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Colorado Department of Transportation offers EV charging stations to public at no additional cost

DENVER — Those driving electric vehicles (EV) in Colorado don’t have to worry much about the cost of gas, but more and more, depending on where they live, they also don’t have to worry about the the electric costs to charge the already heavily-subsidized automobiles — new EV buyers get up to $12,000 in combined state and federal rebates.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), with a budget unable to maintain Colorado’s extensive highway system, has 23 charging stations across Colorado, with 17 of those offering taxpayer-subsidized charging to EV drivers.

Amy Ford, Communications Director for CDOT said although the stations technically could allow CDOT to charge for their use, current policy is the stations do not charge the user. Instead, they are subsidized using CDOT funds. The stations are located in Denver, Greeley, Aurora, Golden, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

According to information obtained by Complete Colorado about the details around the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), costs for each charging station ranges between $10,500 and $11,000, with between $6,000 and $6,500 for the station itself, and another $4,500 for installation, not including staff time or ongoing maintenance.

The first EVSE was installed by CDOT in 2015. The newer ChargePoint stations were put into service beginning July 2017.

Some of the installation costs have been covered by the Regional Air Quality Council and the Colorado Energy Office — both of which are also funded using taxpayer money — with the balance covered by CDOT.

CDOT officials say the stations’ primary purpose is to service CDOT’s EV fleet, which currently includes eight Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, five in Denver, one in Pueblo and two in Greeley.

CDOT also has eight Ford Fusion Hybrids, 49 Toyota RAV4 Hybrids, eight Toyota Camry Hybrids and two Toyota Prius Hybrids that do not require the use of charging stations.

CDOT plans to expand its EV fleet, Ford said, including 10 Chevy Bolt battery electric vehicles that are expected for delivery this month.

Cost comparison to gas, using the Chevy Bolt as an example, is $2 to charge a car from “empty” versus a full tank of gas at $2.60 per gallon. A full battery last about 230 miles.

Ford said CDOT only has charging data for the costs of 10 of its stations for the period of July 7, 2017 to March 12, 2018. Those created $2,038.37 in electricity costs.

“If we divide that by the approximate 7.5 months covered by the aforementioned time-period it comes to roughly $271.78 per month in electricity costs,” Ford said.

Although the cost to charge a vehicle seems minor at about $0.15 per Kw hour currently, or about $2 for 5 hours of charging, gas-engine consumers are left wondering when the freebies to electric users will stop.

Linda Haithcox Taylor, the executive director of the Washington D.C.-based National Policy Alliance, an organization representing more than 10,000 African American elected officials and more than 3 million African American government employees from federal, state and local levels of government throughout the country testified before Colorado state lawmakers earlier this year about electric car subsidies.

Taylor said the transition to new technology has happened many times in history and auto manufacturers made it through.

“The horse and buggy people probably didn’t like Mr. Ford very well either,” Taylor said. “But I’m sure no one got tax credits for having an engine versus a horse and buggy. I am sure that in the 1970s and 1980s when carburetors had to be adjusted and exhaust systems changed, no one received tax credits then either.”

Free charging stations add to that subsidy. An expansion of  CDOT’s stations is just a matter of time, thanks to a federal court settlement with Volkswagon.

None of the current EVSEs were funded using 2017 settlement money from Volkswagon, which agreed to $14.7 billion over allegations of cheating emissions standards. A portion of the settlement is supposed to go to reducing emissions, but future expansion with those funds is possible, Ford said.

“This may occur in the future since CDOT has applied for Charge Ahead Colorado grants and that program will be receiving VW funds in the future,” Ford said. “But there is no guarantee given that it is a competitive grant process managed by the Colorado Energy Office and Regional Air Quality Council.”

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