We know Minnesotans are hardy stock, but will their electric vehicles match their owners’ mettle? That’s one of the things being tested by the City of St. Paul and Drive Electric Minnesota, a collaboration of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies in the Twin Cities. They’ve teamed up to build an EV infrastructure and put the new cars and vans through their paces in Minnesota’s harsh climate. (O.K., harsh by my standards, but I’ve become a weather wimp.)
With help from grants from Xcel Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy, the City of St. Paul just took delivery of their first all-electric Ford Transit Connect, one of eight all-electric vans to arrive in Minnesota thanks to the Drive Electric Minnesota collaborators. Hennepin County (Minnesota) and the City of Minneapolis are slated to receive the next wave of deliveries.
Battery blankets, anyone?
The projected performance results for the production EV batteries are based on “average” conditions, and the sub-zero temperatures common during Minnesota winters certainly don’t qualify as average. Because battery performance decreases in cold weather, it’s highly likely that the batteries will need to be charged more frequently, which is one of the hypotheses being tested.
A fully charged EV that typically goes 100 miles on a charge may only go 60 miles if the weather is extremely cold. Sounds to me like a very good thing to know before you go…
To counter the cold, many of the EV manufacturers are building in battery warmers to increase battery performance in climates like Minnesota’s.
Enhancing the infrastructure
In addition to testing how well the batteries handle the cold, Xcel Energy will be closely monitoring the effects of EVs on its electrical system. They want to be ahead of the curve in understanding how EV use affects the grid. They’ll be working with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to understand typical customer behavior and vehicle performance.
Drive Electric Minnesota is also collaborating on the installation of approximately 30 charging stations throughout the Twin Cities metro area. The stations are rated for use down to 22 degrees below zero. At least four will be solar powered, and all 30 will be available to the public on parking ramps, surface lots and on-street locations. Many of the charging stations will be located in the Energy Innovation Corridor adjacent to the light rail line connecting Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Minnesotans and other people who are not weather wimps like I am should stay tuned for the test results. Based on that Minnesota mettle I’ve seen, I’d say the EV batteries have the advantage.
Article by Sheila Knudtsen, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.