One way George Host re­duces his car­bon foot­print is by driv­ing a Tes­la e­lec­tric ve­hi­cle on his northern Minnesota commute to and from Duluth.

The forest biologist from New In­de­pend­ence Town­ship charges his car at home every night, and there are sev­er­al spots in the Twin Ports where he can power up. The chal­lenge comes when Host and oth­ers in great­er Min­ne­so­ta drive far­ther a­field — be­cause the num­ber of electric vehicle bat­tery charg­ers across the state is de­cid­ed­ly un­even.

“In small­er com­mu­ni­ties, you have a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge with [e­lec­tric vehi­cles] than in the met­ro, be­cause peo­ple tend to trav­el long­er dis­tances and have less ac­cess to charg­ers,” said Tim Sexton, chief sus­tain­a­bil­i­ty of­fi­cer for the Min­ne­so­ta Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

But that’s chan­ging as more Min­ne­so­tans go e­lec­tric. Transportation is now the state’s lead­ing source of greenhouse gas emis­sions, and lawmakers have tak­en note. Encouraging electric vehicle use and build­ing the ancillary char­ging in­fra­struc­ture is one way, they say, to com­bat cli­mate change.

The num­ber of e­lec­tric vehi­cles reg­is­tered in Min­ne­so­ta was 9,401 last year, more than double the number in 2017. Some 10,495 have been reg­is­tered this year, although the overall number registered statewide is still under 2% of all vehicles, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. To sup­port them, more than 300 charg­ing stations of vary­ing ca­pac­i­ty are lo­cat­ed through­out the state, ac­cord­ing to the National Re­new­a­ble Energy Laboratory. Most places to plug in are clus­tered in the Twin Cities met­ro area.

Drivers outside the cities just have to try a little harder to find their electrical boost.

“You do have to be more planful when you trav­el,” said Jen­ni­fer Herr­mann of Morris, Minn., who drives a Chevy Bolt. “There’s re­al­ly not a great char­ging in­fra­struc­ture when you go west in Min­ne­so­ta.”

Re­cent­ly, Gov. Tim Walz called for Min­ne­so­ta to adopt Cali­for­nia’s clean­er ve­hi­cle-­e­mis­sion rules, which would re­quire car­mak­ers to of­fer more e­lec­tric and hy­brid mod­els here. MnDOT says only 19 of the 43 electric mod­els sold nation­wide are avail­able in Min­ne­so­ta, since auto manu­fac­tur­ers send them to the 13 states with low­er e­mis­sion stand­ards first. If Min­ne­so­ta were in the mix, the num­ber of choi­ces avail­able to con­sum­ers would in­crease, as would sales.

But boosting the num­ber of low-e­mis­sion vehi­cles here is an “ex­er­cise in fu­til­i­ty” with­out build­ing the ne­ces­sary in­fra­struc­ture to charge them, ac­cord­ing to a recent MnDOT re­port plotting the “Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation” in the state.

Sexton says it’s “a chick­en-and-egg type of di­lem­ma” — more peo­ple would like­ly buy e­lec­tric vehi­cles if they felt con­fi­dent the char­ging in­fra­struc­ture were in place. While that’s like­ly true in the Twin Cities, the pic­ture be­comes more mud­dled for those liv­ing and trav­el­ing be­yond the seven-coun­ty met­ro area.

Many new­er mod­els of e­lec­tric vehi­cles can trav­el for more than 200 miles be­fore they need char­ging, but cold weath­er can sap bat­tery pow­er. That can lead to “range anx­i­e­ty” for driv­ers.

“It’s that feel­ing you get watch­ing the bat­tery drop and there’s no charg­er near­by,” Host said. “Your heart rate goes up and you won­der how you’re going to get some­where. It was a big thing earli­er on,” but not so much now.

In Au­gust, the Min­ne­so­ta Pol­lu­tion Control Agency (MPCA) award­ed a con­tract to ZEF Energy Inc. of Min­ne­ap­olis to in­stall 22 fast-char­ging sta­tions along high­ways and interstates in Be­mid­ji, Grand Rapids, De­troit Lakes, St. Cloud, Will­mar, Mar­shall, Roch­es­ter, Mankato and Al­bert Lea — a pro­ject that will in­crease the state’s char­ging net­work by 1,110 miles. The $1.5 mil­lion in grant mon­ey was part of a na­tion­al court set­tle­ment fol­low­ing the Volks­wag­en emis­sions scan­dal. An­oth­er round of in­vest­ment in electric vehicle in­fra­struc­ture fu­eled by the set­tle­ment is ex­pect­ed to be rolled out soon.

“This is just a start; it’s not en­ough,” said MPCA spokes­wom­an Mary Rob­in­son. At events through­out the state in­tend­ed to glean pub­lic in­put, 94% of the com­ments fa­vored fund­ing for char­ging sta­tions, and many sup­port­ed in­vest­ing the max­i­mum level al­lowed by the set­tle­ment, Rob­in­son said.

Shan­non Mor­ten­son says she can’t make it to the Twin Cities from her home in the north­west­ern Min­ne­so­ta town of Kennedy driving her Chevy Bolt. The char­ging in­fra­struc­ture doesn’t quite line up, so she uses her husband’s Chevy Ava­lanche SUV in­stead — an irony that’s not lost on her. Other­wise, she says her electric vehicle works great for her 32-mile commute into Warren, Minn., where she works as the city ad­min­is­tra­tor. “I don’t have any trou­ble going back and forth to work,” she said.

Gen­er­al­ly, driv­ers may pow­er up using pub­lic sta­tions at parks, uni­ver­si­ties and along high­ways and interstates, or out­side pri­vate­ly owned park­ing gar­ages, res­tau­rants and shop­ping centers. Tes­la, the Cali­for­nia-based electric vehicle man­u­fac­tur­er, has a pro­pri­etary net­work of super­charg­ers “placed on well-traveled routes and dense ur­ban centers,” ac­cord­ing to its website.

But 85% of electric vehicle own­ers sim­ply charge up in their own gar­age, said Jukka Kukkonen, who found­ed PlugInConnect, a St. Paul con­sult­ing firm. Some use a stan­dard 120-volt char­ging cord, while oth­ers in­stall 240-volt sta­tions (akin to pow­er for an e­lec­tric clothes dryer), which is quick­er.

“People see a­dop­tion in the Twin Cities as hap­pen­ing fast­er,” Kukkonen said. “But outstate will hap­pen.”

He says com­mu­ni­ties or ho­tels in­ter­est­ed in boost­ing tour­ism would be smart to in­vest in electric vehicle charg­ers.

But not ev­er­y­one is on board. Dan Bohm­er of Moorhead bought a $90,000 Jag­uar I-Pace a year ago be­cause it was “some­thing dif­fer­ent.” He flew to Des Moines to pick up the car and an arduous 24-hour jour­ney back to Moorhead fol­lowed as Bohm­er criss­crossed I­o­wa and Min­ne­so­ta, des­per­ate­ly in search of char­ging sta­tions.

“I re­al­ized an e­lec­tric ve­hi­cle in Min­ne­so­ta is not a good i­de­a un­less you live in Min­ne­ap­olis,” he said.

Bohmer e­ven­tu­al­ly sold it.

“It’s a very nice car, a love­ly car,” he said. “If I was nev­er going to take it on the road, it would have been just fine. But that’s not my life.”

Even though he now drives a Land Rov­er Discovery SUV, he says he’d con­sider buy­ing an­oth­er e­lec­tric ve­hi­cle — but only if the char­ging in­fra­struc­ture im­proves.