County EV-readiness planning process launches

A working group of local transportation experts convened for the first time last week as part of a planning process designed to prepare Garfield County for an electric-vehicle future. 

The group aims to produce an EV readiness and action plan by the end of the year that will guide the county on how to manage the long-term transition to electric transportation, where to install charging stations, and how to take maximum advantage of funding opportunities.

There are good reasons to proactively plan an EV strategy, Clean Energy Economy for the Region transportation manager Martín Bonzi told attendees at the July 13 kickoff meeting in Glenwood Springs.

EVs now account for about 10% of new auto sales in Colorado, he noted, indicating a trend that can’t be ignored. Moreover, he said, both the federal government and the state of Colorado are actively promoting the transition with major funding for charging stations and with tax credits and rebates for EV purchases.

The EV planning process is a follow-up step to the countywide energy action plan adopted by Garfield Clean Energy last year. That plan set a goal of increasing the share of electric vehicles in the county to 15% by 2030 (currently at about 1%), and recommended several key strategies to achieve it. The EV readiness plan is intended to flesh those strategies out into action steps.

Garfield Clean Energy, Carbondale-based nonprofit CLEER and Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy facilitated last year’s energy plan process, and are similarly leading the follow-up EV study.

Participants at last week’s meeting focused on four areas that last year’s energy action plan identified as needing further study.

The question of how to support the transition to electric transportation with codes and policy received the keenest interest. The group strongly favored offering incentives to encourage developers to “do more than the bare minimum” in providing EV charging, simplifying permitting processes for EV charging infrastructure, and adopting building codes that prioritize EV-ready construction.

Other ideas that attracted strong support included targeting businesses with large fleets that could be electrified; working with major employers to build out workplace charging; ensuring that charging stations are well maintained; focusing public charging options on transit corridors; and educating the public about purchasing incentives.

The group plans to conduct focus groups and a public survey in the next two months. County residents who would like to participate in the process should contact Bonzi at mbonzi@cleanenergyeconomy.net.