Summit County man pushes for more electric vehicles, charging stations
Kim Fenske purchased his Chevrolet Volt to make a statement. He claims that since he bought the used electric vehicle hybrid a few years ago, he has not used gas for his daily commute to work at the Summit Stage.
“My purchase of the Volt was very political, in terms of a transition in society,” he said. “It’s a push because I’m kind of at the forefront of it right here.”
While he is not the only hybrid vehicle owner in Summit, he is one of the most vocal, pushing for more public and private access to charging stations. Currently, there are three charging stations in the county: A Level 2 electric vehicle charging station near Breckenridge’s Town Hall, one lot designated solely for Tesla Model S hybrids in Silverthorne, and one paid station in Frisco.
“It’s been a challenge because there’s no plug-in infrastructure for electric vehicles,” he added. “Drop into any of the car lots up here, and it’s all SUVs and pickup trucks.”
After weeks of negotiation with his condo complex, he is able to charge his car using an outlet near an unclaimed space. It takes his car about 10 hours to fully charge; just two hours of charging gives him about 20 miles of driving.
He has also requested that the county include a charging station in their master plan for updates to the Frisco Transit Center.
Summit County assistant manager Thad Noll acknowledged that, while hybrid and electric cars are cheaper over the long term in respect to fuel and maintenance costs, the demand is not there yet.
“It’s definitely cheaper; the problem is the operating range and the fear of running out of juice are the biggest roadblocks right now,” Noll said. “I think that’s the stumbling block right now because the price is becoming less and less of an obstacle for entry. It just doesn’t meet, yet, everybody’s needs for what they want a car to do.”
While the purchase of electric cars has increased in previous years, this year, the vehicles saw a dip statewide as gas prices plummeted.
“They’re less sought after right now,” Colorado Automobile Dealers Association president Tim Jackson said. “When the gas prices go up, the economy cars and alternative fuel vehicles tend to sell more.”
Jackson noted that the cars made up for less than three percent of total sales.
According to the association, in 2013, Coloradans bought 432 Chevy Volts, 408 Nissan Leafs and 178 Tesla Model S; last year, they bought 380 Chevy Volts, 503 Nissan Leafs and 172 Tesla Model S.
“I’m looking at getting one, but I’m going to wait until the longer-range vehicles are available,” he added.
Despite the slow traction of electric cars in Summit, Fenske still believes that hybrid vehicles will be the future. According to the Colorado Department of Energy, by 2030, 20 percent of vehicles will be plug-in electric or hybrid.
He noted the purchase was worthwhile in terms of mileage and gas savings. He estimates that his car gets about 200 miles per gallon (170 on below-zero days) and never carries more than three gallons of gas in his tank.
“In two months, I drove 2,000 miles. It cost me about $25 in gasoline and about $30 in electricity. That’s $55 for 2,000 miles,” he said.
According to the Colorado Department of Energy, a hybrid vehicle consumes two barrels of oil annually, whereas a Chevrolet Tahoe or SUV equivalent would consume 18 barrels of oil per year, 11 from foreign sources.
While the car’s battery packs need to be replaced every eight years or so, the electric motor wears more slowly than an average car.
“It’s like using an incandescent light compared to a compact fluorescent bulb,” Fenske said.
The lifetime cost of electric vehicles also dips below standard fuel vehicles, with the Colorado Department of Energy calculating the cumulative cost of a 2014 Toyota Prius at about $20,000 less than a Toyota Camry of the same year.
“However, cost savings was not the primary factor motivating my purchase of a Volt,” Fenske concluded. “I bought a Volt to demonstrate the viability of plug-in electric vehicles to encourage others to transition into a future of sustainable, renewable energy.”
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