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Elected officials have a duty to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to electric vehicles

Audi e-tron car
REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
When community leaders in Mankato gathered last year to talk about electric vehicles, oddly enough cellphones were on our minds. We remembered, and you might, too, when they were being used in other parts of the country but were not available to us. Our community suffered as a result.

We knew what we were looking at when we saw the map of where electric vehicles are and, most important, where they are not. We risk being left behind as opportunity and innovation are embraced in other parts of the country and the world. That notion lands particularly important for us because in Mankato we are not just ready to embrace electric transportation. We are, in fact, helping to invent it.

Not many people know that the chief engineer of the all-electric Chevy Bolt is a graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato. Last fall it was announced that he has been assigned to develop GM’s upcoming electric pickup truck. Yes, electric trucks are coming to Minnesota — and our innovation is leading the charge.

In Mankato, we’re working to keep that innovation here and the opportunity it affords. For starters, we have partnered together — a private company, local family foundation, and our community foundation —to fund one of the first fast charge stations in our community that will fully recharge an electric vehicle in a short time. Proceeds from that charger will contribute to local community initiatives at The Mankato Area Foundation.

We believe that Greater Minnesota plays a crucial role in bringing communities together. Yes, many of those with EVs charge in their garages and wake up to a full battery at the start of each day – but fast chargers in our community offer an additional message to the rest of the state: Drive your EVs to Mankato; we’ve got you covered.

Don’t let anyone tell you that innovation belongs elsewhere — that EVs don’t belong in Minnesota. Of course they do. And EVs, like our communities, are evolving. If we don’t evolve, we’ll get left behind.

Driving my Chevy Bolt, I have saved more than $1,000 this year on gas costs alone. I no longer have oil changes, and I rotate my tires for $12 every 10,000 miles.

Jon Olseth
Jon Olseth
In Mankato, our local leaders have done the math when considering the impact of 1,000 EVs in our community — each can contribute annual energy savings of $1,000 or more that will stay in the community: 1,000 EVs times $1,000 equals $1 million of benefit, every year. A one million dollar annual community initiative in our region is worthy of front-page news. Mankato is emerging as one of Minnesota’s most sought-after places to raise a family because, in part, we have local leaders who actively embrace the things we can do to spur education, innovation, economic opportunity, and talent retention. EVs offer an important new lane in that effort, and we are not going to wait around and get lapped.

Increasingly, people in Mankato are deciding to buy electric vehicles: They are really fun to drive, save operating costs that keep energy dollars local, and are safe and reliable, even/especially in the winter. Did you know that 58.4 percent of new cars sold last March in Norway (a climate not unlike our own) were electric?

When people have the chance to drive an electric vehicle, they are hooked. The problem is, many of us don’t even have the opportunity to take a test drive because it’s hard to find these cars in our communities — a fact that, in my way of thinking, is the opposite of choice.

In my way of thinking, our elected leaders have a duty to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to the possibility of buying an EV; programs like Clean Cars MN are crucial for making that happen. We can continue to make our own choices and buy whatever trucks or cars we want. And of course, our elected officials are not in the business of selling cars. They can, however, help make certain that Minnesotans have access to vehicle choices.

The technology that we are inventing in Minnesota needs to be made available to Minnesotans so that we are not left behind.

Jon Olseth is a Minnesota native, a 25-year resident of Mankato, a teacher of English literature at Riverland Community College, and is director of the Olseth Family Foundation.


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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 03/09/2020 - 11:21 am.

    I agree. Also, I think that vehicles should be made available as flex-fuel. EV, ethanol, and possibly hydrogen some day. Why automakers are not producing these (EV/ethanol) now is downright aggravating. The technology is available. Minnesota (and U.S. legislators) – please help to make flex-fuel vehicles available now.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/09/2020 - 03:03 pm.

      Because there is little to no demand for them. People don’t want EVs or flex fuel junkers. If you demand that auto makers make them and dealers carry them then prices go way up for everyone, including those who buy regular old gas cars.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/09/2020 - 03:37 pm.

      Nope. Corn ethanol-fueled vehicles are an ecological disaster. The point of electric vehicles is to have cars that are cleaner than gasoline, not dirtier. Flex-fuel vehicles should be banned and the government should abandon this wasteful and environmentally destructive welfare program.

  2. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/09/2020 - 01:19 pm.

    So talk to the car dealers and auto makers. The Legislature has no business being involved. Forcing dealers to carry inventory that doesn’t sell will just raise prices on all others.

  3. Submitted by Adam Miller on 03/09/2020 - 01:46 pm.

    Electric vehicles are key for areas that cannot be weened off car-dependence. They are, however, a shiny object that is used to distract people from making the changes to urban areas that are needed. Places that don’t need to rely on the inherent waste – urban space and resources – and violence of cars shouldn’t pin false hope on them.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/09/2020 - 03:24 pm.

    Well it won’t be long and perhaps you can take a test drive in a Minnesota made EV fire truck!

    And of course we have the nay-Sayers out here again, if we were to listen to them, perhaps, maybe just perhaps, we might just be getting the US into the railroad business and adapting steam power for ships, really who was demanding steam powered boats, 250 years ago?

  5. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/09/2020 - 09:09 pm.

    I’m curious about a couple of things in this article:
    1. A fast charge station fully recharges a vehicle in a short time, define “short time”.
    2. Can more than one vehicle charge at the station at the same time?
    3. Who builds and operates the station?
    4. What does it cost to fully charge a car?

    • Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 03/10/2020 - 09:14 am.

      1) A DC fast charger can fully recharge most EVs in 30 minutes or less.
      2) Depends. Some stations designed with multiple outlets, others not.
      3) Most chargers in MN are privately owned and operated.
      4) Varies by location. Rates vary from $8 to $12 for 200 miles of range. Level 2 chargers take longer, but are much cheaper. Most people charge at home.

  6. Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 03/09/2020 - 09:36 pm.

    A flex-fuel vehicle would be a vehicle that has the capability to operate on any blend of ethanol (the best would be the highest available) or battery or low octane gasoline (why would you, though?) or perhaps someday hydrogen or any other fuel you could imagine. It makes the most sense right now to have a flex- fuel vehicle that would be able to operate on battery power (EV) or ethanol (or if you must, yer crappy, polluting gasoline) for the times you need extra range to the next charging station.

  7. Submitted by Gary DeVaan on 03/10/2020 - 04:31 pm.

    There is a used electric car dealer in Hopkins, MN
    I’ll be going there to buy our 2nd electric car.

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