The Future is Now for Electric Vehicles

By Jason Bohrer, president of the Lignite Energy Council

I’m often asked when speaking on behalf of the lignite industry, what’s next?  How can the industry grow? The simple answer is adoption of electric vehicles.  If you talk to most utilities, since 2008, demand for electricity has remained flat.  Most of that is due in large part to energy efficiency among other things.

Electric Vehicles, commonly known as EVs, can and will be a new growth sector for North Dakota’s coal industry.  We know that every time someone plugs in an EV in their garage or a forklift in a warehouse they are using the state’s homegrown energy resources to charge up.  In fact, EVs are beginning to spread across the coal industry. One employee of North American Coal owns a Chevy Volt that he drives to Falkirk Mine each day.

Let’s take a look at some EV basics:

  1. EVs have been commercially available to buyers for several years, but recently a surge among three types have taken to the market by domestic and foreign manufacturers.
    1. All-electric vehicles: These cars use a battery to store energy that powers the motor. The batteries are charged by plugging into a power source. Examples include Tesla, Nissan Leaf or Chevy Bolt
    2. Plug-in hybrid electric: These cars are powered by a conventional combustion engine and an electric-powered motor that uses stored energy. PHEVs can be plugged in for a charge. Most will travel for set mileage and switch to the combustion engine.
    3. Hybrid electric vehicle: These cars are primarily powered by a combustion engine that charges an internal battery while operating to increase fuel efficiency. The Toyota Prius is the most common HEV.
  2. Today, Nissan, BMW, Tesla, Ford, Chevy, Volvo, Audi, and Cadillac all offer some form of the three different EVs.
  3. According to Drive Electric, 95 percent of charging is done at home by plugging into a standard electricity outlet. Many employers and parking locations are starting to offer charging stations while there is increased demand for public charging infrastructure. For instance, the Lignite Energy Council recently entered into partnership with Cass County Electric Cooperative and Sanford Health to install four chargers at their new Fargo hospital.  The LEC will continue to invest in EV infrastructure.
  4. Electric Vehicles boost the regional economy by:
    1. Using our all-of-the-above energy resources – EVs help contribute to energy security;
    2. Improve fuel economy and allow people to keep more money in their pockets; and
    3. Create electrical demand for homegrown energy resources like lignite coal and wind generators.
  5. What the future holds:

Infrastructure build out, increased range, electrifying shipping transportation, partnerships between industry and business, enhanced research and development, charging solutions, and storage.