EAU CLAIRE — Less than two months after President Joe Biden announced a commitment from the auto industry to produce electric vehicles for as much as half of U.S. sales by the end of the decade, Chippewa Valley residents will have an opportunity to learn about and test the emerging technology this weekend.
Participants will have the opportunity to see, touch, ride in and drive a variety of electric vehicles during the second EV Experience Saturday morning at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Energy Education Center on Eau Claire’s west side.
Roughly 20 EVs from multiple makers will be displayed indoors and outdoors at the free event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon.
“Our goal is to provide an informative experience so people can come and see what this electric vehicle phenomenon is all about,” said Adam Wehling, CVTC’s dean of agriculture, energy, transportation and technology.
The technical college is co-sponsoring the event along with Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, Barron Electric Cooperative, Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, Dunn Energy Cooperative and Dairyland Power Cooperative.
Lynn Thompson, CEO of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, said the timing is good because its members, who count on the co-op to be a trusted adviser on energy efficiency and conservation, lately have been asking a lot of questions about EVs.
Attendees at EV Experience should be able to find answers to many of their questions about availability, cost of ownership, charging, range and utility rate programs for electric vehicles from experts and owners, said Monica Obrycki, chief administrative officer at Eau Claire Energy Cooperative.
“Electric vehicles have really taken off,” Obrycki said. “You can hardly watch TV anymore without seeing ads for them.”
She added that the co-op offers a program offering members 400 kilowatt hours of free EV charging per month as long as it’s done during off-peak hours. Eau Claire Energy Cooperative also partners with C&M Home Builders on a project in which all houses in the Trilogy subdivision are equipped with a Level 2 EV charger in the garage.
“It’s just another way for us to make people aware that electric vehicles are very feasible,” Obrycki said. “It’s also a growth opportunity for us and another way for people to use electricity in an economical and environmentally friendly way.”
Wehling said CVTC touches on EVs in several of its transportation programs, with classes evolving along with the technology.
“We’re seeing rapid advancement in EV technology,” Wehling said. “As electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity and acceptance, we are also seeing more and more chargers all over. Rural America will see a surge in electric chargers in the next 10 years. It’s happening already.”
Jukka Kukkonen, founder the Minnesota-based electric vehicle market and technology consulting firm of Shift2Electric and the group MN EV Owners, will be the event’s keynote speaker at 9 a.m.
People do not need to register in advance, but those who want to test drive an EV on CVTC’s training track must be at least 18 years old, bring their driver’s license and sign a waiver. Masks will be required while indoors.