Business & Economy

‘I barely use any fuel': Lots of choices, lots of demand for EVs

a man inside his vehicle poses for a photo
Richard Herod III is the general manager at White Bear Mitsubishi, which leads the nation in sales of that manufacturer’s plug-in hybrid called Outlander, an SUV-style vehicle he also drives daily.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

The auto industry and climate experts are betting on electric vehicles over the next 10 years, but so far in Minnesota electric cars are relatively rare. 

Most of them on the road here were made by Tesla, but that's changing. 

Nestled among the fancy shops and restaurants in St. Louis Park’s West End development is a tiny electric car dealership — with just three cars on the small pristine sales floor.

The Polestar 2 vehicles that salesman Ross Marcus pitches are made in Sweden: The all-electric sporty four-door sedan starts at about $50,000 and can go more than 250 miles on a single charge, Marcus said. That's plenty of range for most drivers who average less than 30 miles a day behind the wheel. 

a man standing in front of an electric vehicle
Polestar salesman Ross Marcus says potential customers are concerned about battery life. “Everyone talks about range anxiety. They're really concerned about what the battery is going to do.”
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

The technology behind electric vehicles has been around for a long time. What’s changed is the battery quality. In just the past few years, range has more than tripled.

 “When we got our first electric vehicle. We had a full 73 miles range with it,” said EV aficionado Jukka Kukkonen, who’s been driving electric cars for more than a decade. “Now all the new EVs have over 250 miles of range.”

Kukkonen is a former Ford Motor Company engineer, now an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas and a big promoter of the electric car industry. He, his wife and son each have an EV. Each vehicle has its own charging station at their St. Paul home.

Kukkonen is convinced now is a good time to consider buying an electric car.

"I, for example, just looked at what the market is like for all the other than Tesla vehicles, and I was surprised how many are available,” Kukkonen said. “Just a couple of months ago that was not the situation. So I would say that it starts to be in some ways, even a buyer's market right now.”

But, Kukkonen concedes it depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.

a man stands next to an EV charging station
Jukka Kukkonen standing in front of one of three EV charging stations at his St. Paul home.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Low-end all-electric cars are scarce and often come with waiting lists.

Chevrolet says it has none of its Bolt models available in the Twin Cities right now. The most basic Bolt sells for less than $30,000. That relatively-low price has customers lined up.

Marcus, the Polestar salesman, said he had nearly two dozen more expensive Polestar 2s on his lot waiting for buyers. A less-expensive option might be what’s called a plug-in hybrid. It’s a car with a gasoline engine and can also run solely on electricity, but not for hundreds of miles.

“Both battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are really good buys, in a way that they use so much less energy when you're in electric mode, that they definitely start to pay themselves back very fast," Kukkonen said.

“I barely use any fuel,” said Richard Herod III, the general manager at White Bear Mitsubishi, which leads the nation in sales of that manufacturer’s plug-in hybrid called Outlander, an SUV-style vehicle Herod drives daily.

“I've made it two months without putting gas in my Outlander because when I charge my vehicle at night, most of my daily driving is under 50 miles," he said.

Right now less than one-half-of one percent of vehicles on Minnesota roads are electric, but the state has set a goal of getting that number to 20 percent by the end of the decade. That would be a more than 4,000 percent increase in just seven years.

Herod said tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act have increased interest in electric vehicles. But he cautioned that the credits available now are more complicated than past incentives and come with numerous conditions.

“Before, you just had to buy an electric vehicle. It didn't matter how much it cost. It didn't matter how much your family makes. Now, there are some new rules for that,” Herod said. “Please make sure you talk to your tax adviser because if you don't do that, you can make a decision that you may regret.”