More than 230 directors and leaders from Minnesota's 50 rural electric cooperatives gathered in St. Paul this week to advocate for a more widespread electric vehicle charging network across the state.

Minnesota will receive $68 million of federal funding in the next five years for electric vehicle charging.

But a lack of fast charging infrastructure in rural areas contributes to "range anxiety," according to the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, and range anxiety is the top obstacle to electric vehicle adoption.

"Rural infrastructure is vital to meeting electric vehicle goals made by government and auto manufacturers," said Darrick Moe, CEO of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association. "The vast majority of funding for the public charging network in Minnesota must be directed to rural Minnesota to successfully support the future electric vehicles."

Representatives from the rural electric cooperatives lobbied legislators to allocate much of the federal funds to rural Minnesota, not just to pay for the chargers themselves but also other infrastructure costs, like design, engineering and permitting.

"With more advanced battery technology, we are starting to see electric vehicles with much longer range at a more affordable price point," said Jukka Kukkonen, founder of Shift2Electric and keynote speaker at the association's annual meeting. "Now is the time to take advantage of increasing popularity and prepare the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles."

The Minnesota Rural Electric Association is joining with the Beneficial Electrification League to host "Electrify Minnesota," an educational event focused on tangible electrification opportunities at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on April 27.



Itasca Community College has a new student center

A new 10,000-square-foot student center opened recently at Itasca Community College. Created through the reconstruction of existing space in the library and new construction, project investment was about $5.5 million. The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board supported the project with $175,000.

The idea grew from an assignment given to students in 2016 by English professor Patrick Mathias. He asked students to write proposals to college administration on ways to improve the student experience. Several student groups cited the importance of and need for a student center.

Provost Bart Johnson said the facility is an "important phase of a larger plan to continue expanding and updating the ICC campus to better serve students and build community connections."

The college is one of five belonging to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities that will open next fall as part of one university, Minnesota North College. The change was made based on years of declining enrollment for the five colleges, which also include Hibbing, Rainy River and Vermilion community colleges, and Mesabi Range College.