Routt County could add two electric vehicles, e-bike to fleet in 2023

Fleet electrification expected to be a long process as adequate technology develops

Routt County could add two electric vehicles and and e-bike next year, the first steps in a long process toward fleet electrification. The city of Steamboat Springs purchased its first fully electric vehicle this summer.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy photo

Routt County is considering purchasing two electric vehicles and an e-bike next year in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the county’s fleet.

The Routt County Assessor’s Office and the Road and Bridge Department would use the two vehicles to replace a 2009 SUV and a 2013 truck that have reached the end of their use for the county. The e-bike would be used by the Building Department for inspections and meetings within Steamboat Springs.

If commissioners approve the purchases, it would be an important step in what is expected to be a long transition toward electrification.

“The county is really looking at what we can do with electrification,” said County Manager Jay Harrington. “But it’s going to be a while to get there.”

Steamboat Springs added its first electric vehicle this summer, which followed the addition of charging stations at the rodeo grounds parking lot.

Before the county can start using electric vehicles, it needs to add charging stations as well, and two more are planned for the parking lot at the county’s new Health and Human Services building.

Another two chargers are slated for Road and Bridge’s Steamboat shop, where most of the fleet is kept, assuming that grant funding through the Colorado Energy Office’s Charge Ahead program comes through next year.

But the biggest holdup in electrification might be the technology that’s currently available, or a lack thereof.

While Aspen’s Police Department bought five Teslas last fall to test out as patrol vehicles, Harrington said electric vehicles still lack the range required for a sheriff’s office vehicle because deputies can drive hundreds of miles in a single shift. There also aren’t adequate replacements for larger vehicles such as diesel trucks or motor graders, which account for most of the county’s fuel consumption.  

In April, Public Works Director Mike Mordi estimated that just a dozen of the nearly 100 vehicles in the county’s fleet could be converted to electric with the existing technology.

Even the Ford F150 Lightning that Mordi proposed to purchase for the Road and Bridge Department next year is something that only became recently available in a fleet option, which lacks many of the high-end features that push the price of some 2022 Lightning’s over $90,000.

While that truck is included in Mordi’s 2023 budget request, Harrington said that it still probably wouldn’t arrive next year.

“The problem with the pickup is, right now, it’s an 18- to 24-month lead time,” Harrington said.

For most of the county vehicles where there isn’t a suitable electric replacement option available, the current combustion-power vehicle doesn’t have enough miles to meet county replacement requirements. In fact, Mordi said the Planning Department drives a 1998 Ford Explorer because it “still runs great” and only has about 70,000 miles, which is short of the county’s 110,000-mile replacement mark.

Still, Mordi said he is committed to starting the electrification process, and he even included a few thousand in his budget request to get one of his mechanics some additional training to work on electric vehicles.

Building Official Todd Carr said that if possible, he wants the department to lead the county when it comes to electrification, as his staff often drives to the far reaches of the county for building inspections.

“It’s our goal in the Building Department, as many miles as we put on these vehicles, that in the future when the county is prepared and ready to go with electric vehicles, I’d love to be the leader of the county,” Carr said. “We could auction off our current gas fleet and go all-electric whenever we’re ready and prepared as a county.”

Harrington said complete electrification of Building Department’s trucks isn’t imminent, and the e-bike would be a first step.

If purchased, it would be the first e-bike the county has bought, and Carr said it has required him to do a bit of research. He estimated the e-bike would cost $4,500 including safety equipment like helmets and reflective vests, as well custom bags to hold items inspectors use daily like a computer and hardhat.

The bike would largely be used within Steamboat, but Carr said there are instances where he could see it going out into the county as well.

“I think it helps lower the carbon emissions; we’d be using less gas in our vehicles,” Carr said. “It’s not a huge item of expense.”

The vehicle purchases were proposed to commissioners last month as each department made a budget presentation, but none have yet been approved. Commissioners are expected to pass the final budget before the end of the year.

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