Electric-vehicle campaign shows buyer demand and growth in public charging | AspenTimes.com

Electric-vehicle campaign shows buyer demand and growth in public charging

Heather McGregor
Special to The Aspen Times
Potential electric-vehicle purchasers check at some of the options at one of the area EV Sales Event showcases this fall.
©Walking Mountains Science Center

Electric-vehicle buyers purchased 38 electric vehicles through the 2018 Electric Vehicle Sales Event, with an upward trend for all-electric vehicles and growth in public EV charging stations.

The EV Sales Event was a 90-day campaign aimed at vehicle buyers in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, running Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. It repeated a similar campaign held in 2017.

Six participating auto dealerships offered special discounts, and the campaign partners hosted four “ride and drive” events in September, when more than 100 people took new electric vehicles out for a test drive.

Participating dealers were Audi Glenwood Springs, Mountain Chevrolet, Berthod Motors, Phil Long Honda and Bighorn Toyota, all in Glenwood Springs, and Red Rock Nissan in Grand Junction.

“Buyers invested in 15 plug-in hybrids, which offer a gasoline back-up for longer trips,” said Matt Shmigelsky, electric vehicle expert with CLEER, which organized the campaign.

“Half again as many buyers, 23 altogether, felt confident about the growth in regional public vehicle charging options and bought all-electric models,” he said.

Shmigelsky also credited the growth in all-electric models to positive reviews for the Chevrolet Bolt, now in its second year of sales, increased range for the 2018 Nissan Leaf, and the pending release of the 2019 Audi E-Tron SUV.

Growing electrification in the transportation sector is building demand in the three-county region for public charging stations, Shmigelsky said, and site owners have responded.

Two years ago, the three-county region had 34 public charge stations with 61 plugs. By Nov. 30, public charging options tripled, with 93 stations and 208 plugs.

In November, Gov. John Hickenlooper awarded a $10.3 million grant to ChargePoint to build 33 fast-charge stations across Colorado.

“Fast-charging stations give EV drivers the confidence to reliably travel to all corners of the state,” Hickenlooper said.

hybrid versatility

Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid buyers say the transitional vehicles, which run in electric or gasoline modes, provide the versatility needed for life in western Colorado.

The Clarity sedan, Honda’s debut in the plug-in electric market, earned kudos from local buyers.

Brad and Karla Setter of Steamboat Springs learned about the EV Sales Event and purchased their car from Phil Long Honda in Glenwood Springs.

“I love that I can plug the car into a regular outlet at home,” Karla Setter said. “I’ve been running all-electric around town. I put the car into hybrid mode so it uses gas, too, when I take longer trips. The car is fun to drive, with lots of power in both electric and hybrid modes.”

Marc and Debbie Bruell of Carbondale were looking for a car to replace their Volkswagen Golf after the manufacturer’s emissions scandal buy-back.

“It was very important to us to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Marc, who researched car options before deciding on the Honda Clarity.

“We didn’t think we could go full-on electric, so the plug-in hybrid seemed like a good fit,” Marc said. “We are getting 40 to 60 miles on a charge, and we are still getting 50 to 60 mpg in gasoline mode.”

utility, dealer rebates

During the sales event, Holy Cross Energy offered a $650 rebate to customers for installation of a Level II electric vehicle home charger. The utility awarded 24 “Charge At Home, Charge At Work” rebates.

“We believe in the electrification of transportation, and feel that we should do everything we can to help our members adapt to this new technology,” said Jenna Weatherred, Holy Cross Energy vice president for member and community relations. “We are very pleased with the response.”

She noted that, in January, the utility plans to offer on-bill financing to help residential and commercial customers install Level II chargers. These 240-volt charge systems provide a faster charge, and give customers the option of setting a timer for charging to take advantage of off-peak rates.

While the sales event discounts have expired, the dealerships continue to offer all-electric and plug-in electric models, and the $5,000 state of Colorado tax credit, which is fully refundable, continues through 2019.

The $7,500 federal tax credit also remains in place. However, Chevrolet’s success with its Volt plug-in hybrid and Bolt all-electric mean the automaker is approaching the 200,000-vehicle cap set in the federal tax credit legislation. Federal tax credits available for the Volt and Bolt are expected to fall to $3,750 in 2019, and expire by the end of 2019.

The Electric Vehicle Sales Event was led by Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER and Refuel Colorado, and sponsored by Holy Cross Energy, city of Glenwood Springs, city of Aspen, town of Vail, Eagle County, CORE, Walking Mountains Science Center, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Alpine Bank and Colorado Mountain News Media.

Heather McGregor is director of communications and programs for Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region.

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