Charging around the Vail Valley |

Charging around the Vail Valley

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail Dailyteve Hawkins drives his electric car, a Toyota RAV4, Tuesday on Interstate 70 in Vail, Colorado. Hawkins' car has devices that tell him his speeed, how much electric charge he has used, and the number of miles he has traveled.

VAIL, Colorado ” Sometimes hotel guests will hop into the Vail Mountain Haus’ courtesy car and sense that something is amiss.

“We’ll go five or 10 minutes in the car, and they’ll say, ‘I can’t quite say what it is, but there’s something different about this car,'” said Steve Hawkins, the lodge’s general manager.

The difference is that the Mountain Haus’ 2002 Toyota Rav4 is an all-electric vehicle, meaning that it runs completely on batteries, and recharges at three different charging sites around town.

The charging stations, sponsored by the hotel and Holy Cross Energy, are easy to miss. One, also sponsored by the town of Vail, is located at the Vail Transportation Center, another is at the door of the Mountain Haus in Vail Village and the third is at Costco in Gypsum. A box no bigger than a pay-to-park box holds the charger ” a small, smooth paddle.

A flap on the grille of the car opens, the paddle goes in, and a couple hours later, the car is ready to go 130 miles before the next charge.

The charging stations are also available free of charge to the public and other electric vehicles.

You might not even notice the car is different from the outside ” it looks just like any other mid-sized SUV and shoots up a hill with more power than the average car its size.

When running, it’s strangely quiet. Without the revving of an engine, the only sound s a faint whirring from the battery pack under the car.

“Life is no different than in a normal car,” Hawkins said. “People think electric cars are so slow, but that’s just not true.”

The car tops out at 78 mph, and can recharge while coasting. About 10 seconds in a coasting or downhill mode will put about 5 more minutes of power on the car.

Hawkins, who has three electric cars of his own, said he hopes to see more electric cars around the valley. The mountains are ideal for the cars ” undulating terrain helps the car charge, and people drive relatively shorter distances to get around, he said.

The car also makes a great impression for green-minded guests, and is a great way for staff to run errands and for guests to get around town, Hawkins said.

“Guests are just amazed,” he said. “They love the convenience. The concierge also uses it for errands around town, and it’s a comfortable, efficient way to get around.”

Besides being a zero-emissions vehicle, the car has saved the lodge on gas costs, Hawkins said.

The energy cost to drive the car comes out to about a penny per mile.

The cars tend to cost more than the average vehicle because the cars are no longer manufactured and exist in limited numbers. Also, a new charging station costs $5,000 to set up, but Hawkins said the hotel has already seen savings.

By saving on the 50 cents or so a mile in gas reimbursements, the hotel already has made up for the cost to lease the car for a year.

It’s nice never to have to go to a gas station, Hawkins said.

“At the height of the gasoline craze when it was more than $4 per gallon, I didn’t even really know how much gas was costing because I wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “These cars are just great. The question is, why wouldn’t you want one?”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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