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Preparing first responders for EVs

by General Manager Steve Stroshane

Over the past two years, I'm proud to report that Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative has provided electric vehicle (EV) safety training for 170 first responders in our community. Above, 75 first responders from Burnett County participated in EV safety training at our Siren office in April, and 95 Polk County first responders joined us at our Centuria office in April 2023.

Whether you like EVs or not, both the co-op and our communities have a responsibility to be ready for them. For us, it means being prepared to provide reliable electricity for all the ways our members power your lives, including charging EVs, if that's your choice. As I write this column, we already have more than 65 co-op members with residential chargers on our lines.

For our first responders, being prepared means having the latest knowledge so they can respond with confidence to emergencies that involve EVs. We never know when the life of a loved one might depend on it!

We believe that our first responders are essential for our safety and quality of life in our hometowns, and EV training is one way the co-op can help. Our EV safety training for first responders was offered as part of our co-op commitment to community, and prioritized safety and community readiness.

The course covered electric vehicle and battery technology, responding to EV accidents and disabling EVs, towing, unlocking and operating EVs, fire suppression, submersion and extrication techniques. The three-hour training included hands-on engagement with different types of EVs, including our Ford Lightning truck, below.

We thank our instructor, Mike Klimkosky from EVsafe, a southern Wisconsin-based training organization. Klimkosky combines EV expertise with more than 30 years of experience as a first responder.

Thank you, first responders, for your dedication to safety

The following organizations attended our EV safety training:

Burnett County, April 2024: Grantsburg, Jackson, Scott, St. Croix Hertel, Siren, Webster, Webb Lake and Danbury fire departments, St. Croix Tribal Police and Siren Police.

Polk County, April 2023: Amery, Apple River, Allied, Centuria, Cushing, Frederic, Lorain, Luck, Milltown, Osceola and St. Croix Falls fire departments, Polk County Sheriff's Office, Northwestern EMS and Lakes Region EMS.

Ford Lightning after one year on the job

Bonus article by Member Services Mgr. Todd Schulte

Polk-Burnett leased a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning EV in spring 2023. The sticker price was $58,000. An EV tax credit reduced our lease payment about 15%.

After one year and 12,000 miles, the all-electric pickup has proven to be a good work truck, with plenty of range to travel throughout our co-op territory on any given day, and then is plugged in each night to be ready for the next workday.

The Lightning is a base model AWD with a battery range of 230 miles. Actual range depends on outdoor temperature and driving style. Cold winter weather really cuts the battery range, but it hasn't been a problem, as long as we know this and plan for it.

The Lightning is charged up overnight when demand and cost for electricity are lower. Some have questioned if EVs will overwhelm the electric grid. We recommend overnight charging because it uses off-peak electricity. Off-peak charging helps balance the grid by drawing power when demand is low. It follows the same principle as our water heater program.

We use a 7.2 kW Level 2 charger in the co-op garage. We get 2.3 miles of range for every 1 kWh of electricity. The cost to charge is about $4.75 per 100 miles. Charging is less than the cost of gas and saves us money.

Maintenance has been minimal and also saves the co-op money. We rotate the tires every 10,000 miles and fill windshield wiper fluid. There is no need for oil changes on an EV.

The Lightning has a very comfortable ride, meets our work needs and saves money. It's also practical; co-op employees use it to deliver water heaters to members, supplies to crews in the field, and back and forth between our offices and substations.

The experience of owning, charging and driving an EV also helps us understand the technology, so we can be a resource for our members who choose to drive electric. Overall, it's a smart investment, and as an early adopter, we've had no problems.

Read more about EVs and co-op EV charging programs.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning EV