The Land of 10,000 Lakes is now No. 1 when it comes to cutting electric-vehicle recharging rates. Minnesota has become the first state in the union to require investor-owned utilities to offer consumers discounted rates for EV charging during off-peak hours. You betcha.

More than 1.3 million households throughout the state will have the chance to take advantage of off-peak rates when recharging their plug-ins during hours outside of the 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. timeframe, clean-energy advocate Fresh Energy says. Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power and Otter Tail Power, Minnesota's three largest utilities, are being given until early next year to set their off-peak charging rates. Already, Minnesota–Connexus and Dakota Electric are charging the equivalent of about 57 cents a gallon for EV charging while regular gas prices are running about $3.53 a gallon, so there is a little momentum here.

For those keeping track, Minnesota is home to 155 publicly accessible charging stations, according to the US Department of Energy. That translates to one for every 33,000 vehicles in the state. Nationwide, there is one publicly accessible station for every 30,500 vehicles. Eleven types of plug-in models, including the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and Ford C-Max Energi are sold in the state. Check out Fresh Energy's press release below.
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Minnesota first in nation to adopt statewide standard for EV refueling

Investor-owned utilities to provide discount off-peak rate, all-renewable option

Minneapolis, MN – Signed in to law by Governor Mark Dayton, clean energy advocates, including Minnesota utilities, worked together to create bipartisan and market-driven policy that has the following outcomes:

Beginning in 2015, more than 1.3 million households will have access to a discounted rate for electric vehicle (EV) refueling.
Also beginning in early 2015, investor-owned utilities will provide customers the option of zero-emissions EV refueling with renewable energy.
State agencies can more easily consider electric fleet vehicles–previous purchasing decisions were not permitted to take into account the lower refueling and maintenance costs typical of EVs.
The policy removes roadblocks to utilities becoming champions for EV adoption.

Taking leadership to accelerate private-sector adoption of EVs, Minnesota is the first state nationwide to require its investor-owned utilities to offer a special rate for off-peak (overnight) EV refueling.

Co-operative utilities that pioneered off-peak EV refueling rates in Minnesota–Connexus and Dakota Electric–charge roughly 50 percent lower than average daily rates. Connexus and Dakota Electric currently offer an off-peak refueling rate that is equivalent to $0.57 per gallon of gas.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a methodology for comparing the costs of gasoline and electric refueling. Under the new law, Minnesota's three largest utilities–Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power–have until early 2015 to set their specific off-peak charging rates for electric vehicles. The law allows for flexibility in the specific rate design.

"This law is a win, win, win,' said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to economic development and nonpartisan energy policy. "It's a significant savings to consumers, an extraordinary market opportunity for utilities, and timely action for society. For the public, this law helps reduce harmful carbon pollution and also reduces risk and Minnesota's economic exposure to volatile gasoline prices."

Left unchecked, the booming EV market had the potential to increase costs for all electric ratepayers because people would likely to be plugging in to refuel during peak hours (e.g. 4:00PM to 8:00PM). The new off-peak refueling incentive saves all ratepayers money by more evenly distributing demand on the electricity grid.

The new law recognizes the "financial, energy conservation, and environmental benefits of electric vehicles" (statute).

As regulated monopolies, investor-owned utilities have been discouraged from use of promotion and advertising to increase sales and electrical consumption. This new law creates a special exception specifically for informing and educating consumers about the benefits of electric vehicles and the availability of the off-peak refueling rate.

Promotion of the off-peak program could take the form of

electric bills that highlight fuel-cost savings, avoided tailpipe emissions, etc.,
rebates for residential refueling equipment,
point of purchase displays at automotive dealerships, and
television, print, and online advertising.
Eleven different models of electric vehicles from eight different brands are currently available in Minnesota. Models available are: Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Ford Focus EV, Ford Fusion Energi, Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR, Tesla Model S, Ford C-Max, Mitsubishi i-Miev, and Smart Electric Drive. Lease rates for the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-Miev, and Smart Electric Drive may start as low as $200 per month.

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