Driftless car-gazing: Torkelson Motors changes with the times, keeps pace with evolution of electric vehicles

By Zach Jensen,

Some area residents may recall that an antique gasoline pump originally stood in front of Torkelson Motors’ Elgin store. And, while that isn’t the case anymore, in the not-so-distant future, another pump may appear in front of the store. But, the new one will be pumping electricity instead of gasoline.

“In general, we’re pretty old-fashioned here,” said Jerrod Torkelson. “We usually move pretty slow on new stuff, but it is exciting.”

Torkelson Motors has been heeding the call of tri-state-area Chrysler and Dodge customers since 1926, when Clarence Torkelson opened the company’s first store in Elgin. Over time, the family-owned company opened another location in Waukon and also picked up the Jeep line of products – after Chrysler purchased the manufacturer in the 1980s. And, although all vehicle manufacturers are answering the call to produce their own electric vehicles (EV), Jerrod suspects the move to only all-electric vehicles will take longer than officials initially anticipated. 

“From what I understand, the timeline is definitely getting moved back as we go,” said Jerrod, whose father, Dirk, and uncle, Bruce, own the Elgin and Waukon stores respectively. “I don’t think things are coming along as fast as they’d originally hoped. But, Chrysler’s not going to make us switch cold turkey. They’re going to make the switch more
gradual. They’ll continue to have gas options and hybrids, which, from our conversations, people are taking to the most – they can charge it up for shorter drives and have gas as a backup or for longer trips.”

Still, EV is happening, and Torkleson Motors is keeping pace by adding Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations to their facilities. 

Level 1 charging units are portable and plug into a traditional 110-120 volt wall outlet. These are the units that come standard with most battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Jerrod said they look like an over-sized laptop charger and have a charge rate of around one to two Kilowatts (KW) per hour, which translates to roughly two to four miles of driving range for each hour.

“Level 2 charging units run off a 208-240 volt source and are usually hard-wired and at a fixed location,” Jerrod said. “We have had two of these units installed at each of our locations for the last five years. They are the most common type of charger currently available, and most of the public units in our area fall in this category. These are often installed in homes, and they charge at a rate of seven to 15 kph — adding around 10 to 20 miles of driving range per hour.”

Jerrod said Level 3 charging units are large, fixed, units that look similar to a gas station pump. They run off a 400 Volt or larger source and charge at a rate of 50 to 350 kph and will add 150 to 1,000 miles of driving range per hour. These will not work with most PHEV vehicles and are intended for use with BEV only. These units are a high-dollar investment that typically requires an upgrade to the electrical infrastructures.”

According to information found online, the cost of installed Level 3 charging stations can range from $40,000 to over $170,000 per unit.

“We’re in the process of installing Level 3 charging stations rated at 175 kph at both our Elgin and Waukon locations,” Jerrod said. “These charging stations will be available to the public. It’s quite an undertaking. Last summer, we had to run new power from the road and put a cement pad in, and we basically rewired our whole building.”

Jerrod said that he understands that a portion of the public still has reservations about the new technology, but he says that technology will only improve in time.

“The whole landscape is changing so fast,” he said. “The technology we have in the future will definitely be better than what we have today. Batteries will last longer. Charging will be faster. Vehicles will be more efficient. When the technology gets good enough, so it’s feasible for a lot of people in our rural area, and the vehicles can go far enough that you can travel more, then the charging units will already be in place.

“As a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealer, we currently have four Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles in our lineup and several more announced to be built in the next couple of years,” Jerrod continued. “We currently offer a Chrysler Pacifica minivan, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4 and Jeep Wrangler 4×4 SUV’s and an all-wheel-drive hatchback called the Dodge Hornet.”

Jerrod said the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid has been Torkelson Motors’ most popular PHEV, which uses a 16 kilowatt-hour (kwh) battery pack and is rated at 32 all-electric miles before the gas engine takes over. The Pacifica battery will fully charge on a Level 1 charger in around 11 hours and a Level 2 charger in roughly 2 hours.

“For 2025 a new Ram 1500 REV pickup will be available,” Jerrod added. “It is expected to have a 229 kwh battery and a 500 mile all-electric driving range. From fully-depleted it will take 20 or more hours to fully charge with a Level 2 charger.”

“Our new Level 3 chargers should be able to do this in an hour-and-a-half,” he said. “Some of the fastest Level 3 chargers should be able to charge this truck in 30 to 40 minutes.”

Jerrod added that Torkelson Motors’ chargers will be added to apps and websites to help drivers find available chargers in their area. Such apps and websites include:

• www.plugshare.com/

• chargehub.com/en/charging-stations-map.html

• chargefinder.com/us

“They have pictures of the facility, reviews from previous users and show you the price,” Jerrod said. “Pricing is either done by time or by kilowatt hour.”

For more information on Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM electric or hybrid vehicles, stop by Torkelson Motors in Elgin and Waukon, visit www.torkelsonmotors.com, or call 563-426-5505 (Elgin) and 563-568-4587 (Waukon).

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Michelle Barness
6 months ago

This was a great article. Very interesting to hear from a local dealership how this new technology is being perceived and welcomed in our rural area.