Electric car charging station coming to Detroit Lakes, 8 other Minnesota cities

Moorhead fast charger 3 12-05-18
An electric car makes use of a Level II charger at Moorhead, Minn.'s new electric car charging station. Dave Olson / Forum News Service

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Detroit Lakes will get an electric car charging station next year, and users can thank Volkswagen for getting caught cheating on its diesel emission tests — settlement money paid to the states is funding a network of electric car charging stations across Minnesota.

The Detroit Lakes charging station will initially take up two of six city-owned parking stalls between Jimmy John’s and the Lakes Liquor city liquor store.

One charging station can service two vehicles. If needed, there could eventually be three charging stations at the site, able to serve up to six electric cars at once, said Vernell Roberts, general manager of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities.

“We’re excited about having it,” Roberts said. “It will be fun to see how it’s utilized, and how much use it gets.”

Earlier this summer, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency awarded grant funding to ZEF Energy to build 22 electric vehicle charging stations along major highway corridors in Minnesota, including Highway 10. Detroit Lakes is one of nine cities that will receive a new 50 kW fast-charging station.


With easy access to Highway 10, and with downtown Detroit Lakes amenities within walking distance, “ZEF told us it’s one of the best locations they’ve seen,” Roberts said. The grant requires charging stations to be built right off the highway corridor they serve, and to be close to tourism destinations such as restaurants and retail stores, Roberts said.

The idea is to make Highway 10 an electric-car-friendly corridor from Moorhead to the Twin Cities, he said. But recharging an electric car can take hours, requiring a much more leisurely mindset than filling up with gasoline.

The electric vehicle station in Detroit Lakes will have a high-speed 50 kW charger that kicks out 250 miles of drive time in an hour, and also have a much slower 240-volt charger that provides 25 miles of drive time in an hour, Roberts said.

“Most people come in and spend 20 or 30 minutes having coffee, eating or shopping” while their car charges, Roberts said. That’s why the grant requires the charging stations to be built close to travel amenities.

ZEF Energy will install the 50 kW fast-charging stations in Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, Grand Rapids, St. Cloud, Willmar, Marshall, Rochester and Mankato, according to the Minnnesota Pollution Control Agency. One 150 kW fast-charging station, faster yet, will be installed in Albert Lea, to serve traffic on both I-90 and I-35.

Driving range has always been a concern for owners of electric vehicles, but some new electric cars have a range of more than 200 miles. The Nissan Leaf e+ costs about $36,000 and has a 239-mile range.

For about $45,500, you can get a 348-mile range with a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, according to an electric car comparison on the Car website.

On the downside, those electric car ranges can drop by 40% in weather under 20 degrees, according to a AAA study. But if drivers plan ahead and do things such as heat their cars while still plugged into a charging station, electric cars can still be used effectively in extreme climates, the study says.


There is a long lead-time for delivery of the equipment, and ZEF Energy is busy with its major, statewide project, so the charging station in Detroit Lakes will probably not be installed until late next spring, Roberts said. ZEF Energy is a for-profit company, and there will be a cost to repower at the charging stations, but Roberts said he isn’t sure of the details yet.

Next year, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities will likely choose a preferred vendor for home vehicle chargers and provide rebates to residents who buy that type of charger. Off-peak electric will be encouraged.

“The reason we want a preferred vendor is to get data,” to better understand the use of electric cars in the city, Roberts said.

The pollution control agency says the charging stations will help reduce Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution: Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, reducing air pollution on and near roadways. Driving an electric car instead of a gas-powered vehicle also reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides, fine particles and volatile organic compounds.

Detroit Lakes was listed in the grant as a “must-serve” community for a charging station, Roberts said. “We were lucky to get that,” he added. But there is also an opportunity for smaller communities along each corridor to get involved. The remaining 13 station locations have not been selected yet, and ZEF Energy is seeking partners to help locate and develop stations in other communities along the highways.

The initiative will increase Minnesota’s charging network by 1,110 miles and expand electric vehicle access into greater Minnesota.

“Electric vehicles are going to be a game-changer for everybody,” Roberts said.

How would you spend the money?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking for public input about how the state should use Volkswagen settlement funds totaling $23.5 million in the next phase (2020-23).


See to learn more about the planning process and how to submit comments. Or visit to learn more about electric vehicles in Minnesota.

car charging station map.jpg
This map shows where the electric vehicle charging station will be installed near the municipal liquor store in Detroit Lakes. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities)

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