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Funding Priorities Questioned In Electric Vehicle Program Expansion

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – Denver-area resident Brian Batz is a proud owner of the all-electric Nissan Leaf. He believes he’s made the right choice when it comes to saving gas and money.

“The envious people are the ones who are a little bit more educated on what it can do and save,” said Batz.

He estimates his operating costs are just a little more than a penny per mile. Electricity powers the Leaf’s battery, so there are no emissions.

President Barack Obama is like Batz and looking to the future in his call for 1 million electric vehicles to be made by American auto makers by 2015. The Denver metro area’s share of that goal is 20,000 vehicles.

“I think that’s a tough goal, a tough number to hit,” said Colorado Automobile Dealers Association spokesman Tim Jackson.

It’s tough because of what’s called “range anxiety.” Electric cars are limited under the best circumstances to 100 miles. Recharging the battery, even with upgraded chargers, still takes 6 hours.

Others are optimistic about the future of more electric cars on the roads. Among those is Natalia Swalnick, leader of a group called FEVER, which stands for Fostering Electric Vehicle Expansion in the Rockies. She pointed out that 85 percent of the driver made by Denver motorists are less than 40 miles round trip.

FEVER has been granted $500,000 in federal funding. They’ve created a website and are conducting public outreach.

“Electric vehicles really have the range to meet the needs of people in Denver,” said Swalnick.

One interesting point is that none of FEVER’s funds will be spent on adding electric vehicle charging stations. That’s because of the wording of the federal grant.

“Unfortunately the grant specifies an electric vehicle readiness plan. That’s what the Department of Energy wants,” said Swalnick.

Colorado has about three dozen public charging stations. Existing stations rely on alternating current. Soon a new direct current version will be introduced that’s a lot faster.

“The advantage is you’re able to use 240 voltage and still charge in 20 to 30 minutes,” said Joe Castro, a Boulder city spokesman.

Electric vehicle drivers can avoid running out of power by planning ahead on when they will recharge.

“You can get through the entire day. For instance I started this morning at 7 a.m. and I’m still going,” said Batz. “So it’s really up to the individual and how you plan the day.”

Even with generous tax credits, electric vehicles can be expensive. New car market analysts believe the price has to come down for more people to buy them. Or, the price of gas has to go a lot higher.

“North of $5 a gallon would be an incentive for people to invest in an EV car,” said Jackson.

To help extend range between power charging stations, a gas tank does come with Chevy’s electric car the Volt.

To learn more about buying and using electric vehicles in Denver, visit FEVER’s website at electricridecolorado.com.

LINK: Colorado Automobile Dealers Association

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