After months of grant-writing, negotiations and discussions, Cortez’s first electric vehicle charging station is up and running.
The Level 2 ChargePoint Dual Port station – it can charge two vehicles simultaneously – is at the Colorado Welcome Center, 928 E Main St. Funding was provided by a state grant, Osprey packs Inc., Empire Electric Association and the city.
City Manager John Dougherty said that the station will benefit the city’s tourism economy and provide for the future.
“It makes people who may not have stopped in Cortez stop and spend some time here, checking out what our community offers here in our little corner of paradise,” he told The Journal. “It helps to fulfill the objectives of the state to reduce our carbon footprint and provides infrastructure for a new and future mode of transportation.”
It was installed Jan. 28, and since Feb. 21, has been used six times, said Cortez Finance Director Ben Burkett. An opening ceremony is tentatively planned for the end of March.
The project has been discussed by City Council over the past year, but it moved forward in August, when the city was awarded a grant from Charge Ahead Colorado through the Colorado Energy Office. Osprey, a strong supporter of the station, was a partner in obtaining the grant.
Durango-based company Living Solar was awarded the contract to install the charging station in November. The project cost $30,330, with $9,000 from the Charge Ahead Colorado grant, $3,000 from an Empire Electric rebate, $10,000 from Osprey, and the remaining $8,330 from the city of Cortez.
City staff who worked on the project said the station will point Cortez toward a more electric future and encourage EV-driving tourists to spend money at local businesses while they recharge their vehicles.
“There are a lot of people now who are purchasing EVs, and they’re traveling with their EVs,” Peyton Heitzman, the city’s former management intern, said during a City Council work session Aug. 27.
In the region, the Cortez station joins an EV network that includes Durango, Moab, Rico and Mancos. It fills a hole between the sites, alleviating range issues for drivers, Heitzman said.
Also at the August work session, Heitzman cited a JP Morgan study estimating that by 2025, electric and hybrid electric vehicles will account for 30% of all vehicle sales.
When looking for a city property for the charging station, staff chose the Welcome Center largely because of its proximity to downtown shops, said Dougherty.
“There would be people to welcome visitors and point out places in the area to spend time while they wait for their charge,” Dougherty told The Journal.
He added that they hope to expand their electric vehicle effort.
“I’m hoping over the next couple of years we begin to change our fleet over to EVs and wherever possible hook them up to the solar panels,” Dougherty said.
The project came with some opposition.
Some critics this summer focused on a clause in the grant stipulating that city residents and Osprey employees could receive free charges for a few years. Councilors worried that component appeared to unfairly reward residents who can afford to buy the more expensive electric vehicles.
The grant was amended to charge all EV drivers the same rate of $1 per hour, Dougherty said. The first four hours of parking will be free, and then fees rise to $5 per hour, Burkett said. For example, an eight-hour charge would come out to a total of $28, Burkett said, accounting for $8 for eight hours of charging and $20 for four hours of parking.
City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance dictating parking rules on Feb. 11. According to City Attorney Mike Green, the ordinance “mimics the state statute.”
“In order to ensure access to other monies/grants, to pay for additional charging stations, for the City and other public and private EV charging station providers, it is necessary to protect access to and to prevent access blockage by non-EVs and EVs that are fully charged,” Green wrote in a staff report.
The ordinance states that only electric vehicles purchasing a charge can park in the station’s designated spot. Drivers have up to 30 minutes after the car is charged before it needs to be moved.
However, a fully charged electric vehicle could park there between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to the ordinance.
The penalty for violating the rules would be a $150 fine and $32 in court costs. The ordinance is up for possible approval at the Feb. 25 council meeting.
Also at the Feb. 11 meeting, City Council unanimously approved a contract with Living Solar agreeing to share possible tree replacement costs if trees were damaged by the station’s installation.
The city is not the only local government climbing aboard the EV train. Montezuma County recently purchased three electric vehicles, and the county is currently working to install a faster charging station of its own.