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September 4, 2015
As mayor of Fort Collins, I’m fortunate to get some unique opportunities – like test driving an electric vehicle. In this case, if you’ve got a driver’s license, you’re at least 18 and you live in Northern Colorado, you too can test drive 10 plug-in electric models – all with the same great acceleration – through Drive Electric Northern Colorado.
I decided to test drive an electric vehicle for a couple of days just to take the mystique out of it. It’s easy and a bigger part of our community fabric than people realize.
The city is a founding member of Drive Electric Northern Colorado, a partnership with the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado State University, the Electrification Coalition and local automobile dealerships that is designed to accelerate the number of plug-in electric vehicles on the road. This year, the city joined 14 other Northern Colorado employers and more than 175 employers nationally to take on an Electric Vehicle Workplace Charging Challenge, Why? Because city leadership and employees can be advocates and owners of EVs when they are informed and knowledgeable.
Driving more EVs can help reduce our petroleum usage and save money because they cost less to operate. The city aims to get 200 city employees to test drive an EV in 2015. By encouraging our employees to test drive or purchase these vehicles, we can address barriers and opportunities that community residents face as we consider the city’s role in EV infrastructure and the innovation economy. With Fort Collins at the forefront of clean-energy technology invention, we have a responsibility to demonstrate what’s possible and troubleshoot challenges. Our charge – if you’ll forgive the pun – is to create a results-oriented, stewardship-based program while being innovative, creative and collaborative. We also support automobile dealers in our community that are participating in the program.
Drive Electric gave me the chance to try any number of plug-in vehicles. I chose the BMW i3 as one of the newest EVs to hit the market and because it was electrically driven. The car was a pleasure to drive; it probably satisfied 80 percent of my driving needs, and charging the car at home was no more difficult than charging my phone at night. Finding charging stations around the community was less difficult than I expected and easier to fit into my routine. Not all charging stations are created equal, since different levels charge at different speeds. Some are free and some cost a small fee.
My favorite part of driving the vehicle was the regenerative braking, which means that I lifted my foot off the accelerator and braking power was automatically provided during deceleration. A lot of times I wouldn’t need to touch the brake. The energy that was saved in this process then was directed back into the battery to extend its driving range.
It’s this kind of experimentation that helps us better utilize our energy system resources and how electric vehicles can play a bigger part. We all benefit from flattening the electric load curve and potentially using the energy storage of EVs. This is exactly the kind of innovation that is being explored more thoroughly with FortZED, a partnership of the city, CSU and the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster that pioneers innovative technologies to better utilize and manage our energy consumption.
On the consumer level, you can get involved with FortZED merely by monitoring and managing your own energy usage. As a Fort Collins electric customer, you can monitor your own energy use by accessing your account at www.fcgov.com/utilities. While you are at it, FortZED is sponsoring the Lose-A-Watt campaign to reduce residential energy consumption over the next two years as part of the city’s participation in the Georgetown University Energy Prize. Fort Collins is one of 50 communities competing for the $5 million prize, with the winner announced in 2017.
The bottom line with electric vehicles is that they’re fun to drive and worth checking out. I think it’s really important that city leadership set the example to introduce the community to the possibilities of driving an electric vehicle.
So how can you get involved and drive an EV? Attend a DENC EV event to test drive an EV or learn about how you can get your workplace involved. Now is an excellent time to find events because Fort Collins’ Drive Electric Week celebration is coming up in September. Visit DriveElectricNoCo.Org/DEW to learn more.
Wade Troxell is mayor of Fort Collins.