Minnesota Cities Take Charge on Electric Vehicles
August 31, 2020 | Jess Jellings | Education
The Cities Charging Ahead cohort was such a success for Minnesota communities pursuing electric vehicle (EV) readiness, there’s now a sequel and a spin-off! These initiatives show growing momentum and enthusiasm for EVs in communities across the state.
Facilitated by the Great Plains Institute and Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Cities Charging Ahead (CCA) provided Minnesota communities with technical assistance and a platform to work together on exploring EV readiness. The CCA cohort model launched in January 2018 with 27 cities and one tribal nation ranging in size from 761 residents to 113,900. Over 18 months, CCA helped facilitate charging station installation in 11 cities, and 12 have added EVs to their city fleets. After the initial cohort period, the communities continued to meet periodically to share resources and updates, including reporting on additional charging stations and EVs purchased. Funding for CCA was provided by the Carolyn Foundation and Energy Foundation in partnership with Xcel Energy.
“If not for CCA, Faribault would not have made meaningful progress on our transition to EVs. City staff and the [city] council love our new electric vehicles in my department. Now other departments are looking into EVs,” said David Wanberg, Faribault city planner.
With CCA’s momentum came the understanding that municipal utilities should be part of the conversation. Spinning off from the CCA peer-to-peer cohort model, Powering Ahead with Vehicle Electrification (PAVE), brings together sixteen municipal utilities across Minnesota and connects them with resources and technical assistance to increase customer engagement and education surrounding EVs. Providing a platform for participants to ask questions and get advice from their peers allows municipal utilities to address barriers and find common solutions, going so far as to work together on additional issues because of the relationships they built. Utilities also have the opportunity to participate in mini-cohorts with more specific focuses:
- Getting Up to Speed: provided background information on the state of the EV market and educating customers.
- Charging Up: focused on planning, choosing, and siting an EV charger for public use.
- Hitting the Road: fleet analysis and options for adding EVs.
- Revving Up Utility Programs: exploring what other utilities have implemented and discussing options to encourage home charging.
- Kicking the Tires: exploring opportunities for dealership outreach, education, and engagement.
PAVE launched in March 2020 and is facilitated by Great Plains Institute’s (GPI) Metro CERT director, Diana McKeown, with funding provided by The McKnight Foundation. GPI also facilitates Drive Electric Minnesota.
“CCA 2.0., the sequel, will work closely with cities that still need help to get across the finish line with their EV-related goals,” said McKeown. “The short action-oriented cohort will divide into components that focus on specific actions: adding EVs to city fleets, increasing charging stations, and creating EV standards for private development. CCA 2.0 will launch in September and begin with a focus on EV charging.”
Both CCA and PAVE aim to bridge the gap between the specific EV adoption goals that cities and municipal utilities may have and the lack of clarity about the steps and best practices required for the transition to EVs. CCA provided clarity to cities on those steps while facilitating an understanding of the implementation barriers that cities must overcome and creating a roadmap for scaling up this effort. Similarly, PAVE expects to do the same for municipal utilities.