I love this time of year. The snow is finally melting, the sun is bringing the temperatures above freezing, and the range on electric vehicles is getting closer to those summertime, anxiety-busting levels.
The Bolt is springing back, people!
I was ready to put our EV to the post-winter test with an 88-mile drive to Mahnomen, Minn. I was invited to speak about electric vehicles at Wild Rice Electric's Annual Meeting and answer any questions the members may have about getting started with an EV of their own. For those unaccustomed to an electric cooperative's annual meeting, it is a chance once a year for the entire co-op community to come together to vote on new board members, reflect on the past year (including projects, finances, challenges and victories) and consider the opportunities of the year to come. It is a celebration of the values a cooperative holds dear and a chance to sit down for a good meal with hundreds of friends and neighbors.
Did I mention I love this time of year?
It was an easy drive to Mahnomen, as the temps were pushing forty degrees and there was minimal wind – a major improvement from my last couple of blustery trips. I saw my anticipated range creep higher and higher as the car intuitively reflected the switch in efficiency. I ultimately gained about 40 miles, and that range will continue to go up with the seasonal highs.
Happy dance time.
I parked the Bolt at the entrance of the Mahnomen High School, where the annual meeting would be held. The amazing Wild Rice crew helped me unload the materials I needed for an EV informational booth inside, while Wild Rice board secretary Mark Habedank volunteered to hand out EV brochures by the car as people walked in. "I've been selling chances to win the car," he joked with me later. "That's okay, right?"
No way, man.
Hundreds of people showed up to register for the meeting, which brought them all by the Bolt and by my booth, where they could pick my brain about the "interesting" car parked out front. After a delicious meatball dinner, the crowd gathered in the gym for the main event. The meeting was called to order, the directors were voted upon, the finances were explained, and the CEO's report was delivered.
It was time to talk electric vehicles. My presentation covered the nuts and bolts (pun intended) of electric vehicles, how Wild Rice members can leverage co-op incentives to save even more, and why the EV discussion has crept into the local and national spotlight. I sparked a lot of queries – several people approached me after the meeting's adjournment wanting to know more, especially, no surprise, about winter driving range.
Did I mention I love this time of year?
I had juuuust enough charge to make it back to Grand Forks, but because I wouldn't call myself a risk taker, I decided to stay at a local hotel to get a small, low voltage charge overnight from one of their 120-volt pedestals. This was a learning experience for me. Although the green charging indicator was blinking when I left the car and went to sleep, I woke to find that the current had broken early on in the night (my dash indicated Charging Override/Interrupt Occurred). I switched to another pedestal and started charging again to allow some wiggle room for the journey back.
A word to the wise. If using an unfamiliar charge point, especially a wall outlet or pedestal, you may want to check on it more often than an established charging station. Things happen -- a hiccup in power flow, companies turning off certain outlets at certain times of day, etc. -- and you don't want to be caught in a tough spot. I was lucky and was charging only as a precautionary measure.
A huge thank you to Wild Rice Electric for allowing me time to share my experiences with the membership. My hope is that when the next Wild Rice annual meeting rolls around, the landscape will be even warmer and brighter for EVs!
- Kaylee Cusack, Minnkota communications specialist