It finally happened today. I saw a Tesla electric car in Minot, North Dakota! I met it at a stop light making a left hand turn. We shared a moment. You see, I would love to have a Tesla vehicle. They drive like a luxury car, have the interior of a high end sports car, and don’t emit any CO2 or harmful by-products to our environment when they run. They also come with the most affordable price tag of the electric vehicles currently on the market. All of this having been said, the painfully practical side of me knows that the Tesla Model 3, or any fully electric vehicle for that matter, is not the best decision for me and our one car family. The cost is still quite a bit higher than the car design we currently own. More importantly though, the range of even the extended range versions still fall short of normal North Dakota driving demands, i.e. traveling 3.5 hours at 70 mph into 40 mph wind gusts with 6 inches of snow flying about 🙂 Plus, the cynic in me questions the environmental impact of the battery after its useful life is over and the impact of increased energy demand from charging.
But my thoughts on the subject don’t change the reality of today: electric vehicles are here in Minot.(!) As a community, we have a wonderful opportunity to decide how we will embrace electric vehicles and use them to enable our economy and community in the coming years.
Electric vehicles need energy to run, and like gasoline vehicles (and people for that matter), their drivers will tend to make decisions on the basis of where they can find the most energy in the easiest manner. Just as the gasoline pumps of today are surefire way to draw people into a store to purchase snacks and other sundry goods, so too will rapid charging stations be for the cars of our future. Here in Minot, there are no public access charging stations available for electric vehicles of which I am aware. Would it not be prudent for our community and business leaders to sit down and develop a plan for where the first charging points should be and seek funding to develop them? From my seat on the sidelines, I see designated charging areas (which complete a full charge in approximately 30 minutes) as a boon to places like Downtown Minot. “Waiting 30 minutes for your car to recharge so you can continue on your merry way? Why don’t you stop in one of our unique, independently-owned retail outlets and restaurants or see our local art exhibitions?” The antithesis of this planning would be to let other entities take an uncoordinated lead, leaving drivers nothing to do but browse their phones while waiting for their car to charge.
Electric vehicles also cause changes to our systems of operation, namely gasoline tax income and power grid demand. What will replace gas tax revenue in our state as more vehicles draw energy from the power grid as opposed to the gas pump? Electric vehicles use the same roads and bridges as gasoline vehicles. Other states have enacted electric vehicle registration fees that account for lost gas tax revenue – will North Dakota have the foresight to do the same or will Minot be left on the hook for road maintenance with decreased funds from the state? In regard to our power grid, electric vehicles can be plugged in at any time of the day to charge and owners can often schedule the recharge to occur at a specific time. Will we plan to charge electric vehicle during off peak hours to stabilize our energy demands or will we fall victim to uncoordinated use that costs us all more in energy expenses and air pollution? I am not an expert in either of these policy areas, but I hope that those that are address them sooner rather than later.
And just like that, the Tesla made the turn and drove off to their destination, leaving me with a red light in front of me and a slight pang in my heart. Until next time, electric friend!
If you are interested in joining the conversation about this and other environmentally-related topics in the community of Minot, please check out the Environmentally Minded People of Minot Facebook group. All are welcome!