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EV on the farm

July 24, 2019

I love a good Midwest summer day – sun high in the blue skies, temps hanging in the low eighties and just the slightest breeze to take the edge off. Tuesday had it all, making for a perfect afternoon to travel to a Minnesota farm for a public educational program on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Lee and Noreen Thomas, owners of Doubting Thomas Farms north of Moorhead, invited me to drive the Minnkota Bolt down for their “Earth, Wind and Solar” event in order to teach people about the benefits of driving electric.

You bet I’d be there with Bolty!

No wind? In North Dakota's Red River Valley?! Hello, extended EV range!

I had a fully charged battery with an anticipated 193 miles of range (with air conditioning). It was going to be a little over an hour and under 80 miles to Doubting Thomas Farms, a trip I had made before without any navigation issues.

Oh boy. Different day, different story.

I took the exit off Interstate 29 to head 11 miles east to Halstad, Minn., where I planned to turn south for an easy 26-mile cruise down Highway 75 to the farmstead near Kragnes, Minn.

I got six miles south of Halstad – now about 20 minutes off the Interstate – when I realized Highway 75 was closed for construction. I would have to backtrack 17 miles to get back to the Interstate exit and continue my travels south from there.

I burned almost an hour of time and a whole lot of range (43 miles, to be exact) trying to find a gravel-road-laden work around that wasn’t there.


But here’s the good news – I left early from Minnkota to arrive at the event with ample time to set up, chat with the organizers and greet any early arrivals. Instead, I pulled in just in time for the event to begin.

That means I wasn’t late, right? Roadwork, man…

The Bolt had prime parking on the outskirts of the action.

More good news – I had just enough range left to get me back home without a charging stop in Moorhead, 20 minutes south. I would just drive a little more slowly, just in case.

With a stellar environment of barns, silos and farm critters, the outdoor event was a blast. Several co-hosting organizations were on hand to teach the 50-70 attendees how they could conserve power to save on their fuel and energy bills, like planting trees for shade and wind blocking, using manual lawnmowers and even making pedal-powered smoothies from the seat of a stationary bike.

The bike-powered blender from the local food co-op was an event hit, pumping out chocolate banana power drinks and tropical smoothies. I tried both and wished the sample cups were larger...
The event even dished up dinner in the form of this INCREDIBLE paella. I had never tried paella before Tuesday. Now, all I want is paella.

I had the chance to tout my favorite money-saving tip: Ditch the gas and drive with electricity!

Guests had wonderful questions about the technology, many asking how a home charging system would work in their personal garage. They loved that the car released no tailpipe emissions and that they didn’t have to deal with oil changes.

The upfront cost of the car was tough for some people. However, when I told them about the thousands of dollars they could get in federal incentives and the fact that battery prices were falling fast, I think I generated some future EV drivers.

The Bolt even had a quick cameo on the evening news!

Between samples of solar oven bread and rides on a five-seat bike, I answered a lot of questions about electric transportation. Thanks to Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams for snapping this photo!

After learning a lot and meeting several new friends, it was time to hit the road back to Minnkota, this time avoiding closed roads. It was still a gorgeous, wind-free 81 degrees, so I kept the air conditioner on and merged onto the Interstate for a swift 70-mph drive.

Even though the event gave me some new insight into energy efficiency, I feel like I already hold a Ph.D. in EV Driving Efficiency – that scientific balance of kilowatts, weather and technique.

Someone get me that diploma already!

- Kaylee Cusack, Minnkota communications specialist

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