New EV DC fast charging station in Pine City, MN

Pine City leads with EV charging and GreenStep Cities work

Minnesota’s Pine City is a member of the GreenStep Cities Program, which is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. We recently spoke with Nathan Johnson, Community Development Director and City Planner with Pine City, to learn more about their interest in electric vehicles and a new EV chargers in town, which helped them accomplish a best practice in the GreenStep program.

Joel Haskard: Tell us about the location and type of electric vehicle chargers in Pine City?

Nathan Johnson: A fast charging station has been installed at the Family Pathways Thrift Store in downtown Pine City, Minn., for the benefit of electric-vehicle (EV) drivers. The DC Fast Charging station enables drivers to charge their EV batteries to 80 percent in a mere 30 minutes. Not every electric car can use the faster chargers, so, for that reason, there is also a Level 2 charger at the site too, to accommodate those other types of electric vehicles. Fast-charger-compatible cars range from the relatively affordable Nissan Leaf to luxury Tesla models. Matthew Blackler, of Zef Energy (a Minneapolis company), was largely responsible for this effort. All the chargers are open to the public and can be accessed with the use of a key fob or phone app associated with car-charging service provider. A charging session typically runs $3 to $5, a bargain compared to getting a full gas tank. For now, the Level 2 charger on-site is free of charge.

Joel Haskard: Why did Pine City decide to install EV chargers?

Nathan Johnson: Installing an EV charger in Pine City would mean peace of mind for EV drivers as they head from the Twin Cities metro area to places “Up North”. We thought having the technology would help defeat so-called “range anxiety,” the worry electric-car owners might feel as their batteries run low. According to PlugShare, a mobile application and online tool that allows electric car owners to locate EV charging stations, prior to the opening of the Pine City station there were no such chargers between Forest Lake and Duluth, Minn. Further, Pine City is a Minnesota GreenStep City. As one of the participating cities, Pine City is helping to lead the way in sustainability across the state of Minnesota. The City has worked hard to implement best practices in order to fulfill sustainability goals. Actions that are taken within the program focus on cost savings, energy use reduction, and the encouragement of civic innovation.

Joel Haskard: Is there directional signage to help people find the chargers?

Nathan Johnson: Yes, there are directional signs to help people navigate to the stations. In fact, City Staff worked with Mn/DOT to update its policies to allow for the installation of appropriate interstate informational signs with information that this is a charging site. It is now reflective of the technology.

Joel Haskard: Any final thoughts for folks charging up in Pine City or who might want to locate a charger on their community?

Nathan Johnson: The network is slowly building out and it is becoming easier and easier to navigate to charge sites. Prior to the Pine City station, we may have been discouraging northbound I-35 travel for certain motorists by not having a station. Now they can pull off here, grab a quick charge and cup of coffee or rootbeer float and be on their way. There is also a sports bar and shops nearby to browse during one’s wait. I would encourage every community to think about whether it makes sense to have a charging station and try to obtain one if it makes sense. In Pine City, Family Pathways, which is located at 800 Main Street S, right on the I-35 Business Loop, the St. Croix Scenic Byway, Old US Highway 61 and Pine City’s “Main Street”, was happy to partner to provide the space for the charging units. Family Pathways is a nonprofit committed to helping people reduce their impact on the environment so they were proud to help expand EV charging opportunities in Minnesota.

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