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An outlet for saving: Minnesota in top 10 for electric cars

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More Minnesotans are plugging in instead of gassing up before they take to the road.

The Star Tribune published a story about the increasing number of drivers who are choosing electric vehicles. "According to the Electric Power Research Institute, the state had about 2,400 electric plug-in vehicles as of 2013. Per capita, Minnesota is among the top 10 states with the highest numbers of electric vehicles in the country," the story said, adding that sales of the emissionless vehicles have spiked 500 percent in past two years, according to Environment Minnesota.

While some motorists choose the car for environmental reasons, others stress fuel savings. Stillwater resident John Patterson told the newspaper that he gets the best mileage on his Chevy Volt in the summer, when he’s driven 1,200 miles on five gallons of gas.

“It makes it really an ideal car for the city,” he said. “It just loves traffic.”

Tesla owner Shawn Otto told the Star Tribune that he spends $40a month to charge his car in off-peak hours compared to the $450 he used to spend at the pump.

While the budget for fuel drops for electric car owners, the purchase price for the vehicles outpaces their traditional counterparts. The Chevy Volt starts at $34,185, and the Nissan Leaf starts at $28,980. Tesla models begin at $69,900. Motorists who purchase the vehicles get a tax break that can offset the price. According to a news release from Fresh Energy, there are 11 types of plug-in models sold in the state.

Tesla offers its owners superchargers — gas station-like charging centers — for free recharges. There are 98 supercharger stations in North America, including stations in Albert Lea and Worthington. The U.S Energy Department notes that there are 155 publicly accessible charging stations in Minnesota. A PlugShare app exists to help drivers find electric car charging stations all over the world.

Earlier this month, AutoBlogGreen reported that Minnesota is the first state in the nation to require investor-owned utilities to offer consumers discounted rates for vehicle charging during off-peak hours. Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power and Otter Tail Power, Minnesota's three largest utilities, have until next year to set their off-peak charging rates. Already, Connexus and Dakota Electric are charging the equivalent of 57 cents a gallon for electric power.

There is even a nonprofit to promote electric vehicles in Minnesota; the Minnesota Electric Auto Association, or MNEAA has a website, monthly meetings and maps showing charging stations in what it calls "the land of 10,000 outlets."

The PlugInCars.com website offers a wealth of information on the vehicles, including what to know before shopping for an electric car, and even a list of the pro's and con's of owning one of the vehicles. (On the plus side: good for the environment and the pocketbook. The downside: "range anxiety," which creates worry in drivers about getting stranded by running out of juice, the higher expense of the vehicles and the limited choice in models.

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