Town of Vail commits to electrifying vehicles |

Town of Vail commits to electrifying vehicles

‘GoEV City’ effort aims to ‘decarbonize’ vehicle fleet

A brace of new Tesla Superchargers in Edwards is part of an expanding charging network across the state.
Daily file photo

The town of Vail has committed to switching completely to zero-emission transportation. The Vail Town Council on Tuesday passed a resolution to become a “GoEV City,” a national group that includes eight other local governments. The town of Breckenridge is poised to join that group soon.

The council at its Tuesday afternoon meeting heard a presentation from Vail Director of Environmental Sustainability Kristen Bertuglia and Stefan Johnson, the transportation program manager for Clean Energy Economy for the Region, a regional group.

The effort in Vail is to help literally clear the air. Transportation is the largest contributor to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. In Vail, transportation is the second-biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Commercial buildings are the biggest contributors.

The Eagle County Climate Action Plan, of which Vail is a signatory, calls for a 25% greenhouse gas reduction by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Electrifying a big part of the valley’s vehicle fleet is a key part of meeting those goals.

A quick switch

That’s going to mean a fairly sudden switch to electric and other zero-emission vehicles.

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Electric vehicles currently make up about 2% of vehicles registered in the county. The 2020 update of the Climate Action Plan calls for increasing those registrations by at least 2% per year.

That’s going to require a lot of new electric vehicle sales.

Johnson said Colorado now has more than 40,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on the roads now. The 2030 target is to have 940,000 of those vehicles in use.

Bertuglia told council members that Vail is working now to transition all of its vehicle fleets to zero-emission vehicles. That starts with the town’s bus fleet and, importantly, charging infrastructure.

Charging is going to be a critical element of putting more electric vehicles on the road.

Vail Town Council member Brian Stockmar owns a Tesla electric sedan. Stockmar noted that it’s now difficult to find compatibility across charging platforms.

“If you’re driving an electric vehicle, you really have to plan where to charge,” Stockmar said, adding he’d love to see infrastructure get to the point where an electric vehicle owner can charge up virtually anywhere.

Johnson said most auto companies are moving to a single standard for fast charging, adding that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk recently announced on Twitter that his firm would soon open its SuperCharger network to other manufacturers.

The valley this year has added a fast-charge station in Edwards for Teslas and other brands. Vail is also bolstering the number of fast chargers in town.

Access, and speed

Stockmar added that speed is just as important as access to chargers. A battery fill should take as little time as a gas fill-up, he said.

“I think we’ll get there,” Stockmar said, adding that we aren’t to that point yet.

In addition to passenger vehicles, converting municipal fleets takes more than just buying battery-powered buses.

Vail has recently received state and federal funding for both the purchase and charging infrastructure for town buses. The town was recently awarded $2.3 million from the Colorado Department of Transportation for four of the six additional electric buses expected to be delivered in 2023. That state money comes from a large federal settlement with Volkswagen over an emissions-cheating case.

While electric vehicles have higher base prices than conventional vehicles, they tend to be less expensive to own and operate. There are a number of state and federal tax credits available, and 200 miles’ worth of electricity costs less than an equivalent amount of fossil fuel.

Johnson noted that there are now some rebates available for purchasing used electric vehicles.

Johnson acknowledged that transportation is a hard area to “decarbonize.”

But, he added, “If we’re to meet our climate goals, on-road transportation must be de-carbonized.”

Other participants

Vail has joined eight other local governments in Colorado as GoEV City participants. The others are:

Boulder County

City and County of Denver

Town of Avon

City of Boulder

Summit County

City of Golden

City of Fort Collins

City of Longmont

Breckenridge is expected to soon become a GoEV City.

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