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Electric vehicles, charging stations coming to Standing Rock

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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will soon operate several electric vehicles and install charging stations on the reservation thanks to a $6.7 million federal grant.

Standing Rock’s SAGE Development Authority is sharing the grant with the nonprofit Native Sun Community Power Development to bring electric vehicles to the reservation and to the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. The idea is also to create a charging network for the reservations.

Joseph McNeil

Joseph McNeil is general manager of SAGE.

SAGE General Manager Joseph McNeil said not a lot of electric vehicles travel through Standing Rock. Those that do “usually stop at the casino, turn around and go back,” he said.

“The most exposure we have to them is what we see in Bismarck,” McNeil said.

He would like children on Standing Rock to see and experience electric vehicles so that “it becomes a reality to them.”

McNeil is eyeing Ford F-150 Lightning pickups for Prairie Knights Casino between Cannon Ball and Fort Yates, and for the Grand River Casino near Mobridge on the South Dakota side of the reservation. Security personnel at Sitting Bull College also will receive one. SAGE will too, along with a solar panel trailer that the pickup can pull to serve as an education tool on the reservation and to power events such as powwows.

The grant money will also go toward an electric bus for Standing Rock’s transit agency, which transports tribal members across the reservation as well as to Bismarck-Mandan and other cities.

The charging stations will be located on Standing Rock at places such as the Grand River Casino, Sitting Bull College, at a transit agency site, and near tribal headquarters and the hospital in Fort Yates. The idea is also to install stations at points along the Native American Scenic Byway, which spans the Dakotas.

Some sites will be so-called fast stations that can provide a nearly full charge in a half hour. Others will be slower, providing a full charge over a number of hours.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy. SAGE and Native Sun applied for it with the assistance of the American Lung Association, and the groups are partnering with a number of clean energy and utility groups on the project. SAGE is also working to develop a wind farm on Standing Rock.

McNeil expects installation work on the charging stations to begin next summer. He anticipates the engineering department at Sitting Bull College will evaluate the vehicles’ performance once the tribe receives them, particularly to see how they fare in winter weather, which is known to drain batteries quickly.

“Nobody wants a dead car because it’s cold,” he said with a laugh.

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.

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