Faster than fast, quicker than quick

Minnkota's Ford F-150 Lightning is turning co-op employees and members into EV advocates.


Emily Windjue


October 9, 2023

While listening to “Electric Boogie” from a power- themed playlist, Minnkota employees Jordan Bresnahan and Sadie Gilbraith cruised around Thompson, N.D., in the latest addition to Minnkota’s fleet of vehicles – an all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning.

“It drives so smooth,” said Bresnahan.

“I really like it.” Gilbraith agreed. “I just can’t believe that a truck could ever be this quiet and smooth.”

Over the summer, the Lightning has parked its way into the hearts of employees from Minnkota and the Joint System membership, as well as people across the region who are intrigued by the concept of driving electric. With its bright red color and quick acceleration, the truck has even earned the nickname “Lightning McQueen,” a nod to the Pixar movie “Cars.”

Through ride-and-drive events, parades and other educational efforts, Minnkota’s team has had McQueen out and active in the community. The truck boasts 320 miles of range when fully charged and can go from 0 to 60 mph in about four seconds.

(Right) Jordan Bresnahan (front) and Sadie Gilbraith (back) test drive McQueen during an employee EV event held in August.

Minnkota programmer analyst Jacob Messner had the opportunity to take the Lightning to a car show and parade this summer in McVille, N.D.

“Everything was great,” said Messner. “There were lots of genuine interest and lots of questions. There were even a couple of people who didn’t even know this kind of truck even existed. My grandpa, who grew up with a horse and buggy, thought it was pretty cool.”

Minnkota’s accounting duo Alex Mutch and Jacob Pladson also spent some time exploring all the features offered in the electric pickup truck. From the navigation tools to the impressive sports mode, the pair found that the speed and comfort offered by the F-150 Lightning was something they could seriously consider owning one day.

“I think I should get one of these,” said Pladson with a smirk.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are equipped with regenerative braking systems that capture the kinetic energy every time the EV brakes and convert it back into usable energy. Minnkota’s compliance team tested this notable feature when they made their way to the Twin Cities area for a conference in late July.

“We averaged about two miles per kilowatt hour with normal interstate driving but, in stop-and-go traffic, we were getting three miles per kilowatt hour, which is about 390 miles of range,” said Andy Fuhrman, compliance analyst. “This truck is awesome.”

Our members got the power

Minnkota employees aren’t the only ones getting behind the wheel. McQueen took a trip down to Detroit Lakes, Minn., in August to spend some time with Minnkota member Wild Rice Electric Cooperative at an EV education event. Attendees were able to test drive the electric pickup and a wide variety of other EVs.

“I think the big thing is that our membership is interested in all sorts of technology, but for them, they want to figure out if EVs are going to work in a rural space,” said Mike Wade, Wild Rice Electric Cooperative CEO. “Whatever the technology is, Wild Rice wants to participate in it to make sure we understand it so we can share it with our members who have an interest in it.”

Emily Windjue (left), Minnkota communications specialist, helps educate members in the Detroit Lakes area about the benefits of driving electric with Wild Rice Electric’s Tom Houdek (center), director of member services and communications and Mike Wade (right), president and CEO.

With the growing interest in EVs, Minnkota and its members are committed to providing real-world expertise to end-use electric consumers in the region. That commitment started in 2018 with the cooperative’s first electric vehicle – a Chevy Bolt. At that point, there were few EVs in Minnkota’s service area and even fewer public charging options.

With leadership from Minnkota’s member cooperatives and the Northern Municipal Power Agency members, things have changed significantly in recent years. Several Level 2 and Level 3 public fast charging stations have been installed throughout eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota by these utilities. Rebates of up to $750 are provided for consumers who install Level 2 chargers in their garage on the off-peak program, while other incentives exist for public chargers and electric buses.

Leading the charge

The newest addition to the public EV charging network arrived this summer in Fosston, Minn., thanks to support from the city’s municipal utility and a statewide grant. City administrator and NMPA board member Cassie Heide helped lead the charge for the city’s newest amenity.

“We are literally on the map now,” Heide said. “Our residents who have been thinking about getting an electric vehicle can feel better about it and have somewhere to fast charge if they need it.”

Fosston is a community packed with amenities for its residents and Cassie Heide, city administrator, is excited to see her community thrive with its new EV fast charging station.

Fosston was the first recipient of the funds to get its fast charger into service. Two other NMPA cities – Warroad and Halstad – also received grant funding. It’s part of a long-term strategy to get charging infrastructure in all 12 NMPA communities, according to NMPA General Manager Jasper Schneider.

“The vision for NMPA is at some point all 12 of our cities will have public NMPA-branded EV chargers,” Schneider said. “I think utilities have a leadership role to play in putting this equipment out there and saying we support this kind of infrastructure. But also, I think it sends a message to people in the community that EVs are supported.”

For Heide, the new charger is sparking other ideas for how the city can electrify. “As we are updating our fleet and our next city bus, we are definitely looking at EVs. We are a utility company. We should be leading the charge,” Heide said.

Lightning McQueen spotted!

Parades, job sites, community events, oh my! These are just a few of the locations you may have seen our red-hot EV this summer!

Brendan Kennelly, VP of Power Delivery, and his daughters took the EV for a cruise up to Park River for their Fourth of July parade.
Minnkota’s compliance team tested out the storage frunk capabilities while visiting the Twin Cities.
Engineering technician John Zeck put McQueen to work while surveying a job site.


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