How does a $24,944 BMW i3 sound to you? Believe me, it’s a good deal, because without any subsidies this high-performance electric car is almost double that, $44,444. The catch? You have to live in northern Colorado, and buy the car at the BMW dealership in Loveland.
The deal—which complements a $10,600 Nissan Leaf (savings, $21,000) is possible through Drive Electric Northern Colorado (DENC). It includes a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, a state credit of up to $6,000, and another $6,000 in group-buy cash from the dealer.
Why are Fort Collins and Loveland so lucky? Northern Colorado is what the Washington-based Electrification Coalition calls a “deployment community.” The coalition (which is also working to electrify the all-American destination Orlando, Florida) says that concentrating EVs in specific cities helps move the concept beyond the early adopters; drives economies of scale in manufacturing; and allows a wide availability of public and workplace charging.
“We’re on pace in Colorado to double the national average for EV deployment,” said Ben Prozchazka, director of strategic initiatives at the Electrification Coalition.
I count at least 20 public chargers in the two Colorado cities. DENC is also making a big push to offer workplace charging. Colorado State University, Platte River Power Authority and the City of Fort Collins are big partners.
That makes a lot of sense, because 97 percent of EV charging is either at home or the office. According to the Department of Energy, people with access to charging at work are 20 times more likely to drive a vehicle that plugs in. On average, one in 1,400 employees drives an EV; for employers with workplace charging, that rises to one in 73. Workplace chargers around the U.S. as of the summer of 2014 provide 6.7 million kilowatt-hours annually.
Colorado’s many microbrewers have gotten on board, with enthusiasm. Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, in addition to providing charging, has conjured up two EV-themed brews, Plug-In Pale Ale and Voltage. Is this the first EV beer? As far as I know.
In Orlando, early efforts have focused on plugging in Orlando’s epic hospitality community, and getting the city’s renter/visitors to try an electric car. “The majority of the public still hasn’t driven one,” said Prochazka. “It’s a major first step so consumers can realize it’s a better widget.”
Today, 14,000 Orlando rooms in 35 hotels have access to electric charging. EV rental giant Enterprise has made 30 Chevy Volts available, plus at least one Nissan Leaf.
Central Florida now has 300 chargers, and Drive Electric Orlando wants you to know its only 17 miles from the city’s international airport to Walt Disney World, and 13 miles to both Sea World and Universal. That’s easily within an EV’s range, and all three resorts are partners with the EV push.
Of course, many vacationers worry about getting hassled on their downtime. EV charging is something new. Drive Electric Orlando tries to reassure them. “Have you ever plugged in a toaster, a laptop or a TV? Then you’re ready to charge an electric car!” the group says.
The next deployment community is likely to be Rochester, New York, with significant state funding behind it.
And in other news sure to warm the hearts of EV owners, BMW and Nissan are partnering in a plan to deploy 120 fast chargers (480 volts) across the U.S., in 19 states. They're dual chargers, which means they support both the CHAdeMO protocol the Leaf uses, and the BMW's Combo plug. Either company's cars can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in 20 to 30 minutes.