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Electric cars spark conversation at Fort Collins breweries


Ben Prochazka, director of strategic initiatives of the Electrification Coalition, looks under the hood of the Nissan Leaf sedan he drives regularly. Prochazka was one of several offering rides and test rides of electric vehicles Sunday at New Belgium and Odell breweries. / Sarah Jane Kyle/The Coloradoan

The wind roared louder than the handful of electric vehicles at New Belgium and Odell brewing companies Sunday, sparking a buzz of conversation as they silently zipped out of the parking lot on free test drives.

A handful of Nissan Leaf sedans, an entirely electric model that can go up to 75 miles on one charge, and Chevrolet Volt vehicles, which travel 38 miles on battery power before using a small gasoline engine, were on site at both breweries for people to test drive and analyze as part of Drive Electric Northern Colorado, a communitywide initiative to bring more plug-in electric vehicles to Northern Colorado.

In the first hour of the event, more than 50 Fort Collins residents had shown up to take a drive. During the event, Odell Brewing Co. unveiled a plug-in station similar to an existing station at New Belgium. Everyone who took a test drive or ride in the car was given one free beer token to try Plug It In Pale Ale, a beer brewed by Odell for the occasion.

“Getting somebody behind the wheel of an electric car and letting them experience it firsthand is the best way to show them that these cars are awesome,” said Ben Prochazka, director of strategic initiatives for the Electrification Coalition. “They’re actually some of the best of new-generation technology for cars. They’re fast. It’s better for the environment. This is the only car that’s going to get cleaner the longer it’s on the road.”

Prochazka drives a Nissan Volt, which runs entirely on electric charge. Each night, he plugs it in using an extension cord at his house and has a full charge for the next day. He began using the car full time to support the initiative to bring more electric vehicles to Northern Colorado. By using it almost every day, Prochazka said he’s “become even more of a fan.”

“We already have plugs everywhere,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to make electricity using a variety of materials, whereas if you have a gas car the only way to power that car is with gasoline.”

He’s passionate about using electric energy for transportation because of the “huge challenge with oil dependency” in the United States, a sentiment shared by many who came out to test drive the vehicles.

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