More Great River Energy employees now driving electric

Year by year, more Great River Energy employees are finding themselves walking the talk – er, driving the talk – when it comes to utilizing electricity in innovative ways outside of the office.

A popular option of EV models among employees seems to be the plug-in hybrid version (PHEV). Unlike an all-electric car, PHEVs are powered by an electric motor and battery along with an internal combustion engine. Most use solely electricity from battery energy for a certain mileage range before continuing to drive on gasoline.

“I work at an electric utility and honestly believe in the value and progress our product is making. Electric vehicles are more efficient, cleaner for the environment and are quickly becoming the least-cost alternative.” Kerby Nester, Great River Energy employeeThere are currently 18 Great River Energy employees representing five locations who own an electric vehicle (EV). The cars have become popular enough among the cooperative’s Maple Grove office employees that they have to perform the so-called “EV shuffle” over the lunch hour by rotating parking spots at charging stations so everyone has an opportunity to fuel up before the commute home.

Ken Deal, benefits analyst, was looking for an affordable EV option that could fit three car seats as he and his wife were expecting their third child. He thought a Honda Accord PHEV would be a good compromise since his wife was hesitant to go full electric due to “range anxiety,” or the fear the car will run out of battery before reaching its destination. This model offers an all-electric range of 16 miles, and Deal’s commute is about 22 miles.

“I still use gasoline each day for part of my drive, but this car is a great stepping stone and trial for us to see how smooth owning an electric car can be,” Deal said. “In my first year I averaged about 600 miles per fill up and saved about $400 compared to my former vehicle by not going to the pump as often.”

Kerby Nester, leader, transmission line design, had her sights set on purchasing an EV because she believes in “living [her] mission” both at work and in her personal life.

“I work at an electric utility and honestly believe in the value and progress our product is making,” Nester said. “Electric vehicles are more efficient, cleaner for the environment and are quickly becoming the least-cost alternative.”

Nester charges her Porsche Cayenne S PHEV overnight in her garage and then uses its 18 all-electric mile range to drive to work. She charges it during the day and, after picking up her children, uses the internal combustion engine for about the last 5 miles to make it home.“A Chrysler Pacifica hybrid (minivan) was charging next to me at work a couple of weeks ago and, as a father of three, that looked as good as a Ferrari.”

Jennifer Charles, leader, environmental services, chose her Honda Clarity PHEV based on its beneficial impacts on the environment as well as its mileage, which includes 47 all-electric miles. Charles, who lives in North Dakota, said she has encountered challenges including a lack of available public charging infrastructure as well as dealing with the cold climate.

All three employees see themselves driving electric from here on out.

“An all-electric car would be ideal, however living in North Dakota and driving 100-150 miles a day, battery technology would need to improve to handle the weather extremes as well as more quick charging infrastructure to be put in place,” Charles said.

Nester said the fact that the technology can only improve makes it an easy choice, and Deal is already looking forward to his future EV purchase.

“A Chrysler Pacifica hybrid (minivan) was charging next to me at work a couple of weeks ago and, as a father of three, that looked as good as a Ferrari,” he said.