ELECTRIC ROAD TRIP

Meet the Tesla tribe of N.D.

DICKINSON, N.D. — To understand how hardcore the Tesla community of North Dakota is, consider our first meeting.

I was in Dickinson, on the west side of the state, and was supposed to meet a lone Tesla owner named Destiny Wolf. But word got out that the Electric Road Trip was coming, and most of the town's Tesla owners scrambled to the parking lot at Prairie Hills Mall.

When I arrived at the lot, half an hour late, they were all there in position, next to a Qdoba drive-in restaurant. All four of them. Their Model S's and Model 3s were parked in a neat row. It appeared the owners had been standing there, in an empty and windy parking lot in the dark, for some time.

Some context here: There are extraordinarily few Tesla owners in North Dakota. The entire state has only 144 registered electric vehicles, and maybe 100 are Teslas.

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Dickinson, known best as the jumping-off spot for Theodore Roosevelt National Park and home to Dickinson State University, has six. Bill Brooks, a Tesla owner across the state in Fargo, calls it "the hot spot of Tesla action."

After saying some hellos, one owner, Brian Kopp, offered to take me for a spin in his 2019 Tesla Model S P100D with Ludicrous mode, a car that can do zero to 60 in 2.3 seconds. He positioned us at the top of an on-ramp to Interstate 94 and stopped. (This being North Dakota, there was no traffic.) He looked over at me. "Seatbelt on? Check. Head back? Check." And then he hit it.

Ten seconds later, as I was blinking and assessing the state of my internal organs after the burst of acceleration, Kopp muttered something about how the speed was off because of the snow tires.

As we've reported, North Dakota has fewer chargers than any other state in the union. When traveling, Tesla owners here are in the practice of stopping in to use each other's chargers. They make themselves at home.

"You go into their house, and they introduce you to their family, and they ask you what you want on your pizza, and you watch the evening news with them, and you charge until you're ready to get going," Wolf explained.

Which brings us back to Prairie Hills Mall.

The reason the Tesla faithful had met me there is that soon, the very first Tesla supercharging station in North Dakota will open right there, by the Qdoba. The Tesla owners had proudly parked their cars by the wooden boxes where the stations will sit.

It will also be the first-ever fast charging station of any kind. Until now, North Dakota electric car owners have had no other option to fill the battery than their garages or the few public chargers, taking up to 12 hours to do so.

The reason the superchargers are coming here, to Prairie Hills Mall, is that Kopp had approached mall management and persuaded them to sign an agreement with Tesla to put them here. That was two years ago. The day is almost here.

That night, I planned to journey on to Medora, N.D., the next town west. But first I went for pizza with Wolf and Kopp. During the meal, they let it slip that earlier that day, they had together driven all the way to Medora — a round trip of 70 miles — to make sure that a local RV park existed where I could charge. (I'd planned to plug into the dryer outlet at an Airbnb, but the Tesla crew had its doubts about that plan.)

Now that's a North Dakotan level of hospitality and commitment to the electric vehicle community. Even ludicrous, one might say.

Twitter: @DavidFerrisEmail: dferris@eenews.net

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