Buying Chevy Bolt is no-brainer for Aspen Center for Environmental Studies CEO | AspenTimes.com

Buying Chevy Bolt is no-brainer for Aspen Center for Environmental Studies CEO

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies CEO Chris Lane stands with the Chevy Bolt he bought last month. He was sold on electric vehicles are driving a Chevy Volt the prior five years.

When Chris Lane learned that Chevrolet was coming out with the all-electric Bolt, he wasted no time getting on the waiting list at the dealership in Glenwood Springs.

"I was the first," he said. "I ordered it six months ago."

Lane, president and CEO of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, knew after nearly five years of driving the Chevy Volt that his $41,000 investment in the Bolt would be pay off.

He received his Bolt last month and instantly knew trading up was the right move.

"It's just so much better in so many ways," Lane said.

For one thing, the Bolt is a total electric vehicle while the Volt has a gas motor for backup. The Bolt's battery can go an EPA-estimated 238 miles per charge while the latest Volt is rated at 53.

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Lane said he has already learned in the month since buying the Bolt from Mountain Chevrolet that its true range is 180 to 300 miles on one charge, depending on driving conditions. It performs best in stop-and-go traffic.

"When you drive it in traffic, you can drive it forever," he said. In other words, it's perfect for the congested commute he makes between his home in Basalt and work in Aspen.

The Volt has a slightly sportier look but the Bolt delivers the goods. It covers 0 to 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds and is just plane fun to drive. Both models can maintain high speeds on climbs. His only complaint is the governor chokes off acceleration at 93 mph in the Bolt.

Lane calls the Bolt a poor man's Tesla, referring to the all-electric-vehicle producer with the significantly more pricey models. Tesla is gearing up production of the less expensive Model S, but already has 400,000 buyers signed up.

Chris and his wife, Dianna, purchased their Volt in October 2012 for $38,404, including all fees, taxes and other expenses. They received a $7,500 federal tax credit plus a $5,896 state alternative-fuel-vehicle tax credit. That reduced their investment to $25,008.

Lane estimates he saved about $2,400 per year on gas by driving the Volt. That's assuming he would have driven a gas vehicle 16,000 miles per year and purchased about 800 gallons of gas. He estimated he saved another $1,000 per year in maintenance costs.

Total gas savings over the time he owned the car was about $10,800 and maintenance savings was about $4,500 for total savings of $15,300.

His only miscalculation, he said, was the resell value. The depreciation of electric vehicles is steeper than for regular cars. He sold it for $12,000 after anticipating $18,000.

Nevertheless, he feels he got his money's worth, especially since they were in a somewhat unique position to charge their car themselves for free. The Lanes have a photovoltaic system that produces significantly more power than their house consumes. They were able to charge the Volt, and now the Bolt, without tapping into the grid and increasing their consumption.

Further details on the economics of his Volt purchase are available on a blog he wrote for ACES at http://www.aspennature.org.

The big change since he first got the Volt, he said, is the number of charging stations available in the valley. That's allowed him to drastically reduce the charging overnight at home. He will often park at Aspen's Rio Grande parking garage where there is a public charging station available. The city of Aspen also installed a fast-charging station this month at the corner of Galena and Dean Streets.

Lane said 240-volt chargers are available at Aspen High School, Aspen Recreation Center, Whole Foods in Willits and near the town halls in Basalt and Carbondale.

Lane said he never needs a full charge, but the 240-volt chargers can provide a full charge in about eight hours. A full charge for the Volt's smaller battery is significantly less time.

An app that comes with the Bolt informed Lane on Friday that his car has prevented 1,300 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere in just the month since he's owned it, compared with a gas burner. He believes that figure is low because of the amount he charges from his home photovoltaic system.

Lane is well aware that critics consider electric vehicles hypocritical because so much electricity still comes from coal- and natural gas-powered plants.

He counters that Aspen's municipal utility provides electricity from 100 percent renewable energy (some Aspen power users are supplied by Holy Cross Energy), about 35 percent of Holy Cross Energy's portfolio comes from renewable sources, and his charges at home came from sunshine.

Lane foresees a day when gas stations aren't necessary and travel is oriented around charging stations.

"I want gasoline to go extinct," he said. "Let's deal with the issues of electric vehicles, and there are issues."

Electric vehicles will be on display and available for a test drive during the American Renewable Energy Day Summit next week. The vehicles will be on display at the Snowmass Village Mall on June 23 and 24.

In addition, Holy Cross Energy is offering a $200 utility bill refund for customers who purchase a new electric vehicle by June 30 from one of four participating dealers. The refund will cover the cost of charging the vehicle for 6,000 miles of driving.

scondon@aspentimes.com