Eagle County’s electric car charging network is growing
Edwards Station the latest to install a fast charging station
Steve Hawkins used to have a gas-powered car for long trips. That ended several years ago. Now, Hawkins goes anywhere he wants in his Tesla.
Hawkins, the general manager of the Vail Mountain Haus condos, is a longtime electric vehicle enthusiast. In 2012, he bought one of the first Tesla Model S sedans in Eagle County. He still owns it, and the car has about 220,000 miles on the odometer.
As more full-battery cars are sold, and more commercial and municipal fleets switch to electric power, there’s a growing need for infrastructure.
Edwards Station, which sits on the southeast side of the Interstate 70 interchange in Edwards, recently took a deep dive into electric vehicle charging.
Working with Tesla, Electrify America, Holy Cross Energy and others, the station recently opened a set of eight Tesla Superchargers. Another four Electrify America chargers — which can work on any non-Tesla electric car — will open soon.
Paul Golden of East West Partners, which owns the station’s property, said seeking out charging vendors was a fast education.
Golden said East West co-founder Harry Frampton came to him earlier this year and asked him to start doing research on electric vehicle chargers. After evaluating several companies, Golden settled on Tesla and Electrify America.
Deals were negotiated, along with cooperation from Holy Cross Energy and Eagle County, and work began in the summer.
Clearing a bottleneck
Golden praised Holy Cross for its work on the project. The Tesla chargers were supposed to open Sept. 1. When the project lagged, Golden said Holy Cross CEO Bryan Hannegan made a couple of calls. Within a day or two, a two-person crew became a six-person crew, and the deadline was met.
Golden said speed was one of the biggest must-have items in installing the chargers.
Even a “level 2” charger can take hours to put a decent amount of range into a car. Fast chargers cut that time down to minutes.
“We wanted chargers that will charge in 20 or 30 minutes,” Golden said.
While slower chargers can work well at a home or office, where a user will be parked for several hours, people using public chargers want to get their electricity and be on their way.
Hawkins said when he travels, he can stop for a bathroom break, grab a drink, a snack or a meal and be on his way.
Colorado Automobile Dealers Association President Tim Jackson said he’s had the same experience this year. Jackson now drives a Ford Mustang Mach-E, an electric family car. He’s put roughly 9,000 miles on the vehicles since February, and has found charging easy and convenient everywhere he’s gone in the state, from the eastern plains to the Western Slope.
Jackson said he was able to charge from 20% to 80% in roughly 40 minutes at an Electrify America station in Glenwood Springs.
And those stations are starting to get more use.
Full electric vehicles made up about 4.2% of the state’s auto market in the first half of this year. That’s a small number, but those sales are roughly double the percentage of electric vehicle sales in the first half of 2020.
“We’re seeing an expansion of charging,” Jackson said. “The state is emphasizing it.”
At Holy Cross Energy, Mike Steiner said that utility is installing more charging stations all the time. Many are for home use. But Steiner said Holy Cross is also installing a number of “big boy” fast chargers for public and local government use.
“It’s evolved so quickly in terms of charging; we’re working with our membership to find the right applications (for users),” Steiner said.
Steiner said there are a number of level 2 stations around Eagle County. But there are fast chargers at the Eagle County Regional Airport and other locations.
A shift toward electric buses and transit vehicles also has Steiner excited. And that infrastructure will be needed as more and more manufacturers build more and more electric vehicles. General Motors plans to produce nothing but battery-electric vehicles by 2035.
“It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing,” Steiner said. “We need charging infrastructure to support all these new vehicles.”
Complicating matters locally is the environment. Severe cold can affect battery capacity. In addition, heavy loads in buses or trucks can also reduce range.
Hawkins noted that speed and steep climbs can also affect range. But, he added, he’s able to drive from Vail to Green River, Utah, on one charge.
But more electric vehicles could also help Holy Cross in its efforts to rely entirely on clean energy by 2030.
Steiner said he thinks Holy Cross can get to 70 or 80% of that goal in just a few years. Battery vehicles — such as the almost-ready Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup — that can put electricity into a home can help get to that 100% goal, Steiner said.
Those vehicles can use their batteries as assets to the grid, Steiner said, with Holy Cross compensating users to give the utility control of those batteries.
There will likely be a number of Holy Cross users able to make that step in the fairly near future, Steiner said.
“We predict that by 2030 or sooner, one in four (users) in our service territory will own an electric vehicle,” Steiner added.
Providing an adequate power supply will take work, and help from partners. Steiner noted that Eagle County has been a “huge” partner in those efforts, as have several area towns.
“We’re fortunate to have (those) partners — they do so much,” Steiner said.
Golden said he also appreciates the partnerships that made the Edwards charging station work. Golden said he was told by Tesla representatives that local utilities often have a hard time meeting commitments for charging stations. That hasn’t been the case here, he added.
“It’s been fun working with these guys,” Golden said, referring to both Holy Cross and the charge station vendors. “They’re all believers.”
$16: Approximate cost of an electric “fill up.”
8: Tesla Supercharger stations now open at Edwards Station.
4: Electrify America fast-charge stations open soon at Edwards Station.
260 miles: Ford’s advertised range for its new Mustang Mach-e car.