Recharge Minnesota

American Lung Association Report Confirms the Health Benefits of EVs

A newly-released report from the American Lung Association (ALA) confirms that switching to electric vehicles (EVs) will have a significant impact on air quality. The finding seems unsurprising at first glance — of course fewer emissions will mean better air quality — but the scale of the improvement and what it means for public health are the key takeaways.

Chart summarizing findings from American Lung Association reportThe ALA report estimates almost 90,000 premature deaths can be avoided, as well as 2.2 million asthma attacks. Between those and lost work days due to air-quality-related health issues, they estimate almost $1 trillion in public health savings in the next 30 years. The impact that wildfires in Canada have had on the entire northern half of the U.S., just in the past few weeks, demonstrates how disruptive bad air quality can be. The New York Times described the conditions from wildfires as “hazardous to breathe everywhere from Minnesota and Indiana to sections of the Mid-Atlantic region and the south.” They also note that this level of air pollution is common in other parts of the world; the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 99% of the world’s population breathes air below acceptable WHO quality standards. Americans are comparatively fortunate in this measure, but the ALA report estimates that 35% of Americans live in zones where air quality is routinely bad.

Granted, the ALA study’s findings rest on an assumption of “100 percent zero-emission new passenger vehicle sales and non-combustion energy generation by 2035.” That assumes a sea change level of adoption for EVs that may not materialize in the next 12 years. The biggest takeaway from these studies and reports, though, is that any effort we make to clean the air will improve the lives of the people breathing that air. The New York Times reported that air quality improved significantly everywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic, when far fewer cars were driven. Cab drivers in Bangkok and New Delhi, for example, saw the smog clear over their cities, and it has returned since the end of pandemic restrictions.

At Recharge America, we feel these impacts at a personal level. Stephanie, our national program director, lives in Pennsylvania, in an area where the Canadian wildfires created so much haze that she couldn’t see the mountains almost right outside her door. She commented that her eyes and throat burned after only a minute or two of breathing that air.

View of haze from wildfires in Canada

“There’s a mountain on the other side of the river, just can’t see it today” — Stephanie Dorman, National Program Director

You don’t need to be a climate fanatic or drastically change your lifestyle to make a real impact on the quality of the air you and those around you breathe. Every combustion engine that gets swapped out for an EV contributes to cleaning up the air. It’s just another way that EV adoption benefits entire communities and how the ripple effects radiate outward from the people who drive them.

Introducing the Recharge Team

The Recharge team has undergone some changes in the past few months, and we’re excited to introduce our new team members!

Stephanie Dorman has been our National Program Director since November 2022. She has a clear vision for Recharge America, and she’s driving it forward every day! Stephanie is based out of Pennsylvania.

From Stephanie:
“With over a decade of nonprofit experience, I knew that coming into Recharge America, we’d be able to make such an impact on people around the country. Our team is doing just that, by going into communities with educational events, and then continuing the conversations around workforce and economic equity. We have a great team that is focused on bringing positive changes to people, our environment, and our country.”

Erin Rathe is one of our State Program & Events Managers, and she joined our team in March 2023. With a background in economic development and community engagement, she’s fitting right into the work Recharge is doing. Erin lives in Massachusetts.

From Erin: “I love the work we’re doing at Recharge, because it’s amazing to see all the innovation happening around the country! I’m learning so much about how different each community’s needs and goals are, and it’s such a privilege to be helping them shape their goals and then reach them.”

Madeleine Blum is also a State Program & Events Manager based out of Massachusetts. She joined Recharge America in April and has hit the ground running. With her event skills, she has taken point on working with our partners to make our community events happen in Minnesota and Massachusetts.

From Madeleine: “It is an honor to use my decades of event planning and organizational experience to blossom events that make a positive impact. I’m delighted to be working at Recharge where the goals and mission align with my own passion for sustainability.”

Test Drive EVent in Albert Lea!

Recharge Minnesota held a very successful event at Design Ready Controls (DRC) in Albert Lea on May 5! With test drive cars from Tesla, Ford, VW, and Nissan, plus showcase cars from those manufacturers and more, the attendees had a wide range of options for learning about EVs. VIP guests were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of DRC and a ride around town on an electric school bus, courtesy of Interstate Truck Centers. 

Attendees completed 86 test drives, and DRC estimated delivering close to 400 tours of their facility. Exhibitors included Nuss Trucking, Freeborn Mower Electric Cooperative, Austin Utilities, Riverland College, Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce, MN DOT, and Heliox. Freeborn County 4-H brought kits for kids to assemble their own mini EVs, and food trucks from Nel’s Diner and Just Take the Cake Too were on hand with snacks and lunch options. 

Every test drive generated a donation to Alden-Conger High School’s Supermileage Club and VEX Robotics, student organizations that were also on hand to show off what they do. The Supermileage Club is headed to the world championships in India later this year! The student groups will each receive $2,500 as a result of sponsorships and donations from exhibitors and the community.

Recharge America – Securing the Promise of EVs for Everybody

Reporting from our annual recognition ceremonies and inaugural symposia in Minnesota and Massachusetts this spring

Recharge America has annually hosted recognition events in Minnesota and Massachusetts honoring leaders in EVs. This year also marked the first-ever statewide symposia in each state, aimed at providing an opportunity to share lessons learned among Recharge participants. Taking place on March 22 on the campus of Minnesota State University Mankato and on April 12 on the campus of University of Massachusetts Boston, these two events incorporated presentations from state officials, nonprofits, energy partners, and manufacturers on their advances and programs in the EV space. The centerpiece of each gathering was a video showcasing the impact Recharge participants have had across their respective states.

Learners eager to replicate successes in their communities participated in small breakout sessions led by industry leaders working to ensure that the rollout of EVs remains innovative and accessible, providing opportunities to everyone:

  • State officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts  Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs outlined their priorities and opportunities for implementing National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) plans. 
  • Representatives from energy partners like Xcel, Connexus, Fermata, Eversource, and National Grid outlined their programs for commercial customers that encourage EV charging installation and support grid resilience and planning. 
  • Businesses including Voltrek in Massachusetts and Design Ready Controls in Minnesota described their public-private partnerships that are driving economic and workforce development.
  • Researchers, policy analysts, and students from higher educational institutions — including MSU Mankato, Riverland Community College, Boston University, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute — engaged with participants describing the hurdles ahead so they could lend their expertise to help solve those problems.
  • Stakeholders from community groups, like PLACE, HourCar and Good2Go carsharing services, Native Sun Community Power Development, and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, shared their efforts to bring EV access and innovation to Environmental Justice communities. 

The goal? Build on the promise that one of the best ways to boost EV adoption is to harness lessons learned from each other. Conversations during these events identified a variety of new initiatives for the coming year:

  • Aligning various incentive programs that provide grants and rebates with populations who can’t access them: overnight street parkers, deed-restricted parking spaces, and multifamily rental complexes;
  • Conducting outreach to Environmental Justice Communities (EJCs) to bring both EV cars and infrastructure into those communities in ways that truly serve the constituents who live in them;
  • Converting fleets of buses, trucks, and service vehicles to Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) and supporting their adoption with flexible charging solutions that keep those fleets active on demand;
  • Connecting workforce development programs with manufacturing needs, particularly in economically disadvantaged communities;
  • Identifying further ways to reduce overall Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMTs) by connecting bike trails, providing micromobility opportunities, and growing carsharing and ridesharing programs.

Building off community engagement work across these states, the collaborative framework Recharge America is building demonstrates the power of positive storytelling to help realize the promise of an electric transportation system that can serve us all. We’re already looking forward to and planning next year’s symposia!

Recharge MN Spotlight: Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA)

Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) views electric vehicles (EVs) as good for both business and the environment. As a result, EVs are an important component of the agency’s “SMMPA 2.0” strategic initiative focusing on environmental and economic sustainability, with a goal of moving its power generation portfolio to be 80 percent carbon free by 2030.

SMMPA generates and transmits wholesale electricity to 18 non-profit, municipally-owned member utilities across Minnesota. The agency announced the development of its EV charging network in 2019, with the goal of installing a DC Fast Charger and 2 dual-port Level 2 chargers in each of their members’ communities. As part of the initiative, SMMPA pays for the equipment and maintenance, so their members are only responsible for covering the installation. ZEF Energy assisted SMMPA with planning, including site and equipment selection. With two-thirds of their members already participating, the project is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2021.

“Since up to 90 percent of EV charging typically occurs in the owner’s garage at night, when electric demand is low, utilities can generally handle that load without additional generation,” says Christopher  Schoenherr, SMMPA’s Director of Agency and Government Relations.

Even as the availability of public charging stations continues to grow, some consumers hesitate to make the switch to electric because of “range anxiety” – the fear they may not be able to reach distant destinations. SMMPA’s EV charging network is intended to help alleviate those concerns and expand EV adoption longer term. That’s why the agency’s Board unanimously made the investment in them. 

“To the extent that we get more EVs in people’s garages, that’s where the economic payback will be for us,” says Christopher. “In addition to that, the charging network aligns well with our SMMPA 2.0 initiative to significantly reduce our carbon footprint.”

SMMPA hosts a dual-port Level 2 charging station at its headquarters in Rochester, Minnesota that is open to the public, and expects its next fleet vehicle purchase will be an EV. SMMPA works closely with its members on EV marketing campaigns and educational resources, including an EV 101 brochure. The agency also delivered an ad campaign around a Nissan LEAF rebate that became their most clicked digital ad. 

SMMPA is currently in the early stages of exploring an EV sharing initiative, a potential way of introducing residents of smaller communities to EVs. A driver would be able to rent an EV for anywhere from an hour to a week, allowing them to have a hands-on, first person experience to see if it’s right for them. 

Learn more about the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency. To download the complete Recharge Minnesota SMMPA case study, click here.

Recharge MN Spotlight: Mankato Area Foundation

Electric vehicles (EVs) align well with the mission of The Mankato Area Foundation, whose purpose is to improve the livability in Greater Mankato through philanthropy. The Foundation’s support of EV education and awareness programs has helped establish Mankato as an EV leader among smaller communities in Minnesota and the nation.  

 In 2018, the Mankato Area Foundation (with the Olseth Family Foundation, an organization working to improve community through support of the arts, education, the environment and the underserved, and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Minnesota State University, Mankato) launched Recharge Mankato, a community initiative aimed at improving the health and vitality of the Greater Mankato region through the use of emerging transportation technologies, including EVs. 

“We planned our first Recharge Mankato event at Minnesota State University Mankato in 2018 with hopes of getting 100 people there to try electric vehicles. In fact, 161 people attended and we were thrilled,” says Mankato Area Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Zallek. 

The next year, Recharge Mankato hosted nearly 1,000 people at another test drive event, with over 500 attendees having an electric vehicle experience. According to Nancy, the impact of in-person events has a disproportionate impact on increasing EV adoption in smaller communities like Mankato, where people tend to know each other. 

“A few key stakeholders ended up buying EVs after being introduced to the idea at our events, and that created momentum for others to consider doing the same,” Nancy reports. 

The Foundation notes a beneficial trickle-down EV infrastructure effect, with Mankato now offering residents and visitors 19 public charging stations: 16 Level 2 and three Level 3 DC fast chargers: an impressive number for a community of just over 42,000 residents. Over 60% of the chargers are free to the public. The Foundation itself hosts a dual port Level 3 DC fast charger in Downtown Mankato that is open to the public 24/7 and is listed on PlugShare. It was the result of collaboration between the Mankato Foundation, the Olseth Family Foundation, and Neubau Holdings, with money generated from the chargers going toward community EV initiatives. 

The Foundation hopes to support ride and drives and EV educational events as soon as conditions permit. It is also exploring ways, either virtually, in-person, or a combination of both, for promoting electric school buses. Local municipalities and school districts are beginning to realize the potential of electric buses, but tend to have more questions than answers. The foundation has discovered through Recharge Mankato that educational initiatives can serve as a catalyst for bringing these ideas to fruition.Learn more about the Mankato Area Foundation. To download the complete Recharge Minnesota Mankato Area Foundation case study, click here.

Recharge MN Spotlight: White Bear Mitsubishi

White Bear Mitsubishi is the top-selling dealer in the country for Mitsubishi Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the top-selling plug-in in St. Paul, Minnesota, the dealership’s hometown. General Manager and Owner Richard Herod III says that this record of accomplishment didn’t happen by accident. He, along with his sales managers and half of his sales staff, drive plug-in hybrids. 

“If you think about our state, people in Minnesota drive trucks and SUVs. Personally, I have been driving the Outlander PHEV for over three years now,” Richard says. “Most of my driving is done in electric mode. On my daily commutes, I’ve been averaging 45 to 65 miles per gallon and you just can’t do that with many cars, especially midsize four-wheel-drive SUVs.”

Richard reports that his team’s personal familiarity with plug-ins is an important factor in White Bear Mitsubishi achieving record Outlander PHEV sales year after year. Today, White Bear Mitsubishi sells more plug-in Outlanders than its gas consuming counterpart. The dealership purchased 100 Outlander PHEVs in August 2020, and only 14 were left by the end of the year.

“We find our salespeople saying to our customers, ‘Do you have a garage? Do you have an outlet in your garage? If so, you should consider driving a plug-in hybrid,’” says Richard. “We sell to customers looking for internal combustion engines, because we believe the driving experience is that superior, and when you consider the tax credit, it’s a no-brainer.”  

White Bear Mitsubishi has participated in auto shows and community education events in the past, and is excited to present the 2021 Outlander PHEV as soon as it is possible. In terms of its own EV infrastructure, the dealership has three free charging locations available to the public at no cost. 

For the coming year, Richard’s goal is to be the number one Outlander PHEV dealer in the country for the third year in a row. It would be a particularly noteworthy accomplishment, not just for the fact that Minnesota doesn’t offer PHEV tax credits, but because White Bear Mitsubishi plants a tree for each vehicle test drive. Over 500 trees were planted in 2020 alone.

Learn more about White Bear Mitsubishi. To download the complete Recharge MN White Bear Mitsubishi case study, click here.