Can’t get to the party without directions

I’ve always had an interest in alternative energy and fuels. Growing up in Minnesota in the 1970s, it was all about ethanol and what it could do to reduce dependence on Middle East oil, increase farm incomes, reduce pollution and so on. I still have a booklet somewhere with directions on how to build a small farm-sized ethanol production system. For fuel use only, I should add, but who’s going to check?

Of course, that faded away a bit in the 80s, what with changes in the political and economic landscape, but the interest in alternative fuels and energy continued. My first brand-new pickup in 2004, which I still have, was part of the evolution, designed to run on E85. Then there were the EVs. Well, kind of, because they weren’t exactly long-range or easy to find (or afford).

I finally drove my first EV in 2017; a used 2015 Nissan Leaf. The most memorable  part of that was the quiet while driving it, and the fact I knew more about the capabilities and limitations of the car than the dealership’s “expert.”

The thing was, and in many cases still is, the information a regular driver wants and needs to learn about EVs still tends to be hard to pin down. Sure, there are lots of technically oriented items such as charging types, MPGe, battery capacities, regenerative braking and so on. Many EV enthusiasts love that stuff and can talk knowledgeably about them.

But the issue is, most people don’t have the time or inclination to learn those things and invest energy in finding out more about the facts, especially since they already know what to expect from regular and even hybrid gas-powered vehicles. That information is easily accessible and as simple, or detailed, as they need it to be.

That’s where the focus of EV adoption needs to be aimed at. The language being used when regular car-buyers look at vehicles and talk about EVs can’t be mainly about pollution or fossil fuels or the benefits to the world in general; it needs to aim at how an EV can benefit them (it’s not always about the money), along with reducing concerns about range anxiety and how to charge the car so they don’t get stranded.

That’s why it’s good to see that NDSU Extension and Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS) are putting on the Pathways to Electric Vehicle (EV) Adoption event in Moorhead this month. It’s a good step forward in making the case for EVs, showing how it can benefit them, the regular driving public (such as saving money on fuel and maintenance) and show how range anxiety and charging may not be as much of an obstacle as they may now believe.

Whether we like it or not, it’s not the early adopters of tech like EVs who will make the difference, it’s when a larger group sees the advantages and starts buying in. To make that happen, it’s all about education and accessible information presented in a straightforward manner. Congrats to NDSU Extension and CERTS for helping this area take that next step into an electrified future.

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