How Summit County can be ready for the electric car
Summit County is among the many places in Colorado with residents who seek to reduce their carbon footprint. But when it comes to electric vehicles, many of communities aren’t quite ready.
Mike Tinskey, Ford Motors’ manager of vehicle electrification and infrastructure, said it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for a community like Summit County to become electric vehicle-friendly – there’s more or less a recipe for it, drawn from the successes of leading cities, like Denver.
It’s not just big cities that can get the infrastructure ready.
“A lot of smaller communities can, too,” Tinskey said, “just on a smaller scale.”
On component is that a customer have an easy way to charge the vehicle, which requires a 240 volt station. It means getting permitting for the new installation – and successful cities are streamlining the permitting process so it takes days, not weeks, to complete, Tinskey said. Summit County community development director Jim Curnutte said that aspect shouldn’t be hard here, though.
Preparing for the era of electricity on roads also means helping folks understand that electric vehicles can be an asset to the utility grid, which is built to meet peak usage. By charging at night, the vehicles don’t add to the maximum demand – instead, they use the available power potential when it’s not being used, and at lower rates.
Because power rates decrease after 11 p.m., “The utility wins because it gets more load off peak and the customer wins because it’s a much lower cost to drive,” Tinskey said.
Some simple math shows it takes about $1.80 to charge an electric Ford Focus off-peak, Tinskey said, compared to about $10.80 for a 25 mile-per-gallon car to drive 100 miles.
Tinskey added that communities interested in becoming electric ready often succeed by creating a stakeholder group that can identify charging locations (such as ski resorts, at bus transfer stations, etc.), best practices for implementation, as well as incentives such as HOV lane access and financial incentives for turning residents on to going the electric route.
“It takes these people to team together and explore what other cities are doing and apply it,” Tinskey said.
But electric vehicles face more challenges than recharging and finding incentives for purchase. Driving range – particularly for folks in the mountains – is tough, as is the time it takes for many vehicles to recharge. And the vehicle cost is high.
Curnutte believes the infrastructure will come when there are more electric cars on the road – and that requires manufacturers to bring the price down and mileage capacity up to appeal to mountain buyers.
“It will start to evolve, but it boils down to having enough vehicles on the road,” he said.
Summit County dealers say there’s not much current demand for electric vehicles, even though many buyers are looking for fuel efficiency.
“I think (electric vehicles) are in our future more than our present from an economic standpoint,” Vista Subaru general manager Jimmy Breslin said, adding that the lines he carries – Subaru, Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler – don’t currently have an electric vehicle in the market.
“There’s definitely a demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, but people using the word ‘electric’ or ‘hybrid’ – not so much,” Summit Ford sales representative Stephanie Horbatt said.
Though Summit Ford currently doesn’t keep electric vehicles in stock, they are scheduled to receive the 2012 all-electric Ford Focus.
Tinskey contends electric vehicles are ideal for the mountains, because the motor has torque at zero speed, compared to a combustion engine that has to speed up to create torque. Also, “what goes up must come down,” he said, meaning that the power used to climb is offset by that stored from braking downhill.
As for driving range, many manufacturers are coming up with options that tie electricity into combustion engines to prolong driving distance.
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