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An electric vehicle charging station at a gas station.
Enerbase in Minot, N.D., partnered with the local electric cooperative to install an EV charging station at its Cenex® branded Enerbase Travel Plaza.
C magazine

Cooperatives build electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure

Cooperative-run gas stations are slowly becoming part of a growing electric vehicle infrastructure in rural America.
Nov 29, 2021

The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) relies on expansion of charging infrastructure, and cooperative-run gas stations are slowly becoming part of that growth in rural America.  

For Enerbase in Minot, N.D., the opportunity to partner with the Verendrye Electric Cooperative on an EV charging station at its Cenex® branded Enerbase Travel Plaza came from a grant from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. The grant covered 80% of the estimated $72,000 cost of the project. 

“We wanted to take advantage of the grant to stay ahead of the curve,” says Enerbase CEO Tony Bernhardt. The station was the first in the state that could charge vehicles other than Tesla brand. “EVs are going to be part of the future. You can’t turn away from it and think it’s not going to happen.” 

While the return on investment hasn’t yet been realized, Bernhardt says he is confident in increased use of the charging station, which has led Enerbase to pursue a grant to install a second station at another location. “We’re doing this so we can be set up for the future as EVs grow.”  

For the Cenex Zip Trip® in Miles City, Mont., the push to install an EV charging station came from Tesla. Wanting a charging station about every 100 miles along interstate highways, the company sought out the location about two hours east of Billings, Mont., on I-94. “Tesla handled the infrastructure and installation,” says General Manager Steve Haase. “With EV charging stations, we can draw in customers who are charging their vehicles.” 

Installed in early 2020, the Miles City charging stations saw nearly 300 charges in August 2021. Haase says that number is growing. “We’ve seen an tremendous uptick in the number of people using the charging stations as more people are traveling in 2021,” he says. “And you can assume those people are coming into the store to buy food and drinks as they wait the half hour it takes to charge their cars.”  

Haase says there’s an added bonus as well. “You can see search results for Tesla charging stations from the driver’s seat, so it’s added brand awareness for us as well.”

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