The Plugged In to the Future event is bringing electric vehicles, their owners and dealers, information and more to Grand Forks on Thursday, Aug. 8.
“We’re trying to educate people about electric vehicles and let them know that this is a real option for them if they look at their future purchases in that area,” said Ben Fladhammer, the communications manager for Minnkota Power Cooperative. “We think there’s a big future for electric vehicles … and we want to play a role in educating people and letting them know that they’re functional and they’re fun.”
The free event starts at 5:30 p.m. The first 200 guests will get a free meal ticket to local food trucks and learn about electric vehicles in the state before an 8 p.m. outdoor showing of the movie “Back to the Future.” The movie is a drive-in experience, but due to limited space, the event’s sponsors ask guests to bring lawn chairs as well.
Plugged In to the Future, which will take place at Minnkota Power Cooperative on 32nd Avenue South, will allow local electric vehicle owners to show off their vehicles and take willing participants on a ride-along. The more daring can hop onto an electric mountain bike for a demonstration. Another centerpiece will be West Fargo’s all-electric school bus, which is the first of its kind in North Dakota.
So far, eight electric vehicle owners have signed up to bring their vehicles to the event, not including sponsor vehicles or the bus, with several others local owners showing interest. Kaylee Cusack, the communications specialist for Minnkota Power Cooperative, said attendees can expect to see Teslas and Chevy Bolts, among other vehicles. Guests will be able to take a short ride in one of the sponsors’ Bolts.
“It won’t be super extensive — enough to feel what an electric vehicle feels like,” Cusack said. “Because they do feel a lot different from a gas-powered car. The acceleration and power is super smooth and super fast because it doesn’t need that rumbling engine that you would have with a gas combustion engine … It’s just kind of straight power. They’re actually a lot of fun to drive.”
The event will host vendors who can discuss charging stations, purchasing an electric vehicle and economic incentives for electric vehicle owners with interested guests.
Fladhammer and Cusack said that adoption has been slower in North Dakota compared to larger states, such as California, because of a lack of charging infrastructure and misconceptions about the vehicles' winter performance.
“There is some catching up to do in terms of charging stations in our area. However, we have seen a lot of new charging stations added in the last year, year and a half,” Fladhammer said. “The weather is a question we get constantly … The range of the vehicle is impacted by the cold but not to a degree that most people would think.”
Cusack said that the event will be moved to a garage space if the weather turns foul but that it will offer the same opportunities as the planned outdoor event.
Guests can get updates and free tickets at the Plugged In to the Future Facebook event, but Cusack said that guests without a ticket are still welcome to come.
The event is sponsored by Minnkota Power Cooperative, Lignite Energy Council, Rydell Cars, Scheels and Nodak Electric Cooperative.
“We think we’re approaching a tipping point here as the charging infrastructure in our area continues to get filled out, the cars continue to get more range, more efficient, cooler, better designs,” Fladhammer said. “So we think within the next few years we’re going to see a lot more electric vehicles in our area and we want to be at the forefront of that. We want to be helping people in our community understand the opportunities they have with electric vehicles.”