February 03, 2020

Otter Tail Power Company installs first electric vehicle fast charger along major stretch of I-94

Otter Tail Power Company recently installed a 50-kilowatt (kW) electric vehicle fast charger, commonly known as a direct current (DC) fast charger, in downtown Fergus Falls, Minnesota. This fast charger is the first along a 200-mile major corridor of the I-94 Interstate between Monticello and Moorhead, Minnesota, and is compatible with all electric vehicle models. The company also installed two 7-kW Level 2 chargers at the location.

“Community partnerships made these installations possible,” said Otter Tail Power Company Market Planning Manager Jason Grenier. “To ensure our community would reap the economic benefits of having travelers come to town for a charge, we approached Service Food Market—located in the heart of Fergus Falls—with the opportunity to install chargers in its parking lot. They saw the community impact potential, particularly from the DC fast charger installation, and agreed to partner with us. We also worked with local electrical contractor Vinco Inc. to install the chargers.”

Otter Tail Power Company is offering a promotional period of free charging until the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approves its proposed electric vehicle charging rates, likely this summer.

“Electric vehicle technology continues to improve,” said Grenier. “With battery technology advancing, travelers are able to drive longer ranges between charges. While most charging will occur overnight at home, DC fast charging stations have greatly reduced the time it takes for charging when away from home. Costs for electric vehicles and infrastructure are lowering. And our company and industry are using more renewable resources to serve customers and communities. Because of these improvements, electric vehicles are becoming more common on the roads. We anticipate adding more DC fast chargers throughout major corridors in our service area.”

A one-hour charge using a 50-kW DC fast charger will allow an electric vehicle to travel up to 200 miles. A one-hour charge using a 7-kW Level 2 charger will allow an electric vehicle to travel up to 28 miles.

“The DC fast charger benefits both the Fergus Falls community and the Greater Minnesota electric vehicle owner community,” said Tom Kingston, electric vehicle owner and Fergus Falls Downtown Riverfront Council member. “When I park one of my electric vehicles at the new charging station, I often receive questions from curious community members. The new installation helps to educate and raise awareness of electric vehicles. It also shows community members that owning an electric vehicle can be a practical transportation option.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota has more than 10,000 electric vehicles on the road today, 31 of which are in Otter Tail County.

“Within an hour of commissioning the chargers, someone traveling from Manitoba to the Twin Cities stopped for a charge,” said Grenier. “Since then, we’ve seen a steady stream of travelers from neighboring regions use the chargers. To help showcase our town and its amenities, we’ve added maps on both sides of the DC fast charger.”

The chargers were partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to establish the Michigan to Montana I-94 Clean Fuel Corridor.