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Guest View: Let's talk about Electric Vehicles

Let's talk about electric vehicles for a moment, shall we? A few weeks ago I bought a 2022 Kia Niro and I want to share my delight with it and perhaps stimulate some conversation around this new technology that may or may not change our transportation landscape.

Those of you who know me know how much I loved my 2007 Subaru Forester. We made an unbeatable team, but after 17 years together, a fuel leak that saturated the back seat helped me realize that the time had come to move away from internal combustion and jump on the EV bandwagon.

My husband, Steve, purchased a Tesla 3 in 2022. We'd been skirting the perimeter of electric vehicles for a couple of decades already, installing solar panels in 2008 and 2011 with the dream of someday using the sun to charge our electric cars. I was fortunate to have a front row seat as Steve learned the ins and outs of driving an EV. When it came time to make a vehicle decision for myself, I had his knowledge to help shape my research.

Before buying anything, I spent many hours reading reviews on the Edmunds and Car & Driver websites. Those sites not only give nice parallel reviews of the models from various years, but they also search the magic database of cars for sale and show you where you can find them and how much the dealer is asking. I chose to limit myself to dealers, even though I was looking for a used EV. Technology is changing so fast, and I don't know what I don't know and I determined that a starter car from a reputable dealer was the best choice for me.

I wanted to test drive a few different models before buying and that put a crimp into the research. There aren't very many EVs available from our local dealers, either new or used, so Steve and I headed to the Twin Cities area. GS Motors in Hopkins was our first (and only) stop. Pavel Ihnatovich deals solely in used electric vehicles because he believes EVs are the future of transportation and he wants to encourage people to make the leap. With a staff of one (himself) and an inventory of 15 to 20 cars, Pavel really knows his stuff and presented them thoroughly at the sales appointment.

As soon as we had introduced ourselves, Pavel asked about the most important thing I was looking for in a car. We live outside of Mahtowa, and I knew that non-Tesla Level 3 chargers are currently unavailable north of Pine City, requiring an intense reliance on charging at home. A standard trip to Duluth and back is around 100 miles, and very cold or windy weather can cut the expected range of an EV by nearly half, so I needed a minimum range of 220 miles.

At this time, there are rebate and tax credit programs available for EV purchases, both at the state and federal level. To participate in these programs while buying a used vehicle, the purchase price must be less than $25,000.

That Saturday I test drove five cars. After eliminating his Hyundai options based on the lack of service for them in our area, we settled on a Nissan Leaf, a Kia EV6, a Volkswagen ID.4, a Ford Mustang Mach-E, and a Kia Niro. Since I drove Steve's Tesla down to Hopkins that morning, I effectively test drove six cars, which gave me confidence to make an informed decision that day.

After Pavel gave the cursory instructions for driving each car, Steve would direct me in driving on the same route through Hopkins, onto the freeway, and then back to the dealership. That way I could concentrate on driving and eliminate any variables.

Each car truly drove well, making the driver-car interface a prime factor in the decision. Most of the cars were set up much like the cars I've driven before, and I preferred that familiar territory. All of the EVs I drove had computer screens off to the right of the steering wheel and the placement of this screen was surprisingly important to me. The ID.4, Tesla, and Mustang all had prominent screens that felt like they'd been added on as an afterthought, which made me uncomfortable.

In the end, the car I chose is similar in size and drive-feel to my Subaru. The computer display is integrated into the center of the dashboard and can be turned off. I'll have to get used to front-wheel drive again, but on the whole my experience that day and driving the car since then has been wonderful.

Once I decided on the car, Pavel happily exhibited his familiarity with the current rebate and tax credit rules. We charged the car up enough to get to a Level 3 charger in North Branch and set off for home.

So, now you'll see me driving a dark blue Niro instead of a red Subaru.

If you drive an EV, I'd love to hear your story. How do you feel about the car you chose? What are the challenges and joys of driving an EV in northern Minnesota? Send your stories to [email protected].

Writer Rita Vavrosky is a small-scale farmer, educator, mother, and grandmother hoping to make the world a better place, one thought at a time. Contact her at [email protected].