State energy grants open up new avenues for electric vehicle owners in Steamboat Springs

Tom Ross

— Steamboat Springs might be on the frontier of electric vehicle use due to its geographic location, but new public EV (electric vehicle) charge points are coming to town.

The city of Steamboat, Colorado Energy Office and Yampa Valley Electric Association are collaborating on a new charge point in the city’s parking lot at the corner of 10th Street and Lincoln Avenue across 10th from Bob’s Conoco. It would accommodate two cars at a time and become part of a string of charge points linking back to Denver via Kremmling and Winter Park.

And already, a resort lodging company has quietly opened one EV charge point at the mountain area, with plans to build a second as soon as July.

Most electric car owners can recharge their Leaf or Volt by plugging their vehicles into standard 120-volt electrical outlets provided they are able to wait 10 to 22 hours for a charge good for 38 to 84 miles of travel with the latest models. But the new charge points opening up in Steamboat are the faster, “level two” chargers. And they will be available to the public at no charge.

Own a Volt, or Leaf or maybe a Ford Focus — or even a Tesla Roadster? You have increasing options in Steamboat.

City Facilities Manager Steve Hoots said Monday the new equipment could arrive as soon as next week, but the date when EV owners get to plug in is a little further away — concrete must be poured as a platform for the charger.

YVEA Communications Manager Tammi McKenzie confirmed that when the charger is ready, her organization will hook it up and make it live at no charge.

However, there’s already a little known charge point available in an underground parking lot off Pine Grove Road.

Alison Wickerham, resort manager for Wyndham’s Village at Steamboat, confirmed this month that her company applied for a grant from the Colorado Energy Office that helped them install a level two plug in the underground parking beneath condominium building six, and they plan to apply for a second charging station to be installed under a different building in the Village.

“Anyone is able to use it for two or three hours free of charge,” Wickerham said. “Just go to the clubhouse and ask for the key pass. We do ask consideration for other people. This was driven by our owners. We do have guests coming and asking for this. We do think it’s a good thing, and our staff has a passion for greening.”

The city’s new charging station in the heart of the downtown retail and restaurant district will also be free of charge for at least the first three years. The city will limit charging time to four hours.

The designation “level two” implies that the charge point makes use of a 240-volt plug-in like people have at home on their electric ovens and clothes dryers. The Web page Plug in America reports that level two charging times vary from vehicle to vehicle. The on-board charger in the car must convert the household electricity to a usable form, and while some can handle 6.6 kilowatts, others are limited to just 3.3 kilowatts.

Plug in America reports that a 3.3 kW Nissan Leaf that might take 22 hours for a full charge on level one can charge from empty to full in eight hours on level two.

Realistically though, most drivers charge often enough they don’t require a full charge. Nissan came out with its first 6.6 kW capable Leaf in 2013 and older models can be upgraded.

The city of Steamboat’s new charge point will spec out at 280 volts for even faster charging, according to the grant application.

The city is making use of a $6,260 Charge Ahead Colorado grant from the Colorado Energy Office to install its new charge point. It will provide a $1,615 matching grant to secure the equipment. It will also be able to monitor usage by the public to allow the city to build up a data set on what is expected to be growing usage of the charge point.

Casey Earp, former assistant to City Manager Deb Hinsvark, wrote the grant application and observed that the communities in Northwest Colorado are generally 30 to 60 miles apart, raising the possibility of creating driveable routes for electric vehicle owners.

Earp pointed out that Steamboat is 52 miles from Kremmling, it’s 48 miles farther to Winter Park and another 34 miles to Idaho Springs, making a trip to Denver possible.

“The Level II equipment provides 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging, and stations typically have four hour limits, so it will be critical to establish stations within each of these communities to facilitate travel within our region,” Earp wrote.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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