High Country Conservation Center debuts plan to transition Summit County to electric vehicles

Strategies include offering incentives to residents and businesses, streamlining electric vehicle permitting and transitioning the county’s public transit fleet

Aside from the Tesla stations in Silverthorne, there are also public electric vehicle chargers at Breckenridge Town Hall and the Basecamp Retail Center/Whole Foods parking lot in Frisco, among other locations. The county is looking to add more at the future redeveloped Frisco Transit Center, as well.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily archives

According to data presented by officials from the High Country Conservation Center to the Summit Board of County Commissioners, two-thirds of the world’s oil consumption is used to fuel cars and trucks. According to Jess Hoover, climate action director for the nonprofit, transportation is the second largest carbon emissions source in Summit County.

That’s why the county is working with the conservation center in preparing an electric vehicle readiness plan to help curb transportation impacts on the region.

“It’s a 10-year plan, and the goal of the plan really is to create strategies that will help us expand infrastructure and make it easier for residents and visitors to Summit County to drive an electric vehicle,” Hoover has said in the past.

At the Tuesday, May 18, meeting, Hoover and Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Michael Wurzel presented the plan, which is in response to one of the goals set by the county’s climate action plan to reduce overall emissions in the county 80% by 2050.

Some strategies of the electric vehicle readiness plan directly correspond with new or updated infrastructure. Some actions Wurzel suggested the county take are expanding public charging and fleet charging infrastructure at county facilities; offering electric vehicle and charging infrastructure incentives to residents, businesses and homeowners associations; as well as coordinating with Xcel Energy and other business partners to expand fast charging.

Wurzel also laid out some policy changes the county could implement, including expanding workplace charging infrastructure at county facilities, streamlining electric vehicle permitting and requiring the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure with major renovations of commercial and multifamily buildings. Currently, the county requires electric vehicle charging infrastructure with new commercial and multifamily buildings.

In addition to infrastructure projects and policy programs, Wurzel also suggested the county support municipal fleet managers through the transition by purchasing a pilot electric vehicle, developing a vehicle replacement plan that considers the total cost of ownership and creating an electric vehicle feasibility inventory to identify which vehicles are ideal for electric replacement.

“Right now, as you know, (electric vehicles) are more expensive upfront, but we believe the total cost of ownership will be lower,” Wurzel said.

In addition, Wurzel pointed out that there are areas in the county’s public transit department that could benefit from an electric vehicle transition. Wurzel explained that developing a bus electrification plan and designing and constructing a transit administration building and bus depot to accommodate a 100% electric fleet could also be potential components the county could implement.

“I know (Summit County Transit Director) Chris (Lubbers) and his staff are working on the design and construction of a transit administration building that would accommodate 100% an (electric vehicle) fleet at some point in the future, which is really exciting, because the simple math is that the more a vehicle travels, the more CO2 emissions it produced,” Wurzel said. “So the No. 1 thing we can do in terms of reducing our CO2 emissions in the transportation sector at Summit County is to adopt (electric vehicles) in our transit vehicles.”

To conclude his presentation, Wurzel noted that community outreach should also be part of the electric vehicle readiness plan. This includes promoting the county as an electric vehicle friendly destination, promoting rebates and incentives from the state and federal level as well as from Xcel Energy, and providing electric vehicle education opportunities for residents and businesses.

One such opportunity Hoover suggested was to gather residents who already own electric vehicles for an event so that community members could ask questions and gain more experience with these types of vehicles.

“(Electric vehicle) ride-and-drive events involve getting local owners all together in a parking lot and then inviting the public to ‘kick the tires’ as it were and check them out and talk to real life (electric vehicle) drivers and say, ‘Can I really drive this in Peak 7 in the winter?’ ‘Do I need all-wheel drive?’ ‘Is it really cheaper?’ and just letting people interact,” Hoover said.

She mentioned that more often than not, getting the chance to talk to other drivers increases the likelihood other people might consider buying an electric vehicle. Hoover also mentioned that a sales representative at Summit Ford said the company would let the county use its electric mustang for a similar event.

County Commissioner Tamara Pogue asked about the town’s energy grid and whether it was able to support this kind of transition in the coming years. Hoover acknowledged she was not able to collect specific data in relation to this but said officials from Xcel said the company would have no issues supporting the plan.

The commissioners and county staff are reviewing the plan and are expected to approve it in the coming weeks.

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