Electric Road Trip

Facing fears in North Dakota

FARGO, N.D. — Since the beginning, we on the Electric Road Trip have been more than a little scared about crossing North Dakota. Now it's time to dive in.

I write this post from Fargo, on the eastern edge of the state. My perspective is a fourth-floor hotel room that looks down on Interstate 94, the state's busy east-west corridor. I see Chevy Silverado pickup trucks and Ford F-150s. No electric cars. How do I know? Only 144 EVs are registered statewide.

The Sioux State is the hardest place in America to drive an electric car.

It is the only state without a single fast charger, meaning that refilling the battery takes a minimum of nine hours. And even the normal, slow chargers are few and separated by vast swaths of farmland. Many of those swaths are up against the maximum range of an electric car. And that doesn't take into account the ever-present wind.

In an hour or so I head west — straight into a 17-mph headwind. If all goes well, today I will make Bismarck, the state capital. By tomorrow we hope to cross the line into Montana.

When we told the experts about our plan to cross the state, they winced.

"Have you thought about South Dakota?" several sources asked. "There's some nice fast chargers on Interstate 90."

The same reaction came from the big automakers. The principal cars of the Electric Road Trip were loaned to us by Kia, General Motors and Tesla. None, however, wanted to loan us an all-electric model to cross North Dakota. One auto source confided to me that they worried it would make them look bad.

The Electric Road Trip is covering 6,000 miles, and taking two months to do it, in order to provide the widest picture of electric transportation today. North Dakota is about scarcity. When we're done with the state, we'll let you know what we learned about this measly EV infrastructure and what it means.

That is, if North Dakota lets us leave.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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