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USA: Plug-in car owners to share info, tips in St. Paul

Sunday event at Como Pavilion is part meet-up, part info fair for those curious about swapping the pump for the plug.

Here’s a car event that might give a charge to the green, the frugal or the techie among us.

A couple of dozen early adapters of plug-in electrical vehicles will gather at the Como Park Pavilion in St. Paul on Sunday for one of 60 events nationwide marking National Plug-In Day. The occasion is part meet-up for a small but passionate community of electric vehicle (EV) users and part educational event for curious observers.

As of Friday afternoon, about 65 people had RSVP’d on the St. Paul event website. That’s more than greener-than-thou Portland, Ore., had registered by the same hour.

Organizer Jukka Kukkonen, of St. Paul, will be there with his Nissan Leaf. He expects to be joined by owners of Chevy Volts, a Tesla Roadster, a Transit Connect utility van, electric motorcycles and boats, among other e-vehicles. Como Park was selected as the site partly to showcase its solar-powered double charging station in the parking lot.

Although Kukkonen had been studying and planning to acquire a plug-in vehicle for years, he’s a relatively new user. The Leaf became available in Minnesota last April (it was on the road earlier in other parts of the country), and logistics prevented him from getting his car until two months ago.

Already, it has become the commuting car for his wife, Susie, and the family car on weekends. Their second vehicle, a 2006 Toyota Prius, a gas/electric hybrid, spends a lot of time parked in the driveway, unless the family plans an extended trip. Their Leaf has a 90-mile battery capacity.

The Leaf necessitated some changes, including the addition of a charging station in the driveway. It’s really just a 240-volt outlet — the same as what you’d have for an electric stove or dryer — mounted in a shelter on the fence. Though Susie’s 30-mile daily commute isn’t a stretch for the car, it can take some planning if weekend errands and visits near the 90-mile threshold.

Kukkonen figures that it will cost about $40 a month in additional electricity to power the car. Charging it takes about three hours, he said.


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