Relying on someone’s charging station

MAY 21, 2019 – Normally, I’m a pretty boring driver when it comes to the Tesla. I live in Mandan and work in Bismarck, so the seven-mile commute is nothing out of ordinary.

But I broke out of my comfort zone on May 14 when I drove the Tesla Model X up to Minot to watch our sons play softball in a Tuesday night league.

The Tesla battery is good for nearly 300 miles under ideal conditions, and it’s only 110 miles up to Minot from Mandan, so the trip seemed plausible. However, just to make sure that I had plenty of juice, I called ahead to the Minot Automotive Center to see if I could use their charger…just in case.

I’m no stranger when it comes to driving to Minot. Our oldest son started college there in the fall of 2006. Over the years, I’ve developed “Steve’s Rule of 20 miles” when it comes to that particular drive. It’s about about 20 miles from Bismarck to Wilton. It’s about 20 miles from Wilton to Washburn. It’s about 20 miles to the bridge across Lake Sakakawea from Washburn. And it’s about 20 miles from the bridge to Max. And then it’s another 20 miles to Minot.

So when I’m driving north, I think I’m near Minot when I’m at Max. When I’m driving south, I think I’m near Bismarck when I’m passing through Wilton.

This is all reassuring when you are driving an electric vehicle and you see the charge going down faster than what you think is probable.

After arriving in Minot, the Tesla said I had about 150 miles left in the battery. I’m not a math whiz, but I was expecting the car to tell me that I had enough battery for maybe another 180 miles. Perhaps there was a head wind or maybe I was traveling faster than the car expected me go. I also had the air conditioning on.

Anyway, I pulled into the Minot Automotive Center on south Broadway, and the helpful staff actually told me that they were expecting me. So they helped me get the car plugged in and then I grabbed a ride to the softball diamonds.

After watching a double header and visiting with all kind of friends that we hadn’t seen since last year’s softball season, we caught a ride back to the car. Thanks to an app on my phone, I saw that I now had more than a 200-mile charge so getting back to Bismarck wouldn’t be difficult and I didn’t have to fear that I would run out of electricity.

The electricity that I got from the public charging station in Minot was free. But perhaps someday, I’ll have to pay for the power. My rough understanding is that companies can’t charge for the electricity because they aren’t a utility, which is a challenge a future legislature may have to confront. After all, there isn’t a lot of incentive to put in charging stations if you can’t charge for the juice.

If you don’t believe me, consider how many gas stations there would be if they couldn’t charge for the gasoline.

Anyway, the trip back to Bismarck was without incident. I set the car on autopilot and a way we went. I had to keep my hand on the steering wheel or the Tesla would go out of autopilot. But we learned to co-exist and the drive was comfortable. They only thing I discovered was that the Tesla likes to hug the right edge of the road, and I prefer to be more toward the center line. But I guess we learned to compromise, or I should say, I learned to compromise when I let the Tesla do the driving.

If there was anything else I learned, it was this…all level two chargers don’t replenish the battery at the same rate. For instance, the charger at the Lignite Energy Council can add 30 miles of electricity per hour. The charger at the Minot Automotive Center was probably closed to 20 to 22 miles of electricity per hour. Still, it was a pleasant experience and the Tesla handled nicely on Highway 83.

And I want to thank the folks in Minot for letting me plug in while I went to watch softball.


Steve Van Dyke

Vice President – Communications


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