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Potluck: Road Range

Elk Horn, Iowa

 

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

Traveling by Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla is getting easier. Electric vehicle (EV) drivers are finding a growing number of EV charging stations along Iowa’s I-80, more than a dozen at last count. Eight of them are in Elk Horn.

Why does a town of 662 people and three electric vehicles need eight EV charging stations? “Electric vehicles are in America’s future. I want Elk Horn — a community that aspires to be the premier solar town in Iowa — to play a role in that future,” says Mike Howard, a local entrepreneur, avid promoter of renewable energy, and owner of all three EVs.

Aware that “range anxiety” is a major factor in the demand for electric cars, Howard has donated eight solar-powered charging stations — at $6,000–$7,000 per station — to the community, locating them where tourists visiting the Danish museum and the windmill will be sure to see them. Howard covers all costs associated with operating the stations, so there is no charge to use them.

In Howard’s view, people are more likely to buy an EV if they know where to find public charging sites and are familiar with how they work. And for those who already own an EV, the charging stations offer an additional incentive to visit Elk Horn. And maybe, adds Howard, “someone will want Liberty Auto Restoration [one of Howard’s businesses] to convert a gas-powered vehicle to an electric one.”

Howard plans to donate several more EV stations to communities along the I-80 corridor in Iowa and Nebraska; discussions are already underway with Grinnell, Council Bluffs, and Lincoln, Nebraska. — M.G.

Locate EV charging stations in Iowa by visiting afdc.energy.gov > Fuels > Electricity > Station Locations. To learn more about Howard’s EV stations, call 712-773-2199 or email him at mhoward@liberty-labs.com.

Howard is not the first Iowan to make a commitment to electric vehicles. The first battery-powered car, invented in Des Moines by William Morrison, had a range of 50 miles and a top speed of 20 miles per hour. Morrison, who drove the car around town on a daily basis, received a patent for the vehicle in 1891.

Photo courtesy Mike Howard

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