Simplified: As electric vehicles grow in popularity nationwide, Sioux Falls-area utility companies say they're ready for the increased demand for electricity, and they've also got advice for people who are looking to make the switch to an electric vehicle.

Why it matters

  • Electric vehicles are gaining popularity nationwide. A recent Bloomberg analysis shared that electric cars made up 5% of new car sales – a benchmark that's been a tipping point for mainstream adoption in other countries, the article stated.
  • And while South Dakotans may be slower than those in other states to jump on the EV bandwagon, the utility providers in the Sioux Falls area are already prepared for a future where electric vehicles are increasingly the norm.
  • Providers are also teaming up with the city's sustainability office for an event this week to give drivers a chance to try electric vehicles, ask questions and learn more about what they need to know before purchasing – whether they're looking now or planning for years down the road.
"We’re just hoping that consumers can look at the technology ,and if it fits for them, that’s great," said Chris Studer, public relations officer for East River Electric Cooperative. "We know that not everyone’s going to buy an electric vehicle tomorrow."

What impact will more electric vehicles have on local utilities?

From a capacity standpoint, not much.

As an example, Studer said the all-time peak electricity usage record was set earlier this year at 727 megawatts of usage.

  • East River Electric's max capacity is more than double that amount at 1,900 megawatts.

Electric companies have the capacity – the trick is timing.

"If it’s done in the wrong way, it could be harmful to the grid, and it could lead to power issues," said Ben Pierson, manager of beneficial electrification with Sioux Valley Energy. "And so what our focus is, is making sure that we do it right."

Sioux Valley Energy is looking at ways to incentivize drivers of electric vehicles to wait until outside of peak energy usage hours to charge their cars.

  • It's better for the electricity load overall, and, drivers will pay a lower rate for electricity used in less-popular hours.

Tell me more about the upcoming electric vehicle event

The EV Ride and Drive event takes place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 at the fairgrounds.

There are a few different facets to the event, according to Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for the City of Sioux Falls.

  • People can test-drive several makes and models of electric vehicles – including the Ford Lightning, an electric truck.
  • People in the area who already own electric vehicles will show them off, share their experiences and answer questions.
  • The event will also feature other types of electric technologies including lawn mowers, e-bikes, electric golf carts and other equipment.

The goal, Meier said, is to help people learn more about electric vehicles and how they can be one avenue toward cleaner transportation.

"This is a path that we can be exploring and learning about more to help support cleaner air and cleaner transportation in our community," she said.

What should I do if I'm thinking of buying an electric car?

Call your electricity provider – for a couple of reasons.

  • First, they may have rebates or cost-saving programs if you charge during certain times of day.
  • Second, it helps utility providers track where the electric vehicles are in the community so, if they need to, they can upgrade transformers and other local infrastructure to better serve each neighborhood, Pierson said.