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USA: Electric vehicles to get Fort Collins jump-start

Eric Alvarez, a driver for Bellvue-based Morning Fresh Dairy, makes a sales call with his electric delivery truck Friday in Loveland. An initiative to increase electric vehicle usage in Northern Colorado kicks off Monday at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. / V. Richard Haro/The Coloradoan

Every workday, motorcycle mechanic Matt Russell hops into his electric car for the 27-mile drive from Fort Collins to Greeley, whizzing down Interstate 25 and then along U.S. Highway 34 with the other commuters.

In the evening, he parks his car in the garage of his southwest Fort Collins home, plugs it in and goes on with his life.

“I laugh when I pass gas stations,” Russell says. “It’s working out great for us.”

Russell bought his all-electric Nissan Leaf in November and now has about 4,300 miles on the car. His electric bill has risen about $30 a month, he says, literally a small price to pay compared with the $300 to $400 a month he was spending on gas for his Audi station wagon.

After buying the Leaf, Russell visited New Belgium Brewing Co., one of the few places around Fort Collins offering a high-speed charging station of the kind he now has installed in his garage. That visit led to conversation with a New Belgium sustainability coordinator, which led to Russell’s discovery that Fort Collins is about to become a testbed for electric vehicle technology.

On Monday, the Drive Electric Northern Colorado initiative launches at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. The initiative aims to jump-start the use of electric vehicles for both area commuters and businesses by developing the best technology, regulations and practices. It will also bring to the museum a high-speed charging station that can refill the batteries of a Nissan Leaf in as few as 15 minutes.

“These are not ideological vehicles,” said Robbie Diamond, CEO and president of the Electrification Coalition, which is bringing the effort to the area. “When the rest of the country sees what the people of Northern Colorado are able to do, that will change their minds.”

The coalition includes leaders of large electric utilities, but also General Electric, the CEOs of FedEx and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and the CEO of Nissan Motor Co. The group hopes to reduce America’s dependence on oil — particularly foreign oil — as a way to stabilize the economy and improve national security. The coalition locally includes the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, and Colorado State University.
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