Fresh Energy is working towards a future where Minnesotans drive electric vehicles (EVs) powered by clean, renewable electricity, not fossil fuels. A 2019 survey by Consumer Reports found that 66% of prospective Minnesotan car buyers want automakers to provide more electric options, with 30% considering purchasing an EV in the next two years! Even though consumers are signaling interest in electric options, a persistent barrier to EV adoption is simply the lack of electric cars available for sale on Minnesota lots.
Minnesotans can reverse this trend by following the “No Plug, No Deal” mantra and showing manufacturers that we are not willing to settle for inefficient, oil burning, and high maintenance internal combustion engine vehicles anymore. Another important action is to get up to speed on Clean Cars Minnesota and plug into the rulemaking process.
This 2020 Edition of the Smart EV Buyer Guide is for savvy consumers who are ready to change the status quo and start driving better vehicles. Let’s make this happen!
Interest in EVs keeps growing as the public learns more about their benefits and sees friends, relatives, and coworkers choosing to drive electric. A challenge over the past few years has been that policies at the federal level have not kept pace with this growing interest, but rather have been geared to slow the sales of EVs. This has put the traditional auto manufacturers into a “hold” mode until they see what comes next. Fortunately, we can expect the new administration to change this and work with auto manufacturers to develop robust long-term strategies that both accelerate EV adoption and provide manufacturers a clear roadmap for the United States’ electric transportation future.
European and Asian Markets Drive Manufacturers to Increase Production
In recent years, we have seen many European and Asian countries introduce clear, long term policies that support transportation electrification. In response, auto manufacturers are investing their development funds and increasing their EV production in those markets because they understand the market trajectory. Here in the U.S. we had just a few new EV models introduced in 2020 but Europe received dozens of new models which were very well received. In fact, more EV availability in Europe has tripled sales, amounting in more than 1 million units sold in 2020.
Tesla Leads in the United States
During the first nine months of 2020, all U.S. light-duty vehicle sales declined 18.4% year-over-year due to the pandemic (Data: Automotive News Data Center). This decline was true for all manufacturers except one—Tesla, whose sales increased 21.4% during the same period. This is major shift in the market and clearly shows that is time to get serious about electric vehicles.
The data also shows that during this period Tesla sold more cars than Ford in the U.S. (144,000 vs. 141,000) and Tesla’s new Model Y has enabled the company to triple its sales in light-duty trucks. This highlights Tesla’s strength and points to a bright future with investor support, leadership in EV tech, and an ability to continuously improve their products at a staggering pace. Tesla also shared compelling technology during Battery Day and its recent announcement of range increases further sharpens their competitive edge. Proof points such as these demonstrate that EV technology is advancing beyond Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) technology. At the same time, rapid battery technology advancement is making EVs cheaper to produce and narrowing the upfront cost difference which makes a big difference for consumers.
Other U.S. Manufacturers Are Slow to Act
So how are other manufacturers responding? Thus far there has been a lot of talk but little action. Right now, Tesla practically owns the EV market in the U.S. with over 70% market share. Other manufacturers theoretically have models available, but they are not advertising EVs much at all, and anyone looking deeper into purchasing an EV quickly learns that that stocking levels are poor at the dealerships. Manufacturers are taking a big risk with their slow approach. The other challenge for traditional automakers is that they have a lot of bureaucratic inertia at every level of their organizations, and it will still take some time before they get all their stakeholders to embrace EVs. Unfortunately, many of them have also increased this structural inertia by dragging their feet and fighting the inevitable. It really is time for traditional automakers to get in gear or Tesla will erode their market share and status even more.
In spite of their slow progress, we are expecting auto manufacturers to launch more than 100 new EV models to the U.S. market between 2020 and 2023. By 2023 we also expect to have more than 70 electric crossovers, SUVs, and pickup trucks in the U.S. market. How many of these will be available in Minnesota will depend heavily on whether clean car standards are adopted in our state.
Present Model Lineup and Availability
Let’s take a look at the present model lineup and availability. I will also provide some info on present availability and the best places to buy them in Minnesota. Below the list of these new cars, I will also provide information about used EVs, EV incentives, home charging setup considerations and emissions.
For new EVs, see all the specs by downloading the latest EV Info List from EVInfoList.com. With the help of the list you can focus on the vehicles that fit your use case and budget. Then check out Cars.com to see which dealers have the models that you are interested in and go to test drive all of them before making any decisions. I could certainly tell you which ones I like the best, but it is much more important that you choose the car that YOU like the best. Have fun with it.
Audi e-tron has been well available this year and they just add a new sleeker Sportback version to the lineup. All Audi dealers in Minnesota usually have these vehicles available on their lot. If you are interested in plug-in hybrid options you can consider Q5e and A8e models, but availability of these is more spotty.
BMW has theoretically 6 EV models available: i3, 330e, 530e, 745e, X3 xDrive 30e and X5 xDrive40e. Unfortunately, currently there is just a couple of 530e models at Minnesota dealers so in real life we are out of luck with BMW EVs.
- Chevrolet Bolt
Currently the only EV GM has available is the Chevrolet Bolt. GM has been offering great deals recently and Chevrolet website is showing right now almost $10 000 incentives so they seem to be motivated to move some units. The leading Bolt dealer in the Twin Cities has been Rosedale Chevrolet, but currently other Chevrolet dealers seem to have units, too. GM has recently made many announcements on how they will accelerate their new EV models to the market, so hopefully we will see some additions to the lineup before the end of next year.
- Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (PHEV)
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a Plug-in Hybrid EV (PHEV) and the first PHEV minivan in the US. Right now we seem to have a decent availability of these models in Minnesota so check out the Cars.com to see which dealers have units on their lot.
- Ford Fusion Energi
The Ford Fusion PHEV has been in the market since 2013 and Ford is not putting too much effort into selling or marketing it, so Minnesota dealers have just one unit at the moment on dealer lots. I think we will see much more activity from Ford next year when they start selling the new Mustang Mach-E electric crossover.
- Honda Clarity PHEV
Unfortunately, Honda has changed their strategy and is currently providing Clarity only to states that have adopted Zero Emission Vehicle standards. Since MN is not a ZEV state yet, we don’t have any available here right now.
- Hyundai Kona EV
Hyundai Kona EV is not officially available in Minnesota, but Buerkle Hyundai in St Paul has been carrying these so I thought that they have earned a special mention. Buerkle has usually a few Kona EVs on their lot and since these are great EVs I would happily recommend considering these too when you are looking for your next EV.
- Jaguar I-Pace
The Jaguar I-Pace is an electric luxury SUV that was introduced to the Minnesota market earlier this year. It has won many awards including European Car of the Year 2019 and the availability in Minnesota is good. Jaguar Minneapolis currently has eight units available.
- Kia Niro PHEV
The Kia Niro PHEV provides a good option for those who have a relatively short daily commute, but want to have flexibility on their driving range. The Niro offers an all-electric range of 26 miles before switching over to gasoline and getting 46 MPG on hybrid mode. There are currently 8 Kia Niro PHEVs at Barnett, Luther and Lupient dealers in Twin Cities.
Mercedes is currently selling just the plug-in hybrid GLC 350e luxury SUV in the US, but the availability is not good. Mercedes was expected to bring the full electric EQC SUV to the US market this year, but they postponed it to 2021 because of the strong demand in Europe. I guess we have to wait a bit longer to see those in Minnesota.
Mini used to sell Cooper SE All4 PHEV in Minnesota, but it looks like they don’t have any units here now. Mini did unveil the all electric Cooper SE at the LA Auto Show last year, but the availability in the US has been very poor this year.
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
We are lucky to have a really dedicated dealer, White Bear Mitsubishi, in the Twin Cities. They are the leading Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV dealer in the US and usually stock dozens of Outlander PHEVs. So if you are looking for an affordable four-wheel drive PHEV, visit White Bear Mitsubishi.
- Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf has been the BEV mainstay on the market. When the Leaf first came to the Midwest market in 2012, it had a range of 73 miles. Now the base model has double that, 150 miles, and if you need more the Plus model offers 225 miles range. In addition to the $7500 tax credit Nissan is providing other sales incentives and recently their leasing deals have been just amazing. We have currently 21 new Leafs at Minnesota Nissan dealers so check out the availability at dealers .
Porsche has sold Panamera and Cayenne PHEVs for years, but this year they brought their first full electric model, the Porsche Taycan, to the market and it has been selling well. Porsche is planning to electrify a good number of their existing models in the coming years, and this will not just reduce energy consumption but also improve performance, so this is an excellent development for Porsche enthusiasts.
- Tesla Model 3, Y, S and X
2020 was a breakthrough year for Tesla in many levels. One of the biggest signs of the automotive world moving from internal combustion era to electric was that Tesla became the highest valued auto manufacturer in the world. Tesla is now 16 times more valuable than Ford and almost ten times more valuable than GM. This valuation provides Tesla opportunities to accelerate the growth so they are building new factories to Texas and Germany and expanding the existing production facilities. In EV and autonomous driving technology they are years ahead of other manufacturers so it is extremely interesting to see what will happen in the coming years. Tesla has also been improving their technology, increasing the battery sizes and the range. Top of the line Model S has a range of over 400 miles now and even the base Model 3 has 263 miles of range. Performance wise Tesla keeps leading the pack too and the new crossover, Model Y, has been selling really well. Tesla has service centers and showrooms in Eden Prairie and in Maplewood. They usually have a good selection of models so you should be able to test drive all models at both locations and if they happen to have the color-options combination you like, you could drive one home soon after your test drive.
Toyota has plug-in hybrid Prius Prime available in the Midwest and Toyota enthusiast should definitely buy that over the traditional Prius. Availability is unfortunately pretty poor in Minnesota so make sure to check the availability first. Toyota is also theoretically selling the RAV4 Prime in the US, but the availability is so poor that in real life those are almost impossible to get. Toyota could sell tens of thousands of these models every year, but I think they are worried that it would cannibalize their hybrid sales so they are limiting the availability to the minimum. Toyota practically owns the hybrid market so they have been dragging their feet with EVs, but we are close to the time when even hard core Toyota buyers are realizing that all the energy to move traditional hybrids is still coming from oil. Right now I would only recommend buying a Toyota if you can get your hands on one of the plug-in hybrid Prius or RAV4 Primes.
Volvo is supposed to sell four PHEV models, S60T8, S90T8, XC60T8 and XC90T8 in Minnesota, but unfortunately the availability has been pretty poor this year. Next year Volvo will be bringing the full electric XC40 Recharge crossover to the US market and we can just hope that we get more of those to Minnesota dealers.
Used EVs are also an excellent option. The federal tax credit for new cars effectively lowers the price of used EVs, and since the newer models have longer driving range there are some great deals on first generation EVs that have shorter ranges. For example, you can find good selection of 2012-2015 Nissan Leafs or Chevrolet Volts for less than $10k. Even a used Tesla Model S from that era can be found for less than $40k. PlugInAmerica has a Used EV Buyers Guide that provides a bit more information about used models and what to consider when looking for a used EV.
You can use Cars.com to see which bigger dealers have used EVs available. We are also lucky to have a used car dealership, GS Motors in Hopkins, that sells only used BEVs. Over the years I have sent dozens of people to GS Motors and everyone has had only positive things to say about their experience.
If you are interested in buying EVs directly from owners, the best resources would be Craigslist, Carsoup and Facebook Marketplace. You can also join MN EV Owners Facebook group to learn more about EVs and follow the group as occasionally members post their cars for sale when they upgrade to a newer EV.
Charging Setup Considerations
Every EV comes with a Level 1 charging cord which you can plug into a regular 120V household outlet. If you drive on average less than 30 miles/day you can get by with Level 1 charging. This is why I usually suggest that people get the EV first and then start to figure out your charging setup. It is easier and faster to charge your EV with a 240V Level 2 charging station, so it’s also worth your consideration. Simple units cost $500-600 and the installation costs depend on the proximity to the closest breaker panel. I would recommend checking also what kind of EV rates, support and incentives your utility company provides for EV charging. The easiest way to find your utility company resources is to use the www.MNCharging.org webportal that provides links to all Minnesota utility companies.
And if you want to check out the public charging station locations for your road trips www.Plugshare.com is the most commonly used site among EV owners.
- Federal Tax Credit
A federal tax credit of up to $7500 is still available for all EVs, but some manufacturers have sold over 200,000 EVs so tax credits for their models are phasing out. Currently both Tesla and Chevrolet have reached this limit and the federal tax credit is not available for Tesla or GM customers. You can find the up-to-date Federal Tax Credit information for all makes and models on our EV Info List. December is an excellent time to purchase a new EV because if you get your car before the end of the year you get to claim the federal tax credit as soon as you file your taxes. If you wait until January you will have to wait a full year before you can do it.
- MnPASS Incentive
The Minnesota Department of Transportation recently launched a MnPASS Electric Vehicle Incentive program which is designed to promote EVs and grow the MnPASS program. To qualify you need to buy or lease a new or used BEV or PHEV between November 1, 2019, and October 31, 2022. The program provides a one-time toll account credit to pay toll charges for using MnPASS lanes. BEV owners will receive a credit of $250 and PHEV owners will receive a credit of $125.
- Utility company incentives
Some utility companies provide charging infrastructure installation incentives that are usually linked to an EV rate that encourages charging during off-peak hours. Check your local utility company for more information about their programs.
If you wonder about the safety of EVs, I have good news for you. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides the most comprehensive safety ratings in the US, and all electric vehicles available in Minnesota get either their highest base level rating (Good) or even earn their top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick + levels. These ratings are listed on our EV Info List.
For those still wondering how much cleaner and affordable electric vehicles really are, check out CarbonCounter.com. You can further impact your own EV emissions by signing up for utility companies’ renewable energy programs, buying shares from community solar program or installing solar panels on your own property.
So have some fun, test drive several vehicles to make sure you find the one you like the best and remember to follow the proven PlugInAmerica mantra, “No Plug, No Deal.”