By Steve Van Dyke
Vice President of Communications
Lignite Energy Council
The first week of August was the first time in about six months that I’ve driven “Watts,” the Tesla Model X, which belongs to the Lignite Energy Council. I drove up to Minot for the dedication of a new supercharger at Enerbase Travel Center on the north end of town.
The supercharger is a co-venture between Verendrye Electric and Enerbase – two cooperatives in the Minot area. The ribbon-cutting was set for 2 p.m. but I arrived by 1:15 p.m., so I could charge the Tesla up using the new charger.
It’s 110 miles from my home in Mandan to Minot, but it always seems to take about 140 to 160 miles of battery when you consider a stop for lunch and some air conditioning to make the car comfortable. So a little extra charge from the supercharger removed all anxiety from the trip home. For the month of August, the electricity at the supercharger is free, but Verendrye is considering a fee in the future. I don’t think they’ve arrived at the number, but the charge will be on a credit card entered into a cell phone app.
If you are wondering why Verendrye is a partner in the charger when Xcel Energy is the electric utility in Minot, I would venture to guess that Verendrye serves the outskirts of town…including Enerbase on the north side.
The crowd at the ribbon-cutting included a large group of electric vehicle enthusiasts who wanted to know everything I knew about the Tesla Model X. I even got my photo on the front page of the Minot Daily News talking to folks about the car.
Besides some short speeches and the ribbon cutting by a group with big scissors from the Minot Chamber, the event also included chocolate chip cookies and ice-cold water.
I enjoyed the supercharger very much. Prior to this, I had used a level 2 charger on the south end of Minot to get a little extra electricity before heading back to Mandan.
In fact, I liked the supercharger so much that I drove the Tesla back to Minot on Tuesday to watch our sons play softball. However, the clouds opened up and the rains fell. By the third inning, the game was called. Thanks to the supercharger, however, I didn’t have to wait in Minot for the batteries to charge. About 20 minutes at Enerbase and I had plenty of power to return to Mandan.
By Underwood, we got into a “gulley-washer.” Just as the Tesla maneuvers well on snowy roads, it also drives well in a downpour. The car has plenty of weight because of the batteries and good tires, so there was no hydroplaning. Instead, we drove out of the rainstorm and safely back home.
During the next couple of days, I went over to the Tesla superchargers by TJ Maxx in Bismarck and tried one of those out. It actually was much simpler to use than the one in Minot because everything is made for a Tesla. In Minot, I had to attach an adapter and tap my phone with a ChargePoint app on the supercharger to get it to work.
On Friday, we left Mandan and headed west. We stopped in Dickinson and tried out the Tesla superchargers at the local mall, just north of the Interstate. They are identical to the set-up in Bismarck. Then we left for Medora – saw the Musical on Friday night, went golfing at Bully Pulpit on Saturday – before stopping in Dickinson again at the superchargers and having lunch at the adjacent Qdoba’s.
Not only does Bismarck and Dickinson have the Tesla superchargers, but so does Glendive, where my in-laws live. So, in the future we’ll have to drive west to Glendive and visit the relatives.
During the week, we had our four-year-old grandson with us and he immediately fell in love with the Tesla and its falcon doors. He also liked seeing the car plug-in instead of going to a gas station. These are the things that a preschooler notice.
He also liked it that the car has autopilot, the biggest windshield he’s ever seen, an endless supply of buttons to push and a great big screen so he can see the road, the lakes along the road and a host of other goodies.
On Thursday, we drove out to Fort Lincoln south of Mandan to look at General Custer’s house, the blockhouses, the Slant Village and the campgrounds. Before getting in the car, our grandson sang a little song: “We’re going in the magic car, unh, huh. We’re going in the magic car, unh, huh.” The song has it’s own little dance as well.
Not only is the car magic, but so is a Coca Cola vending machine in downtown Medora. I put in two dollars and he pushed the button for a bottle of water. Perplunk, the water bottle came out.
He looked at us and said, “Look, magic. You put in money and this machine changes it into water.”
Ah, the eyes of a four-year-old.
Travelling long distances, even with a magic car and superchargers, still requires a little more time than just gassing up the old internal combustion engines, but with a little planning, the trips are extremely enjoyable. Especially when you are four.