Our Rides: EV Charging at Home and Away

Photo by Randy Stern
Photo by Randy Stern

The electrification of the automobile is now a major discussion point – moreso, as a debate of whether plug-in vehicles are viable and sustainable at this point of time.

The debate centers on how to ensure that plug-in vehicle owners can charge up anywhere outside their home. This is a point that will be challenged when EVs and plug-in hybrids become more commonplace and these owners happen to be property renters instead of homeowners. 

The question of how can truly own an EV or plug-in hybrid relies on having an infrastructure that supports these vehicle owners. Not just at home, but adding public charging stations – in particular, DC Fast Charging stations – but ensuring their reliability and availability across the country. Especially here in Minnesota and the state line communities. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Let’s start right at home. Home charging is perhaps your one solution to keep your EV ready to drive with a. full battery. On average, it takes about 8-9 hours for an EV to get fully charged from a 220-240-volt hard-wired wall unit inside your garage or outside of your home. 

What do you need to know before you install a home charger? According to Sobczak, “[it] will really depend on the unique electrical setup and wiring in the customer’s home. Our website (ev.xcelenergy.com) offers information and tools, like a Home Charging Advisor which helps estimate wiring costs associated with installing an electric vehicle charger, to help customers compare programs and select the best one for their needs. We work with local Minnesota electricians who are experienced in EV charging installations and have a link to them on our website.”

Photo by Randy Stern

Xcel Energy also offers a program that can help you get set up with at-home charging. “In Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Sobczak explains, “the EV Accelerate At Home program provides a hassle-free experience for EV home charging. First, customers select a Level 2 charger from one of our two pre-qualified options, and then we work with a vetted and qualified contract electrician to install the charger. Through this service, Xcel Energy provides ongoing maintenance and a lifetime warranty for the charger for as long as the customer stays in the program. Customers pay a monthly fee of about $17 for the charger, installation and maintenance on their existing Xcel Energy electric bill with no upfront cost.  Customers also save money with this charger by scheduling their EV for lower cost, off-peak charging. Charging in the evening also matches higher electricity production from our wind facilities. On most days, charging at night will reduce the emissions associated with powering an electric vehicle.”

This works if you own a home or a townhome with a garage. Home ownership gives you full control of your own personal EV charging infrastructure to ensure good care of your electrified vehicle. 

What if you do not own a home? What if you travel with your EV? Here lies the challenge of building a public charging infrastructure to meet the demand for electrified vehicles. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Right now, Electrify America has three multi-charger stations in our region: Woodbury, Albert Lea, and Eau Claire. The Woodbury station has eight chargers with 16 plugs available. There is a plug available for vehicles using the CHAdeMO port – as seen on older Nissan Leaf models and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – rated at 50 kilowatts. The highest rate of charging available is at 350 kilowatts. 

It is worth noting that Electrify America announced that they will add another charging station at the IKEA in Bloomington by 2023. 

ChargePoint leads the region in the number of public Level 2 chargers, which are helpful for plug-in hybrids. Yet, they charge at a much lower rate of around 6 kilowatts. However, Volkswagen of Inver Grove just opened up a new DC Fast Charging station at their dealership. The new station recharges at a rate of 62.5 kilowatts. The ChargePoint app also shows available DC Fast Charging through their network at Eich Volkswagen in St. Cloud, as well as in additional locations in Morehead, West Fargo, Sioux Falls, Mankato, and Northwood, Iowa. 

Photo by Randy Stern

The third public charging provider in our region is known as GreenLots. This charging station provider has a tie-in with Shell to create a network of stations available through that brand. They have a few stations dotted within the Twin Cities and beyond at the present time, offering DC Fast Charging for all EVs, except for Tesla. 

In parts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, there is an on-street charging program called the EV Spot Network. At certain blue-colored chargers, the public can use an EV Spot charger if it is available. All you have to do to access them is to download the Zef Energy app or use a credit/debit card.

There are also a few DC Fast Charging stations dotted across Minnesota. We found one in Fergus Falls, rated at 50 kilowatts. You may never know where to find one these days. 

Xcel Energy stated they will build “to build, own and operate 21 DC Fast Charging Stations in our service territory outside the metro area in Minnesota.” According to Alisa Sobczak, Director Clean Transportation – Residential Solutions at Xcel Energy, “[w]e expect to build them between 2022-2024. The Company will install these chargers at customer sites that are currently underserved for EV charging.”

Of course, there is Tesla. Their Supercharger network has the most charging ports in Minnesota. As long as you are connected through their network and have the appropriate adapter, non-Tesla owners can now access these Superchargers. And, vice versa at several networks, including Electrify America.

Photo by Randy Stern

There are other public EV charging networks across the country. We know we might see them come to Minnesota eventually. For now, this is all we got. 

How has the public chargers been received by the public? According to Brent Wade, the General Manager at Volkswagen of Inver Grove, they had “95 sessions for the month [of July], meaning we’ve had 95 different people come and utilize that charger here at the dealership. And it’s on 24/7, so it’s not just during dealership hours. So, it could be evenings, it could be Sundays, it could be whenever. But that’s how many people month-to-date have utilized the charger.” 

“Our goal in having a Level 3 charger,” explained Wade, “was that we wanted to be a destination. We wanted to be a member in the community of having an available charge station, so that folks could come and actually utilize. Because in this area right here, there are very few Level 3 fast chargers.”

Photo by Randy Stern

Yet, when you survey where these Level 3 DC Fast Chargers are located, it becomes obvious that anyone who does not own a Tesla are being left out in some of our more common routes. For anyone who has a cabin north of Saint Cloud all the way to the Canadian border, the lack of non-Tesla DC Fast Chargers has been a concern among potential EV customers. 

No matter where you charge, are you ready to dive into an electrified vehicle future? As long as you have access to an EV charging infrastructure – at home and away from it – you should be just fine for now. 

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