The Third Street Center’s new EV chargers will be operational this month, once two breakers are installed and Arcos Mobility programs the machines. Photo by Raleigh Burleigh

Martín Bonzi works for Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), a nonprofit with offices at the Third Street Center. He also drives an electric vehicle (EV), which is appropriate given his role proselytizing EV adoption in 14 northwestern Colorado counties as CLEER’s transportation program manager. As such, Bonzi was delighted to see come to fruition the installation of two new dual-port EV charging stations at the nonprofit hub, replacing outdated equipment.

“Formerly, only one port was working out of the four,” said Bonzi. “Now, each of the four is approximately three times more powerful. This is a huge improvement. It’s like going from one to 12,” he explained. The previous chargers, in addition to being only one-fourth operational, were first-generation and had neither upgrades nor software available.

EV-driving tenants at the Third Street Center had developed an etiquette for passing the one charger between their vehicles — Bonzi would leave the charging port door of his 2013 Nissan Leaf open if the charger was in use, and the person charging would know to plug it in once their own car was juiced.

The Third Street Center, with help from CLEER, secured a Charge Ahead Colorado grant from the Colorado Energy Office. Since 2013, this grant program has helped install EV charging stations across the state. Beginning in 2022, new incentives were introduced to assist low-income and disproportionately-impacted communities by covering up to 90% of installation costs.

Charge Ahead Colorado prioritizes bringing charging ports to work places, housing complexes where people don’t have access to a garage and to places with no public charging station, like Marble.

The town of Carbondale has at least nine other functioning public charging ports, including a DC fast charging station on Cowen Drive. According to Bonzi, 80% of EV charging happens at people’s homes.

Charge Ahead Colorado will pay either $18,000 or 80% of the total cost — whichever is lower — for the Third Street Center installation, explained Facilities Manager Mark Taylor. CLEER also assisted with the process of hiring Arcos Mobility for the installation, a local company owned by Matt Shmigelsky.

The new chargers, on the east side of the building, are able to draw from the Third Street Center’s solar array during the day and from the grid at night. There is also a Skyhook charging station, powered by built-in solar panels, near the front door. With five ports operational, there’s hope to add “at least four more this summer,” Taylor said.

“These will basically be used mostly by tenants,” he continued. Non-tenants will pay a fee per kilowatt hour to fund maintenance for the stations. This is made possible by new software, which will also track usage.

Xcel Energy will provide around $2,200 additional funding per port for the new chargers, which are networked to collect data about the duration of sessions and total energy delivered, a requirement of the Colorado Energy Office. This information will help determine whether an expansion is necessary or not.

The prominence of solar charging stations plays into the ethos of the Third Street Center, a former elementary school converted into offices and community gathering spaces with a focus on energy efficiency. As explained by Executive Director Colin Laird, the Third Street Center is exploring several initiatives in 2023, including more charging stations that would also service the teacher housing to the north; the possibility of a ground source heat pump under the parking lot, with a canopy of photovoltaic panels above; and a docking station for the bike share program by WE-cycle.

As a town trustee, Laird is also interested in seeing Carbondale join EV City, a consortium of local governments around the country sharing best practices and ideas around EV infrastructure.

Laird would also like to see the development of a net-zero district in Carbondale, between Bridges High School, the library, the Third Street Center and nearby town homes. “The goal is to move off natural gas, up electrical production through solar and provide a model of how we could shift the town to cleaner energy,” he said. “This would be the kind of demo.”

Bonzi explained that tax credits incentivizing EV uptake are up to $7,500 federally (depending on a person’s income, the EV price, battery components and minerals sourcing and the final assembly location) and the state’s credit starts at $2,000 for purchases and $1,500 for leases. A federal tax credit of up to $4,000 for purchasing a used EV from a dealership started this year, and the credit will be available as a discount at the point of sale starting in 2024. 

Bonzi is bilingual and will be helping with Spanish-language outreach, and CLEER recently hired a new associate to help Bonzi connect people with federal and state incentives for EV ownership. Expect an EV ride-and-drive event in Glenwood Springs this summer.

Bonzi explained that although the manufacturing of new vehicles has an environmental impact, the carbon footprint for the lifetime of an EV is usually less than half that of a gas-powered car because most emissions from a vehicle occur during its use and EVs have zero tailpipe emissions.