0804electric03.1The buzz around town is that electric vehicles are gaining popularity. That’s a good sign, since driving an electric vehicle (EV) helps reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment for future generations. Boosting the EV trend, much-needed charging stations are springing up to power the vehicles.

In Longmont, drivers of electric vehicles are able to recharge their car batteries at four new public charging stations. The first station opened on May 24 at the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center with much fanfare, including a ribbon cutting ceremony.

“Longmont Power & Communications felt it was something we needed to do as the electric provider here,” says Mike Frailey, energy services specialist at LPC, the community owned, nonprofit electric and broadband utility that operates under the direction of Longmont City Council. “We had put some money in the budget this year to install some charging stations.” Then, a grant they received from the Regional Air Quality Council was applied to the cost of installing the stations.

“Electric vehicles are becoming more popular – we’re seeing them on the roads,” Frailey says. “Electric vehicles and plug-ins are a part of new-car sales. Around 2 ½ percent of the new vehicles are electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrid vehicles. In Colorado, by 2015, expect a range of 2.3 percent to 6.3 percent.

Of the four chargers LPC is installing, the one in the Longmont Museum parking lot, at 400 Quail Road, is an Efacec DC Fast Charger – also referred to as a Level 3 charger. It can deliver up to 400 volts direct current (DC) and is capable of recharging an electric vehicle in about 30 minutes.

In addition, three Level 2 charging stations with 240-volt alternating current  (AC) complete the mix. They are located at the Memorial Building, 700 Longs Peak Avenue; the City of Longmont Service Center, 1100 S. Sherman Street; and in the Longmont Downtown Development Authority 300 East parking lot between 3rd and 4th Avenues across from the Civic Center on Kimbark Street. These Level 2 stations can deliver up to a 7.2 kWh charge in about an hour.

“We really appreciate the donation of the Level 3 charger by the manufacturer Efacec, USA, and the grant we received,” Frailey says. “We did the chargers first. We have a plan to purchase two Nissan Leaf electric cars for the city’s fleet pool.” 

With the three Level 2 and one Level 3 stations, the City of Longmont accommodates local electric vehicle owners as well as those traveling along the Highway 287 corridor. All the stations are accessible to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

LPC installed the charging stations and owns and maintains the equipment. Electric vehicle drivers pay for a charging session by using either a mobile application or an 800 phone number with their credit card. The payment process and station monitoring are managed by EV Connect, a national provider of electric vehicle charging station services. It costs $3 for a charge session at the Level 3 “fast charge” station, and $1 per hour at the Level 2 stations.

For more information about charging station locations, operations or the payment process, call LPC at 303.651.8386 or go to www.ci.longmont.co.us/lpc.

Increasing renewable energy

“I think it’s the future,” says Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs. “It’s a progressive city. We have owned our own utility company for over 100 years; we have the cheapest electricity on the Front Range. We are the first city in Colorado to be rolling out our own broadband.”

Coombs says of the drivers charging their electric vehicles at the city’s stations, “They pay for the electric cost – it’s a fraction of what we pay for gasoline. The City of Longmont is not making a profit.” After taking a ride in a Tesla electric vehicle recently, he commented that in a few years from now other cars should reach Tesla’s range (265 miles) without needing a charge. “The battery technology has improved.”

How is the city generating the electricity to charge these cars at city stations? “Everybody is working toward using more solar and wind. We just bought 28 megawatts of wind. It’s a mix of renewables and non-renewables we’re using.”

Charging the car with electricity generated by traditional power plants using clean, renewable energy – like wind and solar – takes zero emission transportation a step further.

No charge for the charge

Valley Nissan in Longmont boasts three charging stations. General Sales Manager Jake Liborte says theirs are not Level 3. “With ours, if someone needs a complete charge, it takes eight hours; they are more like a machine made for home use.”

The dealership covers the expense of the electricity, so it’s not costing the car owners anything. And Valley doesn’t just offer the service to owners of the Leaf, Nissan’s electric car. “We also see Chevy Volts and Teslas in here charging,” Liborte says. “People who live nearby can leave it overnight.”

Valley Nissan is currently selling three or four Leafs a month, Liborte says. “We can improve; we need to get the inventory. It works best with two-car families, with one car for long trips. The Leaf does less than a 90-mile commute on one charge.”

He commends the city for offering the charging stations. “Driving an electric vehicle fills a void in our society, a means of transportation with no gas consumption. It’s for that unique buyer who can manage a change in their lifestyle.”

– By Judy Finman