A coalition of organizations advocating for increased electric car use is holding public forums in Bemidji, Roseau, and Duluth to make their appeal to northern Minnesota residents. A half-hour before the event began, people were lined up to try to drive electric automobiles. In Roseau, more than 150 individuals showed up, expressing interest as well as some doubt.
“I’ve purchased a ticket to ride. I’m expected to be the first in line to go behind the wheel of this one, “Dennis Erickson, 68, expressed his thoughts. Erickson identified himself as an electric car skeptic while waiting to test the Ford Mustang Mach E. “How much money are you saving up here in the north, with winter travel… and the [absence of] charging stations?” he said.
“I have no idea. I’m not sure if it’s a good bargain, to be honest.” As per Jukka Kukkonen, who is the owner of Shift2Electric in St. Paul, this is a regular response. “That doubt stems from something fresh that they haven’t seen before,” said Kukkonen, an electric car educator who has lately attended many events in rural regions. He’s also witnessed uncertainty turn into acceptance in a flash.
“As they get to test drive one, when they overhear their neighbor driving one, they’re like, ‘Oh boy, it really seems to be functioning,’ then things start to shift,” Kukkonen explained. In the winter, batteries lose some power. Still, current lithium battery technology manages freezing temperatures considerably better than older vehicles, according to Kukkonen, and gas-powered cars are also less efficient. Vehicle charging points are being built throughout the state, but according to Kukkonen, most vehicle charging occurs at home. Therefore, access to charging points is less of an issue than most people believe.
Local Ford salesman Paul Blomquist jokes with Erickson as he slips into the driver’s seat, telling him to rev the engine “so you notice all that engine noise.” The tires scraping dry grass as Erickson pulls away make the biggest noise.
Blomquist operates 2 Ford dealerships, 1 in Roseau and the other in Hallock, 60 kilometers west. Until a few years ago, he was one of the critics of electric vehicles. “Listening to Ford leadership describe where they’re going gave me that ‘aha!’ moment.” “If we’re going to succeed in this climate, we all ought to come on board sooner rather than later,” says Blomquist stated. Blomquist says that lobbying for electric cars in a conservative section of the state has gotten him some resistance. In 2020, Donald Trump received 72 percent of the vote in Roseau County.