City electric department shares benefits of electric, hybrid vehicles
Community members learned about electric vehicles while attending the free test drive event.
For a chance to experience and learn about electric vehicles, the city of Wadena utilities department and their energy provider Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) hosted a ride and drive event on Thursday, May 27. Community members came with curiosity—especially for a chance to try the Mustang Mach-E.
“Electric vehicles are on their way. It’s going to work sooner for some than others. Some people are ready for them right now, some it might be a couple years,” said Dave Evans, utilities superintendent. “We just want to be able to have people understand that we’re supportive of the technology.”
Community members could drive a Mach-E, Bolt EV or Highlander Hybrid around the neighborhood and ask sales consultants and MRES field representatives questions about the vehicles. Ottertail resident Bob Tubandt came with excitement after hearing about the power of the Mach-E from his son.
“Quite the car,” Tubandt remarked while driving the Mach-E. He also enjoyed the speed of the car.
Wadena resident Sandi Pratt said electric vehicles help keep with the “green age.” She said new vehicles have made amazing advances since her 1953 Plymouth, and she enjoys the new safety features.
While electric vehicles are “pre-peak” in rural areas, as MRES energy services field representative Amy Collins said, the clean energy option is encouraged with grants and tax credits . MRES sells power in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. Collins said member communities are hesitant that the technology isn’t ready, such as the availability of charging stations.
“Can it get them where they need to go and back?” Evans said about people’s concern on the vehicles’ range. People also express charging time as a drawback.
As people need to stop to charge, Evans hopes Wadena will become a “destination point” with the electric vehicle charging station in Burlington Northern Park near downtown. The station was installed in November 2020. The station has two spots and takes two hours to fully charge the car’s battery. The city is also considering a fast charging station, which would take 15 minutes.
“We just want to show the people in Greater Minnesota that electric vehicles belong everywhere and that we’re starting to set up infrastructure so people feel comfortable driving their vehicles on road trips,” Collins said. “Also showing that it’s new technology but it’s not complicated technology. That it drives, feels like a real car and actually sometimes even better, it’s quieter.”
While riding in the Bolt, Wadena residents Nancy and Les Winter said the quietness of the car was different but they enjoyed the ride. Nancy said a hybrid vehicle might benefit her driving style more as she drives 700 miles a day occasionally and the extra stopping to charge would take a long time. The hybrid vehicles offer people an easy option in transitioning to electric vehicles while also working with their commute, as MRES energy services field representative Lisa Fischer said.
“A lot of people are busy and if you’re going to and from somewhere you don’t have two hours to hang out if you’ve got an appointment, whether it’s a meeting or a wedding or a graduation or whatever. They don’t have the time,” Evans said.
To support clean energy, the city of Wadena changed to 100% carbon-free electricity in February, and members can also choose to pay extra for 100% renewable energy. Carbon-free includes nuclear energy in a small percentage but renewable energy is wind, solar and hydroelectric. Electric vehicles help decrease dependence on fossil fuel, as Collins said.
Bright Energy Solutions, through MRES, also offers a rebate for home vehicle chargers . Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative has similar programs including specific rates for charging in non-peak energy hours. Collins said charging overnight is using energy wisely since less electricity is used then.
“We’re just trying to help out the environment and the economy, it’s a cheap mode of transportation, electricity is cheaper than gasoline and it’s cleaner,” Evans said.
Although most attendees do not own or were seriously considering buying an electric vehicle, people were glad for the opportunity.
“They’re really zippy, kind of that 0 to 100 acceleration so quickly, which is something you used to have to get a sports car for and now I think we can all feel like sports car drivers if we have an EV,” Collins said.