By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New technology is making electric vehicles more accessible than ever.

But what does it take to make the switch? And are electric cars practical in Minnesota?

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When Ruth Weber Kelley swapped her old car for a Tesla a few years ago, it was like upgrading from a Walkman headset to Bluetooth headphones.

“It’s quiet, its smooth, the acceleration is amazing,” Ruth said. “It’s tracking cars that are on the side of me.”

Ruth and her husband Peter will tell you the decision was easy.

“As we did more research we said, ‘Yeah, we really like this,’” she said.

But it was just the start of their journey to go electric.

“When we bought this in 2019 I felt like we were more on the leading edge,” Ruth said. “When I’m out driving now and I look around, there are all EVs all around me.”

As more consider making this journey with more models and options available by the month, WCCO asked EV expert Jukka Kukkonen to be our guide.

“The U.S. EV market is growing really fast,” Kukkonen said. “Over 30% of people are saying they’re willing to consider an EV right now.”

When it comes to function, a lot has changed. EVs are bigger and more powerful than their predecessors.

“Five or six years ago we were talking about 100-miles range cars,” he said. “Now … the average is over 250 miles.”

Which means road trips are on the table.

“You plan your route accordingly and you try to time it with when you make a lunch break or some other stop,” Ruth said.

Need to drive carpool? How about this plug-in hybrid with room for seven.

The cost to go electric is complex. Of course, the cost of the car itself ranges, but new EVs qualify for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits. And the used market is growing, though keep in mind those older models may not have that long range.

“We bought a used Nissan Leaf two years ago for $7,500,” Ruth said. “Works great for my daughter.”

Ruth and Peter paid $49,000 for their Model 3 with a distance upgrade. But they are saving daily on powering the car, and hundreds a year in maintenance.

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“I can also justify it from a cost of ownership standpoint,” she said. “I can justify it from the sustainability standpoint.”

Ruth and Peter installed a level-two charging unit in their garage, and all in with labor they say it cost about $900. They just plug it in at night and its charged by the morning.

(credit: CBS)

Once you’re all set up, that’s when the savings start trickling in.

“You don’t have to go to the gas station, so that’s fantastic,” Peter said. “You don’t have to go to the oil change place, that’s fantastic as well.”

If you’re pinching pennies, the fully electric Polstar two may not be for you. The base price is nearly $50,000 — though the tricked-out model we test drove runs about $66,000. This car has cool factor, and there’s only 20 places in the country where you can test drive one.

There are some downsides to EVs.

“If you are mostly on-street parking, it will be more complicated,” Kukkonen said.

Some commute long distances to work.

“It’s gonna be harder because you’d have to be super disciplined,” Ruth said.

We also have a little thing called winter in Minnesota, which eats away at your range. Ruth and Peter’s range drops 20% – 40% percent in the winters, but they say EVs heat up fast and are typically heavier, so they do well in snow and ice.

“The cold weather doesn’t impact the longevity of the battery,” Kukkonen said.

While there may be some speed bumps, the road to going electric seems to be fast tracked.

“When you start having Ford F-150s driving around electric, that is when we start to see change,” Kukkonen said.

Maybe you’re driven by sustainability, or the cool factor. But one thing is certain: the journey to electrify America is on.

“It’s really cool to see how it’s taking off,” Ruth said.

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Kukkonen says there are roughly 300 EVs on dealer lots in Minnesota. Like most vehicles these days, he says inventory can be a challenge.

Erin Hassanzadeh