- The Midwest has infrastructure to support EV road trips.
- Minneapolis is sorely lacking in DC fast charging Stations.
- Walmart has several DC fast charging stations in rural Wisconsin.
- Polestar 2 has 240 miles of range with accurate range calculations.
Taking an EV road trip in the Midwest is a reality, despite the need for more charging infrastructure. The key is planning your route and respecting charging time. Making the EV road trip in a Polestar 2 enhances the journey.
I’ve been dreaming of owning a fully electric vehicle for a few years, but as a Midwesterner, I haven’t fulfilled my dream because of the lack of charging infrastructure. In 2021, I traveled around California and was amazed at the ubiquity of Teslas on the highways and in towns. Even in 2023, few people in West Michigan (where I live) have electric vehicles. And, those who have them only drive them around town.
So, over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to embark on an adventure that satisfied two goals: driving an EV on a road trip from Grand Rapids, MI to Minneapolis, MN and checking off the Minnesota Twins Target Field from my bucket list of visiting all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums.
Not Many EVs Sold in West Michigan
Michigan is the birthplace of the automobile, and it’s been challenging to get drivers to give up their ICE vehicles, especially with the lack of charging infrastructure around Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon. As of December 2021, only 17,460 EVs were registered in Michigan.
As more dealerships carry fully-electric vehicles and more DC fast-charging stations open, EV acceptance is growing – slowly. Dealerships have EVs on their lots, but they aren’t moving quickly. For example, a local Kia dealership has had a 2023 Kia EV6 on the lot since January 2023. I’ve been watching this car, hoping the price drops so I can buy it.
My Introduction to the Polestar 2
Before dropping $60,000 on a new EV, I had to find out if it was possible to enjoy a road trip with one. My plan was to rent an EV and use it to drive to Minneapolis, so I chose Hertz – as they rent EVs. I decided to reserve a Tesla Model 3, from a Hertz standalone shop on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.
On Thursday May 25, I picked up my EV for my road trip to MInneapolis. My reservation was for a Tesla Model 3, but when I arrived, it wasn’t cleaned or charged. The Hertz store was busy, so I sat and waited for my turn.
About 30 minutes into my wait, another customer dropped off a vehicle. This was a serendipitous moment, as the store manager arrived just as she showed up. As the customer brought the keys into the store, she complained about the EV and wanted to exchange it for a gas-powered vehicle. It also happened to be my turn to sign my paperwork and get my car. I asked the manager what the vehicle was, and replied it was a Polestar. My eyes lit up as I asked if I could rent it instead of the Tesla. The store manager picked up my excitement and offered me a great deal if I took the Polestar then and there.
A few minutes later I drove the 2023 Polestar 2 off the lot with 61% battery and the previous renter’s coffee stains by the cupholders.
While I’ve always wanted to drive a Tesla, getting a Polestar 2 was quite a treat especially since no dealerships sell them in West Michigan. After driving one for five days, I’m impressed.
The Polestar 2 is an affordable EV with a decent range of 240 miles, a comfortable ride, and unique interior features. I love how Polestar uses recycled materials in the cabin. I also found the Google-based infotainment system incredibly easy to use – especially since I had to figure it out while on the road.
Charging the Polestar 2
Before taking off on the road trip, I used several apps to plot my route. The Chargeway app did a nice job of recommending stops along the way. I also appreciated how the app showed me the speed of the charging stations. My 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe has a 17.3-kWh battery that takes two hours to charge with a Level 2 charger, and the Polestar 2 has a 78-kWh battery. I needed charging stations that could fill the battery in 40 minutes or less.
After leaving home with a 90% charge (Polestar recommends only charging to 90%), the first stop was at the Chicago Ridge Mall in Oaklawn, Illinois. This mall has several Level 2 chargers and a bank of DC fast chargers from EVgo. I plugged in, then my son and I ate at the food court. The mall is about 125 miles from my home, and we arrived with 30% remaining. After 40 minutes of charging to 90%, we headed to our next destination – Madison, WI.
We spent the night at a Home2 hotel – about 155 miles away from Oaklawn, IL. I chose this hotel because it had a Level 2 charging station, but when we arrived, a Tesla was using it. Knowing how slow Level 2 chargers are, I used the Chargeway app to find a nearby fast charger. I found a bank of Shell Recharge stations in downtown Madison. These were quick and affordable at $5 per hour. Again, the Polestar charged in about 40 minutes.
The next stop was a Walmart store in Towah, Wisconsin, about 100 miles from our hotel. This was a popular spot, and the four ports filled up while we were charging. After another 40-minute refill at the Electrify America spot, we headed to our hotel in Minneapolis which was 171 miles away.
We parked the car and headed to the baseball game. That night, we went to the one DC fast charging station we could find – at a Target store in Roseville, MN. It took about 35 minutes to go from 16% to 90% using the EVgo station.
Disappointing EV Infrastructure in Minneapolis
While we had no worries en route to Minneapolis, the lack of fast chargers in the Twin Cities was disconcerting. The city is full of Level 2 chargers, but those are only useful if you aren’t using your EV for a road trip.
Even the massive Mall of America only has two EV chargers, and they have poor ratings from previous users. Fortunately, I didn’t have to rely on any Level 2 chargers, as the charge at the Target got me through the time in Minneapolis.
The Ride Home
After two Twins games, we headed home. We used the Target charge from the night before to get to a bank of Electrify America chargers at a Walmart in Eau Claire on the way home. Then, we stopped at the Shell Recharge bank in Madison and the Chicago Ridge Mall in Oaklawn.
When we arrived home, we had 9% battery! While I had a bit of anxiety during the last few miles, the Polestar 2 proved to have accurate range calculations. Fortunately, a Meijer with new Electrify America chargers is less than a mile from my home.
Reflections on the EV Road Trip
The trip was an affordable success. While waiting for charging stations takes longer than a gas-n-go stop, the wait time provides an opportunity to stretch your legs and eat outside of the car. I enjoyed the 40-minute stops, especially when I could chat with other EV owners charging their vehicles. EV drivers love to chat about their state-of-the-art vehicles.
The cost to charge was significantly less than the cost to fill with gas. The most expensive charging station was the EVgo stop at the Chicago Ridge Mall, with a combined total of $36.67. I spent $7.08 at the Shell Recharge hub in Madison, $14.98 at the Electrify America stop in Eau Claire, $13.92 at the Tomah stop, and $1.53 at the EA stop at my local Meijer. The Target charge was $11.18. The total to charge for the 1,100-mile road trip was $85.36.
For comparison, my Wrangler 4xe has a 17.2-gallon gas tank, and it gets about 20 MPG on the highway. Each tank delivers about 340 miles. I would’ve had to fill up four times, and each fill-up would cost about $65 for a total of $260 for the entire trip.
I’m sold, and seriously considering trading my PHEV Jeep for a fully-electric vehicle. My reluctance is about trading my Jeep – as I love driving a convertible during the beautiful Michigan summers. I also have to consider the cold weather, which dramatically cuts battery range – even in my PHEV Jeep.
Will I buy a Polestar? Probably not, as my wants push the price over my limit. The Polestar 2 was a bit small. I parked it next to my daughter’s 2021 Honda Civic Hatchback and was surprised that they were the same size.
I’ve got my eyes on the Kia EV6, the Cadillac Lyriq, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E. The upcoming 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV is intriguing, too. Eventually, I’ll purchase an EV with impressive horsepower, long range (~300 miles), all-wheel drive, and a price tag around $60,000.
If I don’t buy a new EV before visiting another MLB stadium, I will rent another EV from the Hertz store. Taking a long test drive and preventing wear-and-tear on my vehicle is a win-win situation.
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