It’s Electric (Vehicles)

Boogie woogie woogie. Electric vehicles slide into tailgating.

Local electric vehicles owners gathered in the Cass County Electric Cooperative parking lot on 32nd Street South from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, to share their love of electric vehicles with the public. The event, sponsored by Cass County Electric Cooperative, Minnkota Power Cooperative and Border States Electric, represented a “cooperation among cooperatives.”

Paul Matthys, vice president of member and energy services for Cass County Electric Cooperative, said the organization decided to host the event in response to a growing interest in electric vehicles among its members.

The focus of the event was to increase public awareness of electric and hybrid vehicles. People who wanted to learn more about electric vehicles could talk with current drivers, find out about the benefits of electric vehicles and even go for a test drive.

Matthys said Cass County Electric Cooperative sees value in creating opportunities for its members and the public to learn about electric fuel options available to them.

“We want to be the experts and help people out,” Matthys said.

Exploring electric options

Steve Buchhop of West Fargo attended the tailgate with his brother, who drove down from Grand Forks for the event. Buchhop said he would love to purchase an electric vehicle, but the Tesla Model X that he has his eye on is too far outside his price range.

“It fits my lifestyle, but it’s very expensive,” Buchhop said. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 2018 Tesla Model X is $79,500.

Not all electric vehicles sell at that high of a price tag, however. 2014 Nissan Leaf owner Sonja Kaye said she and her husband were able to purchase their vehicle for less than $10,000.

“I’d been wanting to go electric for a long time because I’m extremely concerned about the welfare of my children and the planet,” Kaye said.

The fuel savings were also a draw, she said. A fact sheet from Cass County Electric Cooperative reported that charging an electric vehicle costs $0.033 per mile on the regular electric rate and $0.017 per mile on the off-peak rate. That means if you drive 8,000 miles per year, you would spend only $264 per year on the regular rate. 

Kaye’s vehicle has a range of about 60 miles in the winter and up to 90 miles in the summer. She said that’s the perfect amount for her to drive to and from work each day.

With level two charging capabilities, Kaye’s vehicle takes about three hours to charge in her garage. Level one vehicles charge in 20 hours, and level three vehicles are ready to go back on the road in 20 to 30 minutes.

Kaye said many Fargo residents worry that an electric vehicle isn’t reliable in the cold. Although efficiency is reduced in winter, she said she hasn’t experienced any problems. Since many electric vehicles have heaters to warm the battery during charges, she said the cold is really only a concern if the vehicle is left unplugged for an extended period of time in subzero temperatures.

“You really have to think differently about electric” compared to traditional vehicles, Kaye said.

Robert Moffitt, communications director for the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, attended the event to show his organization’s support for clean fuel sources. The American Lung Association promotes the use of alternative fuels because cleaner air helps prevent lung disease.

“We think it’s important that North Dakota diversifies its fuel portfolio,” Moffitt said.

Moffitt said some people argue against alternative fuel because petroleum is important to the North Dakota economy. He pointed out that electricity and agriculture, necessary for producing alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol, are also key industries in the state.

“We (at the American Lung Association) promote all types of alternative fuel,” he said.

Local dealerships brought a variety of electric models for visitors to browse. MATBUS brought one of its diesel-electric hybrid buses so people could learn about the City of Fargo’s efforts to improve costs and reduce pollution. Food was provided by The Dog Father and Pico Food Truck.

Cass County Electric Cooperative reported that electric vehicles save money, require less maintenance, reduce oil dependence and create a smoother ride. The cooperative offers rebates for electric vehicle owners on top of federal consumer tax credits and discounted insurance rates.

Matthys said they were happy with the number of people who attended the event. Despite the rain, they estimated that about 70 people had stopped by to check out the electric vehicles by 6 p.m. Matthys said they plan to have more events promoting electric vehicles in the future.

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