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Plug in to the Electric Vehicle Rally of The Rockies

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Denise Barkhurst

Sopris Sun Correspondent

On Oct. 3, prepare yourself to spot electric vehicles (EV’s for short) cruising the I-70 corridor. The cars will be marked with placards noting the Electric Vehicle Rally of The Rockies and the drivers are encouraged to wear costumes, expanding on the fun factor for the affair. The event — hosted by Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER, Colorado Mountain College, CORE and the city of Aspen — is drawing attention to the availability of EV charging stations from Grand Junction to Vail. The idea is to promote EV tourism in the central Colorado Rockies.

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The lead organizer of this event is CLEER’s Matt Shmigelsky. Assisted by Heather McGregor and joined by a variety of folks enthused to show off the power of clean energy cars, they have mapped out a plan for a three-legged rally. Cars will start in Vail, Aspen and Grand Junction. Each leg will host media events as drivers stop to charge in towns along the way, eventually meeting up in Carbondale in time for First Friday celebrations where the cars will be available for viewing. Folks will also be encouraged to enjoy refreshments and view demonstrations and get information about the various models on display.

All electric vehicles have an approximate range of 100 miles and are therefore generally used as commuter vehicles. However, with charging stations in the towns of Grand Junction, Parachute, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Aspen and Vail, it is easily viable for the I-70 corridor to gain tourism dollars from folks in EV’s wishing to explore our rural beauty.

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State grants have also provided charging stations at Colorado Mountain College’s Central Services office in downtown Glenwood Springs, as well as the Steamboat Springs, Breckinridge, Leadville, Carbondale and Rifle campuses.

In 2013, the federal Department of Energy Clean Cities Program funded a paid internship that was hosted by CLEER. The task was to develop an EV charging infrastructure on the Western Slope. Last fall, CMC sustainability graduate Rob Morrison was awarded the internship. CMC sustainability student Zack Sutherland then followed him in the role.

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According to Adrian Fielder, site administrator of CMC’s Lappala Center, a panel was formed “to promote an open-minded science and ethics-based dialogue.” Mike Ogburn, an energy engineer with CLEER, joined Sutherland, Fielder and electric car owner Craig Farnum in the presentation at last April’s CMC Sustainability Conference. The presentation successfully secured CMC’s participation in the infrastructure plan and the enthusiasm for this community partnership.

The rally will also include hybrid vehicles, such as the Ford CMax Energi, that use a combination of electricity and gas. These vehicles generally run 25 miles on pure electricity before needing to use the gasoline/electricity combination.

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Next steps:

Next week The Sopris Sun will provide a map and details of the rally, including drivers and vehicle models, as well as locations of charging stations on the Western Slope. So stay tuned and plug in!

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