Q&A with Tom Sagstetter, Elk River Municipal Utilities

July 30, 2018 | | Education

Electric vehicles are scaling up in Minnesota, and municipal utilities like Elk River Municipal Utilities (ERMU) are taking action. Following a FleetCarma analysis of their fleets, ERMU and the City of Elk River purchased a Chevy Bolt and Mitsubishi Outlander from the state contract, helping to electrify their fleet, save money, and reduce greenhouse gases. We recently caught up with Tom Sagstetter, Conservation and Key Accounts Manager, to learn more about the purchases as well as plans to use the vehicles.


Q: How do the purchases of the Chevy Bolt and Mitsubishi Outlander fit into your long-term goals?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a great fit for ERMU because they give us the opportunity to provide educational information and demonstrations on an electric product that is environmentally friendly and financially responsible for our customers. From the Cities perspective, the lease of the Outlander was part of the Energy City 10-year action plan. EVs present a rare opportunity to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and better utilize the abundance of wind energy generated at night. ERMU is able to provide time-of-use (TOU) rates for residential and commercial customers that have EVs and are willing to install a 240-volt charger in their home or business.


Q: Where do you plan to show off your newly wrapped electric vehicles?

The Chevy Bolt and Mitsubishi Outlander are on display every day. We utilize the Bolt and Outlander for daily business activity in town, and they can be seen darting to various events around the state. In addition to daily use at the utility and city, they will be part of the Sherburne County Fair Parade July 21st, and they will also be on display at the National Drive Electric Week September 13th. The Event on September 13th is part of the farmers market and the concert series in downtown Elk River. The event will focus on providing educational information to the local community on all EVs like the Chevy Bolt, and plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Mitsubishi Outlander.


Q: What reactions have you received from the community so far?

The reactions so far have been very positive and supportive. The EV community is incredibly dedicated and supportive of ERMU’s efforts to increase the awareness of EVs and public charging infrastructure. But, the majority of people do not fully understand what an EV is yet or how they work. The educational process is slow, but it’s really starting to take hold. When we started our in-home program, we had two participants. With the technology advances in the past couple of years for EVs and the implementation of TOU rates, we have added seven additional customers to the program in two years. Even more exciting is the fact that we have four additional customers that will be joining the program after they get their new vehicle or complete the charger installation. Every time I stop to charge ERMU’s Chevy Bolt at one of our public charging stations in town, I get at least one or two individuals that stop and talk to me. This is great because it gives the resident the opportunity to see how easy it is to own and operate an EV. We spend time talking about rates and cost per mile, maintenance costs, range of the vehicle, and how fun they are to drive.


Q: How will the new electric vehicles primarily be used? (i.e. department vehicle, pool vehicle, etc.)

The Chevy Bolt is owned by ERMU and is my primary transportation. I take the Bolt to visit residential and commercial customers that have questions on how they can use energy more efficiently. There isn’t a better example of how to use energy wisely than rolling up in an EV that is powered primarily by renewable electricity. I also drive the Bolt to various meetings and events around the state that are focused on EV education and energy efficiency.

The Mitsubishi Outlander was leased by the city for three years. The vehicle is considered a pool vehicle and is used primarily by the environmental, engineering, planning, and building departments. The Outlander is frequently used to inspect wetland and construction sites, road reconstruction projects, and planning meetings around the city. Because of the extended range of the hybrid and larger SUV size, the vehicle is perfect for carrying passengers and cargo to meetings in St. Paul and around the state.


Q: Who are the lucky individuals that get to primarily drive the vehicles?

The Chevy Bolt is primarily driven by me. I am the Conservation and Key Account Manager, so it’s a great fit for what I do. When I’m not using the Bolt, everyone in the utility is encouraged to use it. The more we drive it, the more emissions we avoid, and it will save the utility money, which is good for everyone.

For the Outlander at the city, Amanda Bednar the Environmental Coordinator is a frequent user, but the use over all departments including engineering, building, planning, environmental, and economic development is pretty consistent.


Q: Do you have any plans to offer test drives to the public?

We have hosted two public events where test drives were part of the event, and we’ll look to add additional events in the future. You can like ERMU on Facebook and stay up to date on events that we offer in the future.


Q: Are there any other comments you’d like to offer?

I had never driven an all-electric vehicle until ERMU purchased the Bolt. The vehicle has exceeded my expectations.