On Saturday, Sept. 7, alongside its annual member pancake breakfast, Cooperative Light and Power hosted the first Two Harbors Electric Car Show. Five all-electric cars were present, with all doors and hoods open for curious pancake-eaters to inspect. All owners except one were from the Two Harbors area.

As expected, the mere presence of these vehicles elicited curiosity, thoughtful questions and intriguing conversations about the economics of driving an EV as opposed to an ICE (internal combustion engine). A few people even went for a drive, with owner Julie Johnson cheerfully answering questions in the back seat.

One thing I’ve learned about electric car owners (I can say this as my husband is one) is that they love to talk about their cars. Why? Because they are ahead of the curve, and they know it. Few people are aware of the advantages of owning an electric car.

Kevin Holm, owner of a Tesla, told me that he simply researched the numbers — price, cost per mile, maintenance and warranties — and the Tesla came out on top. Icing on the cake for him is the fact that he is keeping 20 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere for every gallon of gas he doesn’t use.

Vern Iverson, a Bolt owner in Elk River, Minnesota, has kept track of his savings via the General Motors On Star reports that he receives as he drives. GM tells him that his car costs around 1.5 cents per mile to drive, while an ICE car costs 11-15 cents per mile to drive. He spent just $77 on maintenance in the first 45,600 miles for tire rotation and washer fluid. No maintenance checks; no oil changes.

Since he plugs his car in at night and uses off-peak energy, he pays only 6.0 cents per kilowatt, rather than the standard rate of 12.7 cents per kilowatt. Best of all, for a mere $3 monthly fee, he can request 100% renewable energy, so he knows he is plugging into the sun and wind that his utility (Elk River Public Utilities) buys.

Vern has not put 26,172 pounds (13.1 tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere since he purchased the Bolt EV in November 2017. Are you sold yet? I sure am, though I’m aware that the gains to the planet depend partially on the owner’s ability to plug into renewable energy.

In Lake County, our electricity comes from Minnesota Power (in the cities of Silver Bay and Two Harbors), or from Cooperative Light and Power if we are rural. All utilities in Minnesota are required to be moving to renewables at a certain pace — 25% by 2025. Minnesota Power is keeping pace with this requirement, and stands now at 17% renewables. Xcel Energy, to our south, maintains up to 56% renewable energy in the upper Midwest. Coop Light and Power stands at 25%, purchased from Great River Energy.

The City of Two Harbors has installed two free chargers, located behind City Hall, that provide a financial incentive for EV owners.

Cost plays a role in the development of any new product, including new cars. The cost of EVs used to prohibit most regular folks from considering it. But as the price of EVs drops, the battery power increases, the infrastructure for plug-ins expands, and the price of renewable electric energy plummets, this equation is changing quickly.

Stay tuned — soon, we’re going to see EV trucks, SUVs and minivans along the North Shore. Thanks to Coop Light and Power for inviting the conversation with the car show!

Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.