Boulder Eyes EVs as Important Climate Strategy: Zero Emission Cars Can Help Reach Goals

May 21, 2015


Electric Vehicle Charging StationBOULDER, CO—Achieving deep emissions reductions – 80 percent or more by 2050, as now called for by climate scientists – will require a comprehensive transportation plan that significantly reduces single occupancy vehicle trips and aggressive strategies to replace the remaining cars with clean energy vehicles, according to a report released today by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

The 75-page report, Boulder Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Adoption Assessment, was commissioned by the City of Boulder, Boulder County, and the University of Colorado and prepared by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).  Featuring data on local commuter patterns, local electric vehicle adoption trends and suggestions for persuading drivers to get behind the wheel of electric vehicles, the report suggests that businesses can play a key role in a local clean air future.

“First of all, it is important to understand that federal fuel efficiency standards and the City of Boulder’s strategies to encourage people to walk, bike or take a bus—reducing the number of vehicles on the road–are complementary to efforts to electrify the transportation system,” said Will Toor, report co-author and director of transportation programs at SWEEP.  “This report provides suggestions for reducing emissions from vehicles when people do drive. This will require a dramatic shift to 75 percent EV ownership by 2050 if Boulder communities want to reach lower greenhouse gas emissions goals.”

Boulder County’s citizens have embraced electric vehicles at three times the national ownership rate, registering 510 of them by the end of 2014. Still, the iconic Subaru Outback remains the vehicle of choice. In order to get people to switch, local governments, businesses and partner agencies will need to work together to raise consumer awareness about electric vehicles and then make it easier to test drive the cars.  Studies show that folks who drive a peppy EV are much more likely to buy one.

Once people are interested in changing their transportation choices, infrastructure will be critical to mass adoption of electric vehicles, according to the report. This is where business participation will play an important role.

“Workplace charging is a crucial element for EV adoption,” said Mike Salisbury, senior transportation program associate at SWEEP and the report’s co-author.  “Most EV charging happens at home, but work is the next most important location.  A recent DOE report found that employees with workplace charging options are more than 20 times more likely to adopt electric vehicles.”

Data from employee surveys shows that most commuters into Boulder travel less  than 15 miles each way–well within the range limits of most EVs–but charging infrastructure at work will allay “range anxiety” and make it easier for those without a home charger to drive an EV.

The report cites Google as an example and suggests that the City of Boulder work with the tech leader to make its new Boulder Junction offices EV-friendly.  The company already offers perks such as EV car-sharing and more than 750 EV charging stations at its offices nationwide in an effort to attract smart, techie millennials, a generation that is raising the bar on corporate social responsibility.

Xcel Energy in Denver, Raytheon in Aurora and Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins are all members of the U.S. Department of Energy Workplace Charging Challenge, which helps employers set up a successful program. A similar program for large employers in Boulder County was suggested in the report.
Boulder’s existing public EV charging stations aren’t used as much as hoped, the report showed; they could be repurposed for EV car sharing.  New locations for public charging should emphasize convenience and long “dwell times” such as at RTD park-n-ride stations along the Highway 36 corridor, Eldora Ski Area, multi-family properties and the University of Colorado.

“Clearly, a shift to zero emission vehicles is an important part of a comprehensive transportation strategy. It is one of the areas the City of Boulder has targeted as part of its Transportation Master Plan. Our analysis shows that we could reduce the more than 20 percent of the emissions that come from ground transportation through this approach,” said Brett KenCairn, senior planner with the City of Boulder who worked with SWEEP on the study.  “The city looks forward to working with SWEEP and other partners on achieving EV success throughout our regional area.”

Other suggestions from the SWEEP report to fast-track EV adoption include:

  • Launch a “Workplace Charging Challenge” that includes leading institutions in the community (BVSD, CU, Federal Labs), to show leadership in supporting EV adoption for employee in-commuters.
  • Pilot EV adoption incentives for employees who are in-commuting to jobs in the county and don’t have access to other forms of rapid transit.
  • Raise awareness with an “Electric Avenue” corridor, and add EV education on tax credits, benefits and solar charging to the  EnergySmart program;
  • Work with car dealerships to provide incentives to salespeople who sell EVs;
  • Develop pilot programs that offer financial assistance and discounts for city and county employees who purchase EVs, charging infrastructure and perhaps solar panels, and other energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Try a pilot workplace EV charging program at CU’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment complex at the university’s east campus.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project is a public interest organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  For more information, visit



  • Will Toor, SWEEP Director of Transportation Programs:  (303) 591-6669 cell; (303) 447-0078 x 6;