainly it was just how smooth the ride was, and in the winter, too, when I was driving it was a huge perk to have heated seats, heated steering wheel.”

Through GPI’s Drive Electric Minnesota (DEMN), Katelyn engages with many prospective EV owners at events like “ride and drives” which get people behind the wheel of an EV. Another great selling point is that, compared to conventional gas-powered cars, EVs can have a lower cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle since there are no belts, plugs, or fluids to change.

“The only thing we’ve really had to do in our EV so far is change to winter tires.”

How much you can save depends a lot on where you live, since electricity and gas prices range from place to place and some states offer rebates for EVs due to the environmental benefits they provide.

Katelyn charges her ride at home, but also has the benefit of two chargers where she works at GPI’s Minneapolis headquarters. In fact, those chargers are part of a national pilot project that combines solar power with electric vehicle charging. That project was chosen as one of nine in the country to participate in the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Solar Energy Innovation Network. Hear Katelyn’s full interview by clicking below (interview at 3:41).

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Trevor Drake,
Program Manager, Electricity and Efficiency

Though not a clinical diagnosis, range anxiety (i.e., worrying about being able to get to an EV charger when the battery is low), is a common concern among drivers when considering an EV. It’s something Trevor thought about a lot, too, but he’s been pleasantly surprised by how little of a factor it’s been.

“I’ve actually found it to be great. I love it. The range hasn’t really been an issue. At times when it has been an issue, I’ve been able to find a fast charger. We also have another gas-fueled vehicle, so for longer trips we have that. But the EV has become our go around town car. We use it for work, grocery shopping, really anything we need that fits within the range, which is pretty big.”

Like most EV owners, Trevor usually charges his 2015 Nissan Leaf at home, overnight, much like his cell phone (it can plug into a regular home outlet). When he does need a public charger, he knows he can find them using the PlugShare app and that many Goodwill and Hyvee locations have fast chargers which can juice up the car in about 30 minutes. When he plugs in at those spots, the car becomes a conversation piece.

“People will even ask me about it when I’m there, and they’re interested to know more. Some people don’t think they’re viable. They think it’s sort of an odd technology and so you say ‘No, it’s just like a normal car but it’s electric-powered’…So, it’s just people getting up to speed, learning about something that’s new, and understanding that it’s a really viable option.”

Hear Trevor’s full interview by clicking below (interview at 3:11).

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Abby Finis,
Senior Energy Planner, Communities

Abby would much rather be on a bicycle than in a car, any car, which makes sense given all her work to help cities and communities become more sustainable and reduce their emissions (transportation is now the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US).

“The reason I was hesitant in getting an EV is that I really kind of envision myself as being car-free eventually. I think we also need to think about how we can reduce driving, and I think that maybe an EV is a gateway.”

Abby is a huge advocate for swapping vehicle miles for taking a bike, mass transit, walking to work or school, or telecommuting when possible.

“I think it’s [EVs] certainly part of the picture, but if we’re really looking at meeting our goals on climate, we can’t just switch one for one and go to EVs. So, yes, it’s the better option, but it’s not the only option.”

Abby purchased her EV shortly before the record-breaking snow and cold of the Polar Vortex in the Midwest. The lack of a garage was a little challenging, but nothing she couldn’t handle. She ran an extension cord outside for overnight charging and made sure to brush off all the snow so the car could warm up in the morning. She never had an issue starting the car in the cold weather but is still adjusting to other parts of the transition to all-electric.

“I am still not used to the range anxiety. I still get that, particularly when it’s cold and you can see those miles going down. But otherwise it’s worked great.”

Cold climate EV owners often point to the fact that heated seats and steering wheels keep the car toasty in the winter months, and they like the fact they don’t have to stop at the gas station and fill up in the cold. For EV owners with a garage, an added benefit is that you can warm up an EV inside since there are no dangerous carbon monoxide emissions, and some EVs have an app that allows you to schedule your car to warm up at a certain time.

Hear Abby’s full interview by clicking below (interview at 3:22) and read examples of her work by reading Saint Paul’s Climate Action and Resilience Draft Plan and the climate action plan she developed that will help the city of St. Louis Park, Minnesota achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.

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There are a lot of different types of EVs and hybrids (EV with a gasoline engine back up) on the market, from compacts and SUVs to trucks.

Go to the Drive Electric Minnesota website to find out more about the option that might work best for you and get more information on going electric. You can sign up for Drive Electric newsletter here.

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