OCT 30, 2019 – Right about the time we moved from October into November 2019, the Lignite Energy Council’s all-electric Tesla turned from 9,999 miles to 10,000. That’s often a major milestone for a car and the car owner.
I remember when the Tesla Model X arrived. It was a cold and blustery January 29, 2019. It came from Minneapolis on a truck. After it was unloaded at the front entrance of the Lignite Energy Council office, it made its first trip – to the Bismarck Events Center. Upon arriving, it was ushered into the warm exhibit hall where it starred with other electric vehicles. In front of the Tesla were four metal letters – C*O*A*L.
From its very beginning, the blue Tesla has been an advocate for coal-based electricity. That’s part and parcel of being an asset of the Lignite Energy Council, a trade association that supports the regional lignite industry.
The next month, Bismarck was gripped by the Polar Vortex but the Tesla – leased by the LEC for three years – seemed to care little if the weather was frigidly cold. As long as it had a battery full of juice, it handled well on snowy and icy streets. I remember driving home from Bismarck to Mandan and watching the traffic either inch along or cars slide into the ditch along Interstate 94, but not the Tesla. With all of its batteries, the car carries twice as much weight as the ordinary car, and with its new “showroom” tires, it had no problem – or certainly less problems – navigating on the icy Interstate.
Recently, we had an early October snowstorm and the four-wheel drive car proved again it had no problem getting around or through snow drifts.
An app on our phones allows us to pre-heat the interior of the car prior to driving. We can also heat our seats and the steering wheel. So, the winter drive is generally pretty comfortable, as is the drive in the summer. The only thing to remember is this – everything takes electricity so the more “extras” that you have turned on, the more power the car is going to use and the less it has for transportation.
The employees of the Lignite Energy Council have all been given a chance to drive the Tesla. We started out taking the car for one week at a time, but later decided that a two-week timeframe was more advantageous. For me, anyway, it takes a couple of days to get my head centered on driving an all-electric car. In some ways, it’s like driving an electric golf cart, simple right? But in other ways, it’s like operating a huge computer with lots of bells, whistles and gadgets. If you don’t do this regularly, you forget. At least I know I do. As an example, if I’m in a rainstorm, I don’t automatically remember where the windshield wipers are. I generally have the car in neutral – by mistake – and I’m still searching for the lever to turn on the wipers. Same way with the defroster. It’s a cool car if you can remember where everything is.
While most of my driving has been coming and going to work, or running errands to the hardware or grocery store, I have ventured out on the highway. One trip was to Minot to see our boys play softball and another was to the Coyote Creek Mine to shoot some video. I think the Tesla has been to all the mines and power plants – with the possible exception of the Spiritwood Station, which is east of Jamestown. It’s also been to Fargo and even as far away as Minneapolis. It takes a little planning to figure out the route and where the charging stations are if you travel further than a 300-mile round trip.
Besides being a reliable vehicle, the Tesla has also been the shining star at different events throughout the year. Some of these include the Energy Generation Conference, the Mandan Fourth of July Parade. the North Dakota State Fair, the McLean County Fair, the North Dakota Association of Counties’ Annual Meeting, Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Annual Meeting, numerous electric vehicle shows…and the list goes on.
The Tesla has also been featured prominently in local, statewide and national publications. There’s something about an all-electric vehicle promoting coal that seems to get a reporter’s attention. It’s sort of like “man bites dog”. It doesn’t seem to be expected. But in North Dakota, it makes sense since the majority of our electricity comes from coal-based power plants. To be running on electricity, means the car is running on coal.
And the Tesla has its fans. Most of them are young people. After backing out one noon at Bismarck State College, the car was almost hemmed in by young people. Some of them were screaming, “I love your car!” It’s as close as I’ve come to being a celebrity.
So the first year and the first 10,000 miles have been a success. No matter whether it was the heat of summer or the cold of the Polar Vortex, the Lignite Energy Council’s blue Tesla has been an ambassador not only for electric vehicles, but also for the regional lignite industry.