The popularity of electric vehicles is increasing, and so are their numbers in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Carbondale nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region partnered with Loveland-based electric vehicle manufacturer Lightning e-Motors on Friday to showcase two different models of commercial electric fleet vehicles for local organizations and members of the public to peruse and test drive. The purpose of the event was to give organizations interested in purchasing electric vehicle fleets an opportunity to see the vehicles up close, CLEER Transportation Program Manager Stefan Johnson said.
“There’s a lot of tentative interest and excitement around electric vehicles, and we’re starting to see electric vehicles on the road and in the news more and more,” Johnson said. “Within that, there’s also some really great new options on the market in terms of fleets. Lightning e-Motors specializes in that sweet spot of commercial-sized vehicles for fleets.”
The two models available for test driving on Friday were based on an OEM Ford platform and redesigned to feel as similar to an internal-combustion vehicle as possible while running solely on battery power. The vehicles — one was a seven-passenger van and the other was a minibus — can drive about 40 miles in one-half hour before needing to be recharged. They were also programmed with a “hill hold” feature to keep them from rolling backwards when uphill, and a “creep” feature to allow the driver to take the foot off the brake and inch the vehicles forward without accelerating.
These features make the vehicle feel more like a familiar, internal-combustion vehicle, Lightning e-Motors Engineer Andris Delins said.
“For the driver and operator, typically they don’t necessarily want to know that it’s an [electric vehicle], they just want to do their job,” he said. “Except for making it a little bit more modern, there’s no big difference between this and an internal-combustion vehicle on the surface level.”
The vehicles at the event would most likely be used by resorts or hotels as shuttles around town or to the airport, Delins said. The distance between downtown Aspen and the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is about four miles, and Delins said these vehicles could make the round trip nine to 10 times in one day before needing to be recharged.
Organizations represented at the event included the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the town of Snowmass Village, Aspen Skiing Co., the Aspen School District, Aspen Country Day School, Holy Cross Energy and the city of Aspen. The city already owns a small fleet of electric vehicles and operates 12 charging stations in town.
Some of the city’s goals include adding more vehicles to that fleet and increasing the number of charging stations to between 35 and 45 by the year 2025, Climate Action Manager Ashley Perl said. The city also sponsored Friday’s event and supports CLEER’s efforts to promote clean energy.
Perl added that one of the city council’s top three goals for the year is greenhouse-gas reduction, which will be a continuing conversation between council and city staff throughout the year. Electrifying a fleet of vehicles is part of that goal.
“The electric vehicle strategy has many moving pieces,” Perl said. “We’re very focused on two: supporting the public through the expansion of the charging network, and supporting the city in getting more vehicles in the fleet for the coming year.”