Power your ride with electricity
Electric vehicles are gaining traction. Rapidly improving technology, declining costs, stylish details, and more convenient options for charging are helping to put more of them on the road.
Commonly known as EVs, these vehicles:
Emit fewer greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, smog and reduced air quality.
Reduce America’s reliance on foreign petroleum and keep more money in the local economy.
Can cost less to buy and maintain than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.
Plus, they're fun to drive! Minnesota Power has two 2017 Chevy Bolts as part of its vehicle fleet (see pdf below for Chevy Bolt specs). The cars are giving us first-hand knowledge about EV technology. Watch for them in your neighborhood as employees take them to area trade shows, exhibits and community events.
EV 101: What makes an EV an EV?
Plug-in electric vehicles use electricity from the grid instead of gasoline or other combustible fuels (or a combination in the case of a plug-in hybrid EV) to power themselves down the road. Batteries in the car store electricity and can be recharged when they run low.
Basic types of EVs
Plug-in electric vehicles
Also called PEVs, plug-in electric vehicles have a rechargeable battery instead of a fuel tank and an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. A PEV runs entirely on battery power, using an electric motor to propel itself. Drivers recharge the battery at a plugin or charging station instead of filling up at the gas pump. Example: Nissan Leaf.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
Known as PHEVs, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have both a battery and a fuel tank and an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. The combination of a battery (which is predominantly recharged by electricity from a plug-in) and a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine extends the range of the vehicle. Example: Chevy Volt.
- A parallel hybrid uses both a combustion engine and an electric motor to deliver power to the vehicle’s wheels. The vehicle can be powered by just the electric motor, just the combustion engine, or a combination of both, depending on driving conditions. Example: Toyota Prius Plug-in, Ford Fusion Energi.
- A series hybrid is directly powered only by the electric motor. The combustion engine is used only to recharge the battery, acting as an electric generator that converts gasoline to electricity. This type of vehicle often is called an extended-range electric vehicle. Example: Chevrolet Volt.
Plug-in hybrids can be further categorized by the way they manage gasoline and electricity.
Hybrid electric vehicles
Also known as HEVs, hybrid electric vehicles are a type of hybrid vehicle that combines the internal combustion engine with a hybrid drive train. These vehicles improve the fuel efficiency of the internal combustion engine by powering some of the propulsion with electricity and running solely on battery power while the car “idles.” Hybrid electric vehicle batteries do not recharge by plugging in. Example: Toyota Prius.
Cost of charging: Check out Minnesota Power's off-peak rate
On average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle. Get an idea of what it costs in Minnesota and other states by using the U.S. Department of Energy’s eGallon calculator.
Minnesota Power offers a discounted electricity rate for charging an EV during off-peak hours between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily. The EV rate is reserved for residential customers.
Service under this off-peak rate is separately metered. There will be a cost to install the additional meter and a monthly service charge of $4.25. We can visit your home to make sure your electric service is adequate and provide other information you’ll need for working with a licensed electrician if you decide to install a fixed Level 2 charging station.
Public charging fees vary. Some Level 2 is offered at no charge, or included in the costs of a parking fee, but a general rule of thumb is that the price goes up with the speed. Pricing structures may be a flat fee, time based, consumption based or a combination of these.
Email us at ElectricVehicles@mnpower.com or call us at 1-800-228-4966 to learn more about Minnesota Power’s Off-Peak Electric Vehicle Rate.
Number of miles between charges
How far you can travel on a full charge depends on the make and model of your electric vehicle. The all-electric EV ranges from 40 to 310 miles. Driving style, tires, cold weather, climate control settings, and other factors also affect how far you can drive on a charge. You can find general estimates for the driving range and charge time for EVs at fueleconomy.gov
Leading the charge: Where to plug in
On the homefront
Every home has the potential to be an EV fueling station, but there’s no two ways about it—charging an EV takes longer than the 10 minutes it takes to fill up at your average gas pump. Still, it’s hard to beat the convenience of plugging in at home before you go to bed and having the car ready to roll in the morning. Generally speaking, you’ll need a 120- or a 240-volt outlet and appropriate charging equipment, also known as EVSE, or electric vehicle service equipment, to charge your EV’s battery. Charging times vary by EV model and the type of charger used.
- Level 1*: All plug-in vehicles come equipped with a Level 1 charging cord that can travel with the vehicle. Simply plug into a standard 120-volt electricity outlet. Eight hours of charging will provide about 40 miles of range.
This takes a 240-volt outlet, the same voltage an electric clothes dryer or water heater requires. You’ll get between 20 and 30 miles of range per hour of charging. Because most EV charging is done at home, EV experts recommend you install a Level 2 charger. The charging unit is about the size of a dinner plate with a long cord and costs between $300 and $3,000, depending on the brand and style of unit you purchase. Learn more at goelectricdrive.org
The complexity and cost of installing your Level 2 charger will vary depending on your personal circumstances. Some things to think about when deciding on a Level 2 charging unit:
- Hard-wired or plug-in? If you want the unit hard-wired, we recommend working with a licensed electrician. If you go the plug-in route, simply plug the charging unit into your 240-volt outlet.
- Do you have 240-volt service near your garage or where you typically park the vehicle? If you don’t, we recommend that you hire a licensed electrician to install a circuit with the appropriately sized wire and breaker for your unit. Amperage depends on the charging unit you purchase. If you have access to 240-volt service, you’ll need to identify a location for mounting the unit and decide which wiring style you’d like.
Level 2 chargers also are available at many public charging stations.
- DC fast charger*: These chargers are typically available at public stations —— you won't find them at most homes. They are compatible with most EVs and very fast, typically providing a charge of up to 100 miles in less than 30 minutes.
* Charging speeds are determined by volts and amps supplied, but other factors to consider are the top charging speed an EV will accept. Speeds are also impacted by the State of Charge (SoC) (batteries that are closer to “full” tend to curve the charge at a slower rate), as well as outside ambient temperature.
Out and about
The network of public charging stations continues to expand as more EVs hit the road. The increasing number of public options is helping to soothe any “range anxiety” EV drivers might have about running out of juice with no charging stations nearby.
Various online tools and mobile apps for locating charging stations are available. One of the most popular is PlugShare, a comprehensive and up-to-date database of EV charging stations in North America, Europe and Asia. Below is a map showing available charging stations within our service territory.
Drivers in the Duluth area can take advantage of the charging station in the city’s popular Canal Park. A partnership of Minnesota Power, the city of Duluth, Enbridge and Hunt Electric, the station has eight Level 2 plug-ins and one DC fast charger. The Canal Park charging station’s canopy also features 54 kilowatts of solar energy, which supply enough electric energy to meet the needs of about 7-8 homes a year.
Performance in cold weather
Very cold weather can affect range in electric vehicles—by as much as 40% depending on the car. The additional heating needed for passenger comfort requires more energy and cold batteries don’t hold a charge as well. The U. S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has tips to maximize range in very cold or very hot weather. For example, pre-heating the vehicle’s cabin while it’s still plugged in can extend the car’s range.
Good for the planet
Transportation (cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes) generates more than a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. EVs don’t produce any tailpipe emissions and as more renewable energy is added to the grid, any carbon footprint associated with charging their batteries is reduced even further. Get an estimate on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging and driving an electric vehicle where you live at the U.S. Department of Energy’s emissions calculator. Have your ZIP code and vehicle make and model year handy.
Nice car, but is it affordable?
Purchase prices for EVs vary widely, just like they do for conventional gas vehicles. New electric cars start at about $16,000 after federal tax credits ($2,500 to $7,500) and luxury models can start out as high as $80,000. Consider your driving habits, family needs and budget just as you would for purchasing a conventional car and shop around. Drive Electric Minnesota has resources to help you make your choice. The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy also has a vehicle search tool. A market for used electric vehicles is emerging and lease options may be available, too.
Minnesota residents who own all-electric cars will pay an extra $75 when they register their cars to make up for lost gas tax revenues. Plug-in hybrids are exempt from the fee.
Don’t forget to contact your insurance agent for a quote as those costs can vary as well.
Electric vehicles generally require less maintenance than a conventional car because fewer moving parts are required to operate the vehicle. Still, you will need to service the tires, brakes and air system. The most expensive component of an EV is almost always the battery, which is generally covered under warranty for 5-10 years when purchasing from a dealership. Be sure to ask sales staff about post-warranty issues specific to the EV you’re interested in, as most manufacturers have a repair or recycling program.