Energy, Utilities & Water  July 26, 2013

Fort Collins primes the (electric) pump

FORT COLLINS – Dave Sanders, like many electric-vehicle owners, is familiar with “range anxiety.” Relief is on the way, though, as the city of Fort Collins launches a new initiative to install as many as 10 new electric charging stations.

Sanders’ Chevy Volt plug-in electric vehicle, in which he and his wife, Lara Williams, drive their clients to commercial and residential real estate properties, gets 35 miles per charge from his home charging station. But the Volt also has a back-up gasoline generator that adds additional range.

Sanders plans to buy a pure-electric plug-in, which could outrun its range for trips outside Fort Collins.

“Most of the time our mileage with clients is 30 to 40 miles in a day,´ said Sanders, owner and associate broker of Green Team Real Estate. “But sometimes we need to go out to Windsor… and we could potentially outrun the range.”

Fortunately for Sanders, the city of Fort Collins will unveil four electric-vehicle charging stations by the end of the month and as many as six more as part of an effort to spur demand for electric vehicles. At least two more of the stations will be available by spring, although the city hasn’t determined when the others might be available.

The stations will cost several thousand dollars apiece, and the city has budgeted $100,000 in capital project dollars and another $25,000 from a state grant for purchase and installation. Much of the cost will come from installing the charging stations in existing infrastructure, such as a parking structure.

Drive Electric Northern Colorado is helping to spur Fort Collins to install the stations, in addition to stations in Loveland and at Colorado State University.

Representing a coalition of companies in the electric-vehicle supply chain, the organization chose to focus its efforts in Northern Colorado after a nationwide search of cities. The organization felt Northern Colorado residents would be open to the idea of driving electric vehicles while serving as a model with which other cities could identify, said Ben Prochazka, director of strategic initiatives for the organization.

The organization aims to get more plug-ins on the road, and one of the tactics is to install more charging stations.

“Ultimately, we believe a great majority of the charging is going to take place at home,” Prochazka said, “but this should be enough to help support a regional program,”

The number of electric cars on the road remains small. In Larimer County, only 137 electric vehicles are registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles, according to state records, and Weld County has just 44. That’s out of a total of 194,522 registered passenger vehicles in Larimer and another 152,350 in Weld.

The state does not track whether the electric registered vehicles are plug-ins, said Kyle Boyd, spokesman for the Division of Motor Vehicles. However, owners of registered electric vehicles must indicate by Jan. 1 whether they own a plug-in vehicle, so the state can determine whether to tax them.

Plug-in electric-vehicle owners will pay the $50 tax, $30 of which will go to the Highway Users Tax Fund and $20 into the Electric Vehicle Grant Fund. The tax stems from House Bill 1110, introduced by Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Matt Jones, D-Longmont. The bill also authorizes the state to charge a fuel tax on compressed natural-gas, liquefied petroleum-gas and liquefied natural-gas vehicles. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that alternative-fuel vehicles pay their share of road taxes. Traditional vehicles pay a gas tax, whose proceeds help keep the roads in good repair.

Tom Vosburg, policy and project manager for the city of Fort Collins, acknowledges the tepid demand for charging stations, but says the city should be doing what it can to reduce reliance on oil.

“There has to be a priming of the pump early in the game,” he said. “There’s a public and community interest that electric vehicles take hold.”

Fort Collins plans to have two charging stations at the Museum of Discovery and another two stations at the Civic Center Parking Structure in operation by the end of July. Two others eventually will be located at the MAX South Transit Center with two additional stations at the Fort Collins Senior Center.

They will cost $1 per hour. A more powerful station at the Museum of Discovery that can provide faster charging will cost $3 per session. That station, donated by Nissan, is Colorado’s first Level 3 charging station, Vosburg said. A Level 3 station can provide 60 to 80 miles of range with a charge that takes less than a half hour.

“What we are interested in is understanding how we can actually partner with the private sector on some of the locations,” he said.

New Belgium and Odell brewing companies already have installed their own, at times letting customers use them for free.

The idea is to place additional charging stations at businesses throughout town, so that people can plug in during shopping or while having a cup of coffee, Vosburg said.

Loveland has a program similar to the one in Fort Collins and has budgeted $50,000 for its project, which includes funding for promotional activities such as events, in addition to a $32,000 state grant it received. The city plans to upgrade two stations at First Street and Wilson Avenue, and at First Street and Washington Avenue. It will install an additional four stations, two for city use only and the others at McKee Medical Center and the Loveland Public Library.

“The reason for the charging stations is to help with that range-anxiety question that people have and to support the use of electric vehicles in Northern Colorado,´ said Gretchen Stanford, customer relations manager for the city of Loveland.

For Sanders, the more charging stations, the better.

“If it’s close to coffee shops, et cetera, where we frequently meet with clients, that’s great,” he said. “You have a client meeting for an hour – you can put a bunch of juice back in your car.”

An earlier version of this story misspelled Dave Sanders’ last name. The story also incorrectly attributed “range anxiety” to his Chevy Volt. Sanders actually referred to range anxiety in a comment about potentially buying a pure electric plug-in vehicle. Unlike a pure electric plug-in vehicle, the Chevy Volt has a backup on-board gasoline generator that extends its range an additional 344 miles on a full tank of gas beyond the 25 to 50 miles the car can run on pure electricity.

FORT COLLINS – Dave Sanders, like many electric-vehicle owners, is familiar with “range anxiety.” Relief is on the way, though, as the city of Fort Collins launches a new initiative to install as many as 10 new electric charging stations.

Sanders’ Chevy Volt plug-in electric vehicle, in which he and his wife, Lara Williams, drive their clients to commercial and residential real estate properties, gets 35 miles per charge from his home charging station. But the Volt also has a back-up gasoline generator that adds additional range.

Sanders plans to buy a pure-electric plug-in, which could outrun its range for trips outside…

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