The United States is 93% reliant on oil for transportation needs, leading to a variety of risks including environmental issues, national security issues, and economic security issues. Electric vehicles (EVs) represent the best scalable opportunity for widespread adoption of alternative transportation. Because electricity is generated by a diverse set of primarily domestic energy sources, its price has historically been more stable than fuel sources for conventional vehicles. As a result of this, fuel costs for an electric vehicle can be significantly lower than the average gasoline-powered vehicle. The city of Loveland sees the costs savings of electric vehicles as just one of the immensely important reasons for continuing its involvement in Drive Electric Northern Colorado.
Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC) is working to create a replicable and scalable model for EV deployment with the intent to increase widespread adoption of EVs around the United States. The city of Loveland partnered with the Electrification Coalition, the City of Fort Collins, and Colorado State University to launch Drive Electric Northern Colorado in February 2013.
Through this partnership Loveland has worked rigorously to provide the necessary elements for widespread plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) use and deployment around the Northern Colorado region.
DENC is a regional collaboration that is developing, testing, and implementing multiple innovative programs that help create a model for driving EV adoption. The program elements include education, outreach and marketing efforts targeting businesses and consumers alike, among other targeted programs. Loveland is a core-planning partner in DENC, helping to develop and implement programs that influence EV adoption by connecting to consumers and prominent area businesses in Loveland. To achieve the program goal of widespread EV deployment, DENC integrates a strong tracking and analytic component to each aspect of its work including outreach and education, events, and infrastructure development. This model has a high likelihood of substantially increasing EV adoption not only in Colorado, but also across the United States for its ability to be easily replicated in other jurisdictions.
The Electrification Coalition selected Northern Colorado for the first replicable/scalable EV deployment community in the United States because Loveland features a host of the qualities necessary for a successful deployment community including: active, engaging city utility and high available tax credits for the purchase of an EV. DENC launched in February 2013 as a partnership between the Electrification Coalition, City of Loveland, City of Fort Collins, and Colorado State University. With support from Loveland and Fort Collins mayors, executives at Colorado State University, and the Electrification Coalition board, the program launched with the first DC Quick Charge station in Colorado.
DENC is innovative in its programmatic design to be a replicable model for EV deployment with a goal to be used and implemented by communities around the country. For this reason the program has utilized a strong analytic component to each aspect of its work throughout the region. DENC is developing programs to track charging station utilization to understand how chargers are used at various locations, which will help DENC to refine future charging installations. It is also tracking overall vehicle sales in the region compared to national adoption rates, and historic adoption of traditional hybrids as an indicator of likely adoption for EVs.
Additionally, it created an innovative model to integrate existing EV owners into marketing efforts that puts them at the forefront of EV acceleration efforts. The data gathered from EV owners includes information about EV ownership and driving habits, which constructs the baseline data for the program and current tracking components. DENC also currently tracks consumer sentiment of EVs before and after each driving experience. This data serves as indicators of success for the program and helps to identify potential adopters.
We installed charging stations at four locations for public use and at one location for city fleet vehicles; the total cost of installation was $38,157 for public locations and $9,910 for fleet locations. Grant funding was used to help fund the installation and the overall cost to the city was 15,776 for public locations and 3,650 for fleet locations. The City of Loveland did not encounter any savings with regards to the installation of the charging stations and did not use a private consultant for the project. However, private contractors were used to help with the installation process.
This process did not come without some struggles. The largest obstacle that was encountered at the City of Loveland related back to the purchasing of new, untested equipment to be used in the field. We purchased dual head charging stations that were developed in a lab environment and were not ready for production at the time of installation. This lead to many implementation problems including integrating installation, use of credit card chargers and receiving charge from the charging station. We were able to resolve these problems by working with the manufacture to update the firmware and even replacing some of the charging stations that appeared to be malfunctioning. Today we are still monitoring the charging stations for proper operation; however, we have issues with utilization of the charging stations in the public and internally for city owned vehicles. We feel that the true issue is related to training of both the general public and city employees as to how to operate the charging stations since different manufactures use different procedures.
The DENC model was designed to be replicated by other communities, and the city of Loveland has not yet been notified of another program that combines the innovative elements that are seamlessly combined in DENC such as outreach, education and marketing, infrastructure development, fleet transition, and pipeline of available vehicles. The program has already featured numerous case studies that are publicly available for other communities to begin learning about the deployment community model.
DENC has developed the program through various sections of work that will be easily replicated by other communities. The first is outreach, education, and marketing, which focuses on reaching businesses and consumers throughout the region through a comprehensive platform of communication and events related to EV education. A second is infrastructure development, where DENC helps to install, educate, and track usage of public and privately available charging infrastructure. DENC also works with companies and organizations throughout the region to educate about EV fleets and the numerous benefits that coincide with driving electric. At the national level DENC works with the product pipeline to ensure that there is a variety of available EV models in the region to account for the growing interest and demand in the vehicles.
In conclusion, this program has several outcomes. In February 2013 when the DENC program launched, there was only one charging station in Northern Colorado. After 18 months there are over 20 charging stations in the region. Additionally, electric vehicle sales in the region are 42% higher than the national average. DENC is also working with the State of Colorado to capture high-resolutions data on a monthly basis to better understand where EVs are being registered, which will help DENC understand where best to target outreach and education efforts to further drive adoption. DENC hosts several events monthly to get locals behind the wheel of an EV, resulting in over 800 people driving an EV, many for the first time. At these events DENC fields surveys to measure changes in public perception of EVs. Through these surveys DENC has learned that 88% of participants had never driven an electric vehicle before a DENC ride-and-drive event. Also the number of people claiming they would be “very likely” to purchase or lease an electric vehicle increased from 21% to 40%. Participants who stated they were “unlikely” or “very unlikely” decreased after test-driving an EV. DENC is also tracking and analyzing charging station utilization to help refine future station installations.
This article is adapted from a TLG 2015 Case Study submittal. You can see Loveland’s presentation at TLG 2015 conference April 13 – 15 in Phoenix, AZ. Visit http://tlgconference.org/ for more information.