Electric vehicles to be focus of Oct. 15 event in Detroit Lakes

The first-ever Lakes Area EV Event will be presented at Detroit Lakes' First Lutheran Church on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, which is focused on electric vehicles and clean energy, is free and open to the public.

EV charger.JPG
This EV charging station from Zef Energy is one of three offered for public use by the City of Detroit Lakes. The chargers stand next to six city-owned parking stalls located between Jimmy John's and Lakes Liquor on the east end of Veterans Memorial Parkway.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — Four local power companies, along with the Prairie Woods Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA, or 'Ikes'), West Central Climate Action and area electric vehicle dealers, have joined forces to present the first-ever "Lakes Area EV Event" at Detroit Lakes' First Lutheran Church on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The free public event will include opportunities to test-drive electric vehicles and e-bikes, along with demonstrations of electrically powered devices like lawnmowers and snow blowers, kids' activities focused on clean energy, and a presentation by keynote speaker Paul Douglas — the WCCO meteorologist, author and entrepreneur — at 11 a.m. in the church sanctuary, titled "A Christian Case for Climate Conversation." There will be live music both before and after Douglas's presentation, from a local band known as the Eco Echoes, as well as healthy snacks packaged in environmentally-friendly products.

In addition, there will also be 10 local electric vehicle owners on hand — along with their vehicles — to swap stories and share information about the advantages and disadvantages of EV ownership in northwest Minnesota.

"This all came together on Earth Day (April 22)," said Bridget Penton, an energy services specialist with Detroit Lakes Public Utilities (DLPU) who is also part of the event planning committee.

The four local power companies — DLPU, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Otter Tail Power and Wild Rice Electric — were represented at the same Earth Day event this year, along with the Prairie Woods IWLA chapter and West Central Climate Action. As the representatives visited with attendees, and each other, they learned that each of them was interested in planning and hosting some sort of electric vehicle-focused event in the Detroit Lakes area.


"We (DLPU) had been talking about this since Zef Energy installed the EV charging stations a couple of years ago ," said Penton, referring to the three electric vehicle charging stations that are located next to six city-owned parking stalls between Lakes Liquor and Jimmy John's, on the east end of Detroit Lakes' Veterans Memorial Parkway. Each station can serve up to two vehicles at once.

The charging stations, which include two standard level-two chargers and one fast DC charger, have been seeing steady use since they were installed, Penton said, though the hard data on their usage is owned by Zef Energy and not the City of Detroit Lakes, so they don't have exact figures.

"They (Zef Energy) installed the stations through a grant," said Penton. That grant was awarded to Zef Energy by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2019, to build 22 EV charging stations at locations in nine communities along major highway corridors in Minnesota, including Highway 10. "We provide the power, but that's it. We don't have access to the (usage) data."

In addition to the city's three EV charging stations, DLPU also offers rebates to local EV owners who install charging stations in their homes, Penton said. "We offer a $500 rebate for in-home chargers, and we also offer off-peak rates to those customers."

Those rebates have become increasingly popular in recent years, Penton noted, as the number of EVs in the lakes area has grown. "People think, 'We're in Minnesota, it gets cold. The battery range is going to decrease in the winter' — which it does."

But one thing they hope to accomplish with the Oct. 15 event, she added, is to educate local residents about not just the disadvantages of EV usage in cold weather areas, but the advantages, courtesy of real-life EV owners who live and work in the lakes area.

EVs can be charged at home with a standard 120-volt outlet, Penton said, or a specialized 240-volt charger can be installed for quicker charging capabilities. Fully recharging the battery pack in an EV can take four to eight hours, but a fast charge of up to 80% battery capacity only takes 30 minutes, she added. EV range is typically between 80-330 miles on a full charge, depending on weather and other factors.

"Test driving new EV models will allow people to feel how electric motors provide quiet, smooth operation and stronger acceleration than gas-powered cars," she added. "In addition, utility staff and energy experts will be able to answer EV-related questions without the pressure of a sales environment."


"Today’s EVs are fun to drive and a smart, environmentally friendly transportation choice," said Polly Andersen of West Central Climate Action, another event co-sponsor. "They cost less to operate than gas-powered cars. In fact, they can be three to five times cheaper to operate than gas-powered cars depending on gas and electric rates. Plus, their electric motors require less maintenance than traditional gas engines."

Some of the EV models that will be on display for test-driving purposes include a Ford F-150 Lightning pickup, courtesy of Webber Family Motors, and a Ford Mustang Mach E automobile, courtesy of Lake Region Electric, said Dr. Bill Henke, the co-president of the Prairie Woods IWLA chapter. The Prairie Woods 'Ikes' are another co-sponsor of the event.

"We will have an eight-minute route for test driving," said Henke, noting that drivers will travel west from the church parking lot, then proceed on a south-west-north-east-south loop that includes portions of Rossman Avenue, Highway 59 and Highway 10 before returning to the church.

The event will also include information booths with representatives from all of the event's sponsors, he added, along with learning stations that feature kids' activities focused on coloring (for those age five and under) and wind turbines and clean energy (for those age 6 and above). The latter will allow kids to split into teams and build their own wind turbines, which will be put into a small wind tunnel to see how they function.

"It's a great opportunity to come out and learn and share information," Henke said.

If you go

What: Lakes Area EV Event
Where: First Lutheran Church, 912 Lake Ave., Detroit Lakes (events will take place inside the church and in the parking lot behind it)
When: Saturday, Oct. 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Keynote presentation by Paul Douglas will be in the church sanctuary at 11 a.m.
Who: Co-hosted by Detroit Lakes Public Utilities, Otter Tail Power Company, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Wild Rice Electric Company, Prairie Woods Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, and West Central Climate Action
How: Event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
What To Read Next
Get Local