High Country Conservation Center prepares electric vehicle readiness plan

Tesla charging stations are pictured at the Outlets at Silverthorne.
Hugh Carey/Summit Daily archive.

Summit County is preparing to accommodate an increasing number of electric vehicles as more residents, visitors and public transportation agencies make the transition. As the county plans to expand its public charging network, the High Country Conservation Center is preparing a community EV Readiness Plan in collaboration with local municipalities and other stakeholders.

The county has specific electric vehicle commitments, including transitioning the community to zero-emission vehicles by 2050 and drafting an EV Readiness Plan that includes strategies to help transition public transportation, ride-share services and passenger vehicles to electric.

Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Michael Wurzel explained the county has installed eight public electric vehicle charging ports so far. There are four charging ports at the Summit County Library’s main location in Frisco and four at the Frisco Transfer Center. Wurzel noted that the chargers are being used on a daily basis. The county is also looking at expanding charging capabilities at the Frisco Transfer Center and putting charging stations at the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge.

Breckenridge currently has 22 public electric vehicle charging ports located at town hall, the recreation center, the public works building and the Stephen C. West Ice Arena. Breckenridge Sustainability Coordinator Jessie Burley added that the new South Gondola Lot parking structure will have 40 charging ports, and the structure has been wired to allow for more stations as demand increases. Tesla charging stations have also been available at the Outlets at Silverthorne since 2013.

High Country Conservation Center Climate Action Director Jess Hoover said that the EV Readiness Plan is about a month away from being finalized. In addition to helping meet the county’s electric vehicle goals, Hoover said that creating a countywide plan would ease the community into the transition. She said that creating the plan was also one of the transportation strategies identified for achieving goals of the Summit Community Climate Action Plan, which has been adopted by Summit County, Silverthorne, Frisco, Breckenridge and Dillon.

Hoover explained that a transportation working group of local municipalities, businesses, ski areas and Xcel Energy put the plan together in cooperation with Charge Ahead Colorado and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project to come up with strategies outlined in the document.

“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 said.

The plan is designed to outline strategies for how the community can accomplish goals in the climate action plan, such as having 30% of all vehicles registered in Summit County be electric cars by 2030. Strategies in the plan are outlined under five categories: infrastructure, policy, light-duty fleets, public transit and community outreach. While infrastructure is being worked on via charging stations, Hoover said policy refers to an electric-vehicle-friendly approach, such as a clear permitting process for installing charging equipment.

As for fleets and public transit, the plan outlines strategies for transitioning larger vehicle fleets, such as those of municipalities, to electric. Community outreach refers to various ways to make people more familiar and comfortable with electric cars. Once the plan is finalized, it will be brought to Summit County municipalities for adoption.

“We definitely want to make it more convenient for residents and visitors to drive an electric car in our community, but we also understand that purchasing an electric car is still out of reach for a lot of Summit County residents,” Hoover said. “Not everyone can afford a car, so what else can be done to help bring electric mobility to people who can’t buy a new car or who can’t buy a car period?”

Hoover said that the group is working on ways to address that challenge and that other communities have come up with creative solutions such as rebates for people who buy used electric vehicles or rebates for low-to-moderate income households.

Summit County’s electric vehicle plans don’t exist in a vacuum, Hoover pointed out. She said the state has its own readiness and adoption goals, and Xcel energy has a host of programs it has proposed to offer in Colorado that will coincide with efforts from the conservation center and local governments.

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