Staff at Spirae break ground in February on their plans to install charging stations as part of the Northern Colorado Workplace Charging Challenge. Courtesy Drive Electric Northern Colorado

Companies charge ahead with EV incentives Groups enlist support from area employers

Three years ago, when area gasoline prices had soared well past $3 a gallon, Margaret-Ann Burness was spending up to $400 a month for her daily 60-mile round-trip commute between home in Denver and work in Boulder.

That changed for Burness, a senior account director at Sterling-Rice Group in One Boulder Plaza, when the building’s owner installed a dual fast-charging station for electric vehicles. Burness bought a used, fully loaded Nissan Leaf electric-powered car for $12,000 after tax rebates. Charging at work is free and is good for the round trip, she said, and charging from home only costs her about $1 a day. She carpools with another employee who also drives a Leaf.

“We just love it. People come up to me and say. ‘Thank you for being good to the environment,’” she said. “We’ve got a child. We want to make sure to leave her a better place. Not only that, but we’re saving money.

Burness is riding a wave of business- and government-backed promotion of the use of electric vehicles in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado. Driven by groups such as the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Drive Electric Northern Colorado, a growing list of businesses are installing the charging stations as an employee benefit.

The list includes Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. and Google Inc. in Boulder, and the city of Fort Collins, Colorado State University, Brinkman Partners, Woodward Inc., the New Belgium and Odell breweries, Hewlett-Packard Co., Platte River Power Authority and others in Northern Colorado. CSU’s Parking and Transportation Services has installed 10 chargers and has plans to install more across its campus.

“You get a message on your phone when your car’s charged,” Burness said. “It’s less than $1 a day to charge a car. You have to pay to park in the One Boulder Plaza garage, but my company pays for the parking. They see that and the charging as an amenity.”

Drive Electric Northern Colorado sponsors a hands-on “Ride and Drive” program so corporate and government leaders “can get a real, true, visual understanding of what it’s like to own one,” said Annie Freyschlag, a deployment community associate for the group. Fort Collins mayor Wade Troxell and City Councilwoman Kristen Stephens were among those who took one of the group’s EVs for a spin, Freyschlag said.

Drive Electric also organized a Workplace Charging Challenge in February, she said, and is three-fourths of the way to its goal of getting 20 employers in Northern Colorado to offer workplace charging by the end of 2015.

“Folks at a workplace are 20 percent more likely to buy an EV if they have a charger at work,” she said.

The group’s director, Ben Prochazka, said Drive Electric can help companies “think through each of the steps for launching a program. It would be helpful if they had somebody to come to to ask questions about the hardware, the positives and the challenges.”

It also dispenses information about Colorado’s Charge Ahead grant program. Administered through the Regional Air Quality Council and the Colorado Energy Office, it can issue grants of “up to $6,200 per charging station that a business might put in,” he said. “Businesses can apply for those funds. It can help pay for the installation costs in addition to the hardware — from $500 up to thousands depending on the capabilities you want the chargers to have.

“The cheaper ones are really OK for most businesses since employees are at work for hours,” he said.

Prochazka also likes to dispel the myth that today’s electric-powered cars are underpowered.

The Tesla can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, he said, and the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt can do it in 8 seconds or less.

“EVs have 1,000 less moving parts than gas-powered cars,” he said. “There’s no transmission, no oil. You’re reducing your impact but also have way less maintenance costs.”

“There are so many new choices for 2016, and you can buy the car you want,” Burness said. “In Colorado, it’s fabulous because a percentage of what you pay, you get back on your taxes.”

Burness said she recently spotted three different electric cars at once at an intersection along South Boulder Road.

A report issued earlier this year by SWEEP called for a transportation plan that significantly reduces single-occupancy vehicle trips and more aggressively promotes clean-energy vehicles.

The 75-page Boulder Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Adoption Assessment, commissioned by the city of Boulder, Boulder County and the University of Colorado, suggested that businesses can play a key role in a local clean-air future.

Former Boulder mayor Will Toor, report co-author and director of transportation programs at SWEEP, said “a dramatic shift to 75 percent EV ownership by 2050” would be required if Boulder communities want to reach lower greenhouse-gas emissions goals.

Boulder’s existing public EV charging stations aren’t used as much as hoped, the report showed.

Three years ago, when area gasoline prices had soared well past $3 a gallon, Margaret-Ann Burness was spending up to $400 a month for her daily 60-mile round-trip commute between home in Denver and work in Boulder.

That changed for Burness, a senior account director at Sterling-Rice Group in One Boulder Plaza, when the building’s owner installed a dual fast-charging station for electric vehicles. Burness bought a used, fully loaded Nissan Leaf electric-powered car for $12,000 after tax rebates. Charging at work is free and is good for the round trip, she said, and charging from home only costs her about $1 a day. She carpools with another employee who also drives a Leaf.

“We just love it. People come up to me and say. ‘Thank you for being good to the environment,’” she said. “We’ve got a child. We want to make sure to leave her a better place. Not only that, but we’re saving money.

Burness is riding a wave of business- and government-backed promotion of the use of electric vehicles in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado. Driven by groups such as the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Drive Electric Northern Colorado, a growing list of businesses are installing the charging stations as an employee benefit.

The list includes Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. and Google Inc. in Boulder, and the city of Fort Collins, Colorado State University, Brinkman Partners, Woodward Inc., the New Belgium and Odell breweries, Hewlett-Packard Co.,…