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'Part of the future': Electric cars showcased this weekend

Yes, it holds four kids and two adults. Lisa and Adam Gustafson pose with their month-old Tesla Model X, an all-electric vehicle that can travel up to 300 miles per charge. They'll be at a Saturday event at Alexandria Technical and Community College promoting electric cars. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)

If you're a fan of Elon Musk, electric cars or just saving money on fuel, take note: There's a Tesla Model X in town.

Owners Adam and Lisa Gustafson bought the mid-sized SUV-style electric vehicle for its safety rating and eco-friendly energy consumption, and they'll bring it to an event promoting electrical vehicles on Saturday, May 5, at Alexandria Technical and Community College.

Billed as the "Area's First Electric Vehicle Drive and Learn Event," it will showcase a variety of electric cars offered through local dealerships. Owners will answer questions, and the public will get a chance to test-drive models including the Chevy Bolt, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Mitsubishi Outlander. It's part of a three-year project in seven Midwestern states to promote electric vehicles.

The two local power companies, ALP Utilities and Runestone Electric Association, are hosting the event, which is organized by a pro-electric vehicle group called Midwest EVOLVE, an organization operated by eight Midwestern cities and the regional chapter of the American Lung Association.

"It's an environmentally responsible way to sell energy," said Ryan Rooney, energy services and business development manager for REA. "It's a benefit to the electrical company but also to the environment and the community."

Electric cars remain a small piece of new car sales in the U.S., but their popularity has been growing. Federal transportation officials are encouraging development of fueling and charging stations along 55 routes across the country, including the Interstate 94 corridor from Detroit to the Minnesota/North Dakota state line.

Alexandria has four charging stations and may soon receive a higher-level charging station, Rooney said. Existing stations take several hours to charge, but the higher-level ones will deliver a charge in half an hour or less, he said.

Meanwhile, the Gustafsons say they are enjoying their month-old Tesla. A glossy white, its handleless rear doors rise like wings when they open, protecting users from rain and snow while getting in and out.

It can change lanes and exit freeways without a driver's control, although they've been cautious using that option. Three older children and a baby fit in the four rear seats. In case of theft, they have a phone app that allows them to disable the vehicle.

"We put 400 miles on it the first weekend we had it," Adam Gustafson said. "They're the iPhone of cars, pretty much."

"I think everyone knows the future is electric," Lisa Gustafson said. "You feel like you're being a part of the future."

This car doesn't fuel up at a gas station. Instead, the Gustafsons plug it in at home each night. The cost of a complete charge is about $14, and they can travel about 300 miles on a charge.

They traded in their Chevy Tahoe for the Tesla and are happy not having to pump fossil fuels into a tank.

"Global warming is a real thing and cars are doing it," Adam Gustafson said.

If you go

What: Electric vehicle drive and learn event

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. Electric vehicle overview and owner's panel is from 10-11 a.m., and the ride and drive is from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Where: Alexandria Technical and Community College's Law Enforcement Training Center

Why: To showcase the performance, availability and advantages of electric vehicles

Cost: Free

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