Meeting Demand for Electric Vehicle Charging Along Minnesota’s North Shore: A Case Study
June 15, 2019 | Joe Cella | Education
The draw of a popular tourist destination and an enterprising partnership created a win-win situation for electric vehicle (EV) drivers and Minnesota communities from the Twin Cities to the Canadian border.
In October 2017, the first electric vehicle (EV) charging corridor opened in Minnesota. The series of Direct Current Faster Chargers (DCFC) along I-35 from the Twin Cities to Duluth allowed EV owners to confidently take a road trip up north, knowing there were enough DCFC to get to Duluth and back without having to worry about range.
As more EV traffic flowed into Duluth, demand grew to extend the charging corridor north along highway 61, a popular tourist route that follows the North Shore of Lake Superior. An opportunistic employee of Arrowhead Cooperative presented an idea for a project, and after surveying its customers, Arrowhead discovered that there was a lot of local interest in EV infrastructure. Arrowhead, a cooperative of Great River Energy (GRE), partnered with GRE, ZEF Energy, and the city of Grand Marais to install three DCFC along the North Shore. As of April 2019, DCFC and Level 2 stations are available in Grand Portage and Lutsen; work is almost complete on a DCFC in Grand Marais.
The Arrowhead Cooperative DCFC project highlights a few factors that make the area a perfect fit to host fast charging. The geographical layout of the North Shore is well suited for DCFC since the charging placed along its path can serve most travelers’ needs to and from the thriving tourist destination, and there are many businesses along the way that cater to those who come to admire the “greatest lake.” Anyone stopping to charge at a DCFC site can choose between many delightful shops, restaurants, outdoor attractions, and other amenities to occupy their time while their vehicle charges. The communities themselves benefit from the increased traffic and tourism, and anyone who owns an EV can be confident that the North Shore is easily within reach for a fun weekend getaway or longer adventure.
The Arrowhead Cooperative DCFC project would not have been possible without EV advocates in the communities. The demand and interest for charging was there, but only when Arrowhead surveyed their customers did they realize that this project was something worth doing. Employees of Arrowhead Cooperative, community members, and local business owners all came together to make it happen, and the results are a strong partnership that allows EV drivers to explore Minnesota and cut emissions.
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