One of the MN DNR's Chevy Volts

Electric vehicle use grows in Minnesota fleets: Interview with the DNR

Electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular as fleet vehicles in Minnesota. Joel Haskard with CERTs recently chatted with Aaron Van De Bogart, an electrical Engineer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to learn more about how they’re using electric vehicles, and why.

Joel Haskard: Why is the DNR interested in electric vehicles?

Aaron Van De Bogart: Electric vehicles reduce our annual fleet costs and emissions, and provide an opportunity to educate visitors about renewable energy and conservation. In 2010, fleet fuel represented 65% of DNR energy costs and 42% of CO2e emissions. The DNR’s goal is a 20% reduction in total energy from 2010 to 2015 and a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Joel: How many electric vehicles and charging stations does the DNR currently have?

Aaron: Here’s the breakdown:

  • 2 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV): Chevrolet Volt
  • 46 Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV): Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, and Ford Escape
  • 21 Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV): Licensed for road use at less than 35mph limits
  • 4 Electric Utility Carts: Not licensed for road use

The state parks utilize the majority of the NEVs and Utility Carts that help decrease the use of half-ton trucks.

Joel: Who is the manufacturer of the charging stations? Are these level 1 or level 2 chargers, and what are the estimated charge times for each? And are they accessible to the public?

Aaron: The DNR currently has 3 Eaton Charging Stations. The St. Paul Office has two stations each with a single 18 ft. level 2 connector and a level 1 outlet on the side. The stations are available to the public or employees because the credit card reader is disabled until demand becomes significant. Even though it is open to the public, the DNR and PCA each have a Chevrolet Volt parked at each station. Another charging station and Chevy Volt are located at a regional Grand Rapids facility.

Joel: How have DNR staff acclimated to the cars and the charging stations? Have you gotten any feedback about their experiences?

One of the DNR's Chevy Volts Aaron: The Volt is very new to the DNR’s fleet (February 2012) but we see it utilized regularly. Fleet usage has mainly been around 5 Ford Prius hybrids, but in recent months the Volt was used comparably. The Volt’s utilization has increased as employees come to understand that a combustion engine kicks in after the battery depletes at around the 28 mile mark.

Joel: Do you have any advice or resources to share with other government entities looking at procuring electric vehicles or charging stations?

Aaron: The DNR’s choice in charging was based on short-term fleet usage and long-term public opportunities. We left our options open to expand the number of units by oversizing the electrical line capacity. In addition, Eaton allows for installation of inactive credit card readers. The fees for activating a credit card reader and connecting to a network service would not have any payback in the short term because a majority of use was from DNR and PCA fleet vehicles. Although the alternative ChargePoint charging stations have significant network and software capability, the DNR’s utilization was tailored to fleet and employee vehicles for now.

Click here to see a list and map of all electric vehicle charging stations in Minnesota >>

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