RED WING -- Xcel Energy is launching a new program to make transitioning to electric vehicles simpler. The effort comes as Red Wing and Goodhue County officials are championing EV efforts.

On Nov. 12, the company announced the EV Accelerate At Home program. Customers can choose to have Xcel Energy install a smart EV charger with embedded energy-monitoring capabilities.

"This equipment can charge a customer’s EV faster than a charger that plugs into a typical household outlet," the company explained in a news release. Customers can pay for the equipment and charging service monthly on their bill or upfront. Customers will save the most money when charging their vehicles from midnight to 8 a.m., which are considered off-peak hours.

Participants must have wifi.

This program coincides with Xcel’s mission to supply 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.

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Paul Drotos, Goodhue County Board chairman, said he has advocated for the implementation of climate-friendly programs, citing the installation of solar panels on county buildings and the inclusion of electric vehicles in the county’s fleet.

“Electric cars are clean, quiet and very fast,” Drotos said. “They are low maintenance and that includes their carbon footprints: none.”

Drotos is pleased that Xcel is encouraging electric vehicles.

"Minnesota has no fossil fuels, so it makes sense to power our cars and trucks with our own solar and nuclear energy," he said.

On Nov. 9, the Red Wing City Council voted to continue the operation of the EV charging station in the Plum and Third Street parking lot for two more years.

"This project has really worked as advertised," council member Evan Brown said.

One of the city’s goals in implementing the EV charger was to increase tourism. According to Brown, about 90% of the charger’s users don’t live in Goodhue County. People from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester are the most frequent users of the charging station.

It appears that COVID-19 has reduced use of the EV charging station in 2020. The city tracks the cost of electricity consumed each month. In September 2019, the cost of the electricity used by the EV charger that year was about $743.73. This year it’s down to $550.95.