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EV Rally drivers say “Now is the time”

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Sopris Sun Staff Report

A finish line celebration held on Oct. 3 in Carbondale wrapped up the Electric Vehicle Rally of the Rockies, proving that electric vehicles are a viable way to travel in western Colorado.

Eight drivers traveled from Grand Junction, Vail, Aspen and Snowmass Village to a finish line party in Carbondale. They stopped along the way to use free public charging facilities in Parachute, Glenwood Springs and Basalt, and arrived on Main Street in Carbondale in a horn-honking convoy.

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As the rally assembled at the Colorado Mountain College Lappala Center, more than a dozen electric vehicles lined up in the parking lot, including the Chevy Volt, Ford Focus, Ford C-Max and Nissan Leaf. Drivers immediately plugged in to the Lappala Center’s dual-plug public EV charge station.

“Just to see all these cars is outstanding,” said Carbondale Trustee Allyn Harvey, one of a half-dozen speakers celebrating the rally. Harvey also chairs the board of Garfield Clean Energy, which hosted this first-ever EV Rally on the Western Slope along with CLEER: Clean Energy Economy for the Region.

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The event was sponsored by Colorado Mountain College, Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Vail and Grand Junction, as well as Fuoco Motor Co. of Grand Junction, Mountain Chevrolet of Glenwood Springs, and Alpine Bank.

Harvey noted that with the widespread public charging stations, “You can buy one of these cars, and in the Roaring Fork Valley you’d never need to buy gas.”

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Driver Mike Ogburn, an energy engineer with CLEER, noted that the area had just a few public-access EV charge stations a couple of years ago.

“Now we’re looking at 60 to 65 plugs available,” he said. While most EV drivers recharge their vehicles at home, the growing network of public charging stations make longer-distance travel possible, Ogburn added.

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Driver Adrian Fielder of Carbondale, a Colorado Mountain College faculty member who piloted his family’s Nissan Leaf to Vail and back for the rally, noted that CMC is in the process of installing public charging stations at all its campuses.

“We’re getting these strategically out across the region so people can do eco-tourism,” he said.

Greg Rucks, transportation program manager for Rocky Mountain Institute, rode along on the Aspen-Basalt-Carbondale leg of the rally. He noted that vehicles are responsible for about 30 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can transform that by dramatically up scaling the use of alternative fuel vehicles,” Rucks said.

“Electric vehicles offer a viable option,” Rucks continued, and they offer a high quality drive experience that will be attractive to people looking for a less-polluting means of transportation.

Ogburn said a wide variety of plug-in vehicles now on the market are also eligible for state and federal tax credits, which can offset the purchase price by $4,000 to $13,000.

“Colorado has some of the best incentives in the nation. Now is the time to buy,” he said.

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