A representative from an alternative energy nonprofit wants to bring electric vehicles to Cortez.
4CORE is a Durango-based organization that provides data and grant assistance to businesses and governments throughout Southwest Colorado, with the goal of increasing energy efficiency. In the past, the group has helped people sign up for state-funded solar power, assessed the carbon footprint of homes and vehicle fleets and worked to provide incentives for people to buy alternative transportation options. The group is focusing much of its efforts on electric vehicles, Laurie Dickson, executive director of the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency, said.
“They are the direction of transportation,” she said.
In 2017, her organization coordinated a group-buy program that offered rebates to Durango-area residents who purchased Nissan Leaf electric cars. Federal tax credits are also available for electric car owners, Dickson said. More than 50 people bought Nissan Leafs through that program, Dickson said, well over the original goal of 30.
The problem with electric vehicles, Dickson added, is that they need charging stations to keep running, and they can be hard to come by in a rural area like Montezuma County. Durango has a few charging stations, and 4CORE recently helped coordinate the installation of three others through the state-funded Charge Ahead Colorado grant program, which funds up to 80 percent of the cost of a new charging station.
Right now, there are no electric charging stations in Montezuma County, and Dickson said residents may not be open to buying electric vehicles until the city of Cortez installs them. She offered her help to the council if it decides to apply for a Charge Ahead grant.
Council members grilled Dickson with questions about how often the charging stations are used in Durango, how they work and whether the city could partner with a local business to secure a grant. Dickson said each entity would have to apply for a grant on its own.
She said most electric car owners in Southwest Colorado use them as second vehicles, not as a primary mode of transportation. But increased incentives for alternative fuel may change that, she said.
Cortez has been pursuing solar power for several years. The city has installed solar panels on City Hall and the Cortez Recreation Center. Other local governing bodies, like the Cortez Sanitation District, have also considered using them for electricity. General services director Rick Smith asked whether the charging stations could use solar power, and Dickson said many of them do.
The Cortez city council didn’t make a final decision on whether to seek a grant for a charging station, but some members showed interest in pursuing it.
“It looks like the future may be coming to Cortez,” said Mayor Karen Sheek.