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Plug in and power up: Red Wing’s electric vehicle charger is officially online

Community members gathered to participate in the ribbon-cutting Saturday, Nov. 17, for Red Wing's first municipally owned electric vehicle charging station. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia

On Saturday, Nov. 17, community members bundled into winter gear and huddled together in the Mural Parking Lot for the unveiling of Red Wing's first municipally owned electric vehicle charging station.

The plan to install a charging station has been discussed by, argued over, and edited for city leaders for over a year. On Sept. 24, 2018, the City Council finally gave the project a greenlight. At the unveiling, Mayor Sean Dowse stated, "I came up in the theater, and they said, 'You know, talent is great, and skill is great, but persistence is omnipotent." Persistence is what got the EV station to town.

The electric vehicle charging station in the Mural Parking Lot in downtown Red Wing is free for users. Photo by Rachel Fergus The first people to use the charger were Pam and Jeff Thiemann from Plymouth. Before they plugged-in their bright orange Chevy Bolt, the Thiemanns ate at Bev's, shopped at Duluth Trading, and wandered through Red Wing.

"They were a prime example of why we feel this is such an important project," said Patty Brown, executive director the the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce.

Proponents of the station pointed to the economic impact that it could have. The idea is that people with electric vehicles will be more likely to come to Red Wing and then shop while their vehicle is being charged if they know that there is a charging station downtown.

Along with being located in the midst of Downtown Red Wing, this charging station will, ideally, be a draw to EV owners because they will not be charged for the electricity. Instead, a variety of local businesses and organizations each contributed $200 to pay for the electricity. These businesses are:

• Hanisch Bakery and Coffee shop

• Josephson's Clothing

• Liberty's Restaurant and Lounge, Mandy's Coffee and Cafe

• Oliver's Wine Bar

• Pearle Vision of Red Wing

• Red Wing Bicycle Co. & Outfitters

• Red Wing Brewery

• Red Wing Shoe Store

• Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor and Convention Bureau

According to the Chamber of Commerce's website, the above donors will each receive a window sticker to show that they are a sponsor of the charging station.

The EV station also will have a sticker that shows the businesses that fund the electricity and a sticker with instructions on how to use the charger. Until the sticker is printed, the charging station has a paper sheet with the steps needed for plugging-in.

When discussing the possible installment of an EV charging station, it was very important to some of the City Council members that it record the ZIP code of users to see if people from out of the community were coming in and spending time in Red Wing. Before plugging in, electric vehicle owners must text their ZIP code to a number that is listed on the instruction. After sending their ZIP code, the user will be able to access the code for a lockbox that contains a key card to begin charging.

Along with encouraging tourism, City Council and Sustainability Commission members said they hope that the charging station will reduce carbon and help lead to a cleaner Red Wing.

Paul Drotos, part-time coordinator for the Sustainability Commission, stated at the event that in Minnesota, cars burn 3.2 billion gallons of gasoline a year.

"By adopting electric vehicles ... we have an opportunity to really make a significant difference in the environment and in the future," Drotos said.

Along with bringing in cars that do not burn fuel, the charging station provides energy from Xcel Energy that is more than 55 percent carbon free. According to Xcel's website, 55 percent of the company's electricity in 2016 was carbon free. Xcel is working toward becoming 67 percent carbon free by 2021.

"This is a big deal," stated Dowse at the ceremony. "With this station, Red Wing continues its forward progress into a sustainable and resilient future."