Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Moorhead has scored another “first” in clean energy – the first fast charger for electric vehicles on Interstate 94 west of the Twin Cities. The charging site in the Holiday Center, located in the northeast corner of I-94 and Highway 75 (Eighth Street South), enables drivers of all-electric vehicles to bring their batteries to full charge in 30 to 45 minutes.
“This literally puts Moorhead on the map,” explains Dennis Eisenbraun of Moorhead Public Service. EV owners use smartphone apps to track the spots where they regain a full charge to extend their driving range another 200 miles or so. The local location, owned and operated by ZEF Energy of St. Paul, began popping up when it went online in mid-November.
Local officials, including MPS staff and organizations promoting the use of clean energy, celebrated the site’s grand opening Wednesday. On hand was Angela Jordahl Lepine representing the Krantz Trust that owns the Holiday Center, along with ZEF CEO Matthew Blackler and representatives of GTI, the Gas Technology Institute, which spearheaded the project.
Funding comes in part from a $4.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy dedicated to development of clean energy technology. The charging station is owned, maintained and operated by ZEF (Zero Energy Future), a private firm with plans to build additional charging stations along major routes between Michigan and Montana. MPS and its wholesale supplier became silent partners, each investing $17,500 in the station.
With charging stations already developed on I-35 between Minneapolis and Duluth, proponents of all-electric vehicles were looking for a convenient, easily accessible site near the junction of I-94 and I-29 to expandEvsrange to the west. The Holiday Center location is, Eisenbraun says, “absolutely perfect,” with the additional bonus of nearby restaurants where drivers can wait to top off their charges.
Three levels of charging are currently used by hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Level 1 offers a 110V connection, comparable to household current. Level 2 delivers 220V, the power that operates laundry dryers at home. The key element of the new ZEF station is Level 3 – DC power needed to quickly top off the batteries of all-electrics. While Levels 1 and 2 can require all day or night for a full charge, Level 3 does the job in less than one hour. The Holiday Center charging station includes one Level 3 spot, with room to add four or five more as demand grows, along with two Level 2 links for waiting drivers and hybrids.
Drivers will soon pay for their power with credit cards, as they do at gas pumps. For now, though, the charging is free.
Bill Schwandt, who manages MPS, says fast-charging stations are the missing link holding back adoption of emissions-free all-electric cars. “The industry estimates the number of electric vehicles on the road will increase from 3 million today to 125 million by 2030,” he says. “The availability of fast charging is the biggest challenge.”
Schwandt says the charging station is just another in the growing list of Moorhead Public Service’s clean-energy innovations. “We were first with wind turbines, and first with solar gardens,” he observes, “and now we’re first again in another growing technology. It fits right into our mission as a community-owned utility.”
Reviewing the Red River Valley’s ground-breaking site, Minnkota Power Coop blogger Kaylee Cusack wrote last week, “The free charging station, which includes two Level 2 chargers and two fast charge plug-ins, is plopped right in front a set of restaurants – perfect placement. … The Moorhead charging station is a dream come true. It’s free, right off of Interstate 94 and a quick walk from a half dozen different eateries. You nailed it, Moorhead!”
Fast-Charging Electric Vehicle Site Puts Moorhead on the Map
Nancy Edmonds Hanson