MORGAN, Minn. – Farmfest is the perfect place to check out the latest and greatest in heavy equipment and machinery. This year, Touchstone Energy wanted to showcase something a little different, but still important to rural Minnesota, the electric car.
On the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 7, three electric cars owned by members of the Touchstone Energy Cooperative were on display at the outside gate. The employees that drive those cars everyday were there to talk about them and show them off to the public.
“I actually drive that Chevy Bolt every day,” said Jim Haler, member services manager with the South Central Electric Association. “Once you drive one of these things is really when you know the difference between an electric car and a gas car.”
Haler is not driving his every day on urban roads, but instead on rural, country and gravel roads.
The member groups of Touchstone Energy have electric cars: Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf and a Tesla model, to demonstrate just how far electric cars have come. There are not just the small, compact cars anymore. These are cars that can handle rural conditions as good as any other sedan.
“This is a chance for us to educate people. A lot of times people hear about electric cars, but they don't get to see one up close,” he said. “We can actually point out to them what the features are, what is under the hood.”
Many people attending Farmfest that day did stop to see these cars parked by the gate, and for many of them, what was under the hood was something they were very interested in.
In the case of the Tesla, what’s under the hood is nothing.
“There's a frunk, because there's no motor,” said Tracey Haberman with Nobles Cooperative Electric. “You've got a lot of space to work with.”
Nobles Cooperative Electric own the Tesla that was on display. They have it available for test drives should anyone, member or not, like to take it for a spin.
“It goes from zero to 60 in like three seconds. They are very fun to drive,” she said. “It corrects you too. I was on my way here and went over the line because there was something in the road, didn't put my blinker on and beep, beep, beep.”
These cars do not have a traditional transmission. When you are accelerating, there is no revving of the engine, as there is no engine exactly, and there is no shifting of gears. Haler explains that it is a very smooth acceleration and very easy start going a little too fast.
The reason the cars are able to handle rural roads it that they are actually very heavy. Each of these cars has a battery capacity of over 200 miles. That battery has a lot of weight which is distributed across the bottom of the car.
The battery takes 8-9 hours at 240 volts to charge from nothing to full, and in most cases, the battery does not get driven down to nothing. So leaving it plugged in at night is more than adequate to start the day with a full charge.
“If you're going to drive like 25 miles, it probably costs you about 80 cents to drive this car 25 miles,” said Haler. “Maybe even less than that – 70-80 cents – depending on your electric rate.”
Touchstone Energy has a long history of showcasing and educating on the newest and latest electric based technologies. This event at Farmfest was another opportunity to do just that.
“In the 1930s and 40s, we educated our members about electric appliances, electric brooders, anything to make their life more convenient and electric cars are pretty much the same thing,” said Haberman. “It's a new technology, it's environmentally friendly, it's an up and coming technology.”