Fast Charging for the Future

By Mickey Cotter, Jr Scientist, Renewable Energy

May 2019

Fast charging stationIn April of 2018, the WCROC commissioned a 50 kW DC electric vehicle fast charger, capable of charging an electric vehicle’s battery in under an hour. At the time, this was the only fast charger west of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, including all of North and South Dakota. The greater Minnesota network has been growing, though, with new charge stations popping up in Moorhead and Bemidji, and even more coming soon in St Cloud, Alexandria, and Fergus Falls.

Shortly after the fast charging station was operational, the WCROC began collecting data on the charger, such as energy consumed and frequency of charging sessions. Through 11 months, the charger has provided an average of a little less than one charge per week, with the monthly distribution of the 41 charges shown below. Vehicles charging at the WCROC have consumed around 1150 kWh of electricity in total, or what a typical MN home uses in about one and a half months.

Fast charger graph 2019

The WCROC charger is powered by a 30 kW solar array in the cow pasture nearby. In that same 11 month time period, the solar panels have produced over 23,000 kWh, roughly 20 times the amount of electricity used to charge vehicles! The rest of that electricity then goes to power the WCROC administration building where the fast charger is located. Those solar panels are also part of a study to provide cool shade for cows grazing underneath them in the hot summer months.

This charging station has brought many new faces to the research center in the past months, including people driving from the Twin Cities to Colorado and back, and someone driving from Fargo to New Jersey to export his car all the way home to the Ukraine. Neither of these trips would have been feasible had it not been for this charger, and many more individuals going between the Twin Cities, Fargo, and Sioux Falls may have been unable to use their electric vehicles without our stop.

Still, these electric vehicles are relatively new to the scene in rural Minnesota. For a comparison, the fast charger outside the Graduate Hotel in Minneapolis was used 1100 times in 2018, consuming a total of 17,000 kWh of electricity. While the Morris station doesn’t expect to see numbers like that any time soon, we are excited to see the rural electrification of transportation expand, and greet more electric drivers with our cost-free fast charger.

Check out PlugShare for a map of other existing charging stations world-wide.

Funding for this project is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.