OPINION

Get a charge out of a road trip

Marvin Baker
Local Columnist

Some years ago when the Cenex station in Richardton installed an E-85 pump, it gave me an idea. I decided to take a trip from northwest of Minot to Rapid City and back using only E-85 alcohol fuel.

The theory was to fill in Minot, then in Richardton. That would take me to Sturgis, where I could fill there, go to Rapid City and take care of my business.

On the return trip, it would get topped off in Sturgis, then a fill in Richardton and again in Minot before taking the short trip home.

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That worked. I actually did it a couple of times, then Cenex in Richardton decided to yank its E-85 pump.

Bismarck was the only other place to fill with E-85 at the time and is simply too far from Sturgis to make a straight run without refueling.

That challenge is coming back, in a new form that is yet to be fully developed, just like E-85 in the mid ‘90s.

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There is a website called Drive Electric North Dakota that points out on a map all 60 locations across the state where you can recharge your electric vehicle.

You can move the map around so you can see what’s available in Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

This map is similar to the old E-85 maps that were once available. It shows all level I and II recharging stations, as well as a few high power stations that have popped up.

According to the map, I could certainly take a trip to Rapid City and back in a fully electric vehicle, with the caveat the route would have to be changed a bit.

There are high power stations all along the route (the ones that recharge your car in 30 minutes), except for a couple of gaps between Dickinson and Bowman and from Bowman to Spearfish.

But it can be done. If you’re not in a hurry, it is completely feasible.

Likewise, you could take a trip to Minneapolis and back, Billings and back, Winnipeg and back, Regina and back. The only thing is, you better not be in a hurry.

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It kind of balances the negative chatter about the short distances an electric vehicle will travel. True, some only take you 200 miles. But if you look at the map on the Drive Electric North Dakota website, you’ll see there are charging stations now located all across the state that are well within that 200-mile limit.

The greatest open distance on that map is between Grand Forks and Minot, which is 210 miles. Devils Lake, about halfway, is the only major city in North Dakota that doesn’t have a charger. But there is a charger now at McGuire Ford in Rugby, 60 miles east of Minot.

Another is Jamestown to Aberdeen. It’s much shorter, 103 miles, but there aren’t any charging facilities in between.

There aren’t any chargers between Minot and Estevan, a total of 118 miles, but community leaders in Kenmare have pondered an installation.

A couple of other items that should be pointed out is you can travel all across the Trans Canada Highway, a whopping 4,860 miles, from St. John’s Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia using an all electric vehicle as charging stations are strategically placed.

It’s not like that in the United States save for Interstate 80 that could take you from Chicago to Denver on the all electric express.

Interstate 40 is similar. It can take you from Fayetteville, N.C., to Bakersfield, Calif. using an all electric vehicle. That’s a distance of 2,572 miles.

Here in North Dakota, as long as the map is accurate, there shouldn’t be any reason why you couldn’t go across the state with an electric vehicle.

The auto companies have toyed with electric vehicles in the past as far back as 1996 with the General Motors EV1. In 2000, an electric Ford Ranger was used in fleet service.

Now, they’re becoming the norm. GM wants to phase out internal combustion engines by 2035 and Ford is coming out with a line up of electric vehicles that will be very competitive for consumers as Ford is looking to gain a market share by pricing their electric F-150 similar to their conventional vehicles.

And, for about $600, you can purchase a car charger for your garage so when you leave for work your vehicle, be it a Tesla, Rivian, Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Bolt, will always be fully charged.

When you look at the North Dakota map, Prairie Knights Casino, the Langdon City Park, Totten Trail, New Leipzig RV park, Lake Metigoshe, the International Peace Garden and the New Town Marina are some of the places where you can get a charge.

And all major cities except Devils Lake have chargers.