Summit County commissioners consider going electric

At its Sept. 22 meeting, the Summit Board of County Commissioners will vote on a resolution to make all of the county’s vehicles electric like this demonstration model in Breckenridge in 2018.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily archives

KEYSTONE — Even in a pandemic, Summit County is working toward completing its green-energy goals.

At a work session meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, the Summit Board of County Commissioners heard updates on the county’s efforts to expand its electric vehicle fleet.

Danny Katz, state director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, presented on the state’s effort to move to 100% electric or zero-emission vehicles by 2050. The commissioners will be voting on a resolution to adopt zero-emission and electric vehicles in the county’s fleet at the next regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22. 

In 2018, the county signed onto the Ready for 100 campaign, which set the goal of getting Colorado to entirely carbon-free and renewable energy by 2050. In 2019, the county also signed onto the GoEV campaign, a collaboration between Conservation Colorado, Clean Energy Economy for the Region, the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, the Sierra Club and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. 

The GoEV campaign urges cities and counties to push toward going electric. 

“I think we all know how critical it is that we tackle climate change,” Katz said. “When it comes to transportation, which is now our No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, one of the critical ways to do that is electrification.” 

In the next year, the county will be creating an action plan for switching to electric cars and developing the infrastructure to support those cars. 

While the initial steps in the GoEV plan are to use electric cars for county-run vehicles, ultimately the goal is to have everyone in Summit County drive an electric car, Katz said. 

“We think this is going to help boost the (electric vehicle) supply,” he said. “It sends a market signal to manufacturers. The more they’re seeing cities and counties making these bold commitments the more confident they will be that they should be … getting into SUVs, they need to be producing the trucks, the other things that are going to build out and round out the fleet.” 

If approved by commissioners, the county’s resolution would be another step toward completing its Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030.

Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Michael Wurzel said that while moving to electric will ultimately save the county money, it will be an expensive endeavor initially. 

“To make the transition to (electric vehicles), there’s going to be some upfront costs, i.e. the cars themselves,” Wurzel said. “It’s going to be more expensive up front than an internal combustion engine vehicle. However, we’re going to decide whether we’re willing to make that infrastructure investment.”

While the cost is significant, it will ultimately be a one-time payment to transition the county to use electric vehicles. 

“As we add electric vehicles to our fleet, we also have to add chargers to all those vehicles,” Public Works Director Tom Gosiorowski said. “It’s going to be a pretty significant investment to charging infrastructure. The upside to that is that that’s a one-time thing. We have to maintain those over time, but there’s a big bite at the beginning.” 

The plan to move to electric will be among many topics of discussion when the county votes on its 2021-22 budget later this year. 

“I really want to support this and get the commitment going only because we’re going to have competing priorities in our budget coming up and some potential unknowns of how our budget will look,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “If we have a roadmap of maybe what some of this will start costing, I think it will help us as we make budget decisions.”

Commissioner Thomas Davidson said it would be important for the new vehicles to be able to handle winter weather.

“I would caution us a little bit as we change this fleet to think about the fact that so many of our employees are accustomed to all-wheel drive,” he said. “We just have to really calculate how many vehicles we would be putting people into on a really snowy day in the winter with just front drive and snow tires and whether that’s really going to work or not.”

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