In Western Colorado, Excitement for Electric Mobility - CivicWell

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In Western Colorado, Excitement for Electric Mobility

By Darin Graber, CivicSpark Fellow at the City of Grand Junction, Colorado

Climate Change & Energy


June 2, 2023


The “Western Slope” of Colorado is a sprawling, visually dramatic environment where oil and gas extraction has historically played a large role in boom-and-bust economic cycles. This region includes Grand Junction, the largest Colorado municipality west of the Continental Divide. Named for its location at the confluence of the Gunnison River and the Colorado River (formerly the “Grand River”) and surrounded by orchards, vineyards, and other agriculture, visitors could be forgiven for assuming that water is abundant here. But residents of all political persuasions and professions know differently.  

While we know that oil and gas extraction and related GHG emissions contribute to this water scarcity through warming-exacerbated drought, and while we recognize that transitioning from gas-powered vehicles to EVs would reduce our leading source of emissions in Grand Junction, the community hasn’t yet embraced EV adoption like much of the state. Mesa County, where Grand Junction is located, had only a 1.5% EV adoption rate as of July, 2023, whereas the state of Colorado had a 10.5% adoption rate at the same time. And yet, as we conducted our community outreach and engagement efforts for the city’s first-ever EV Readiness Plan, it became clear that while interest in EVs exists within segments of the population, enthusiasm for other forms of electric mobility is widespread. 

This enthusiasm was voiced in community action team workshops, during focus groups featuring key stakeholders including multifamily developers, and at outreach events in the community. In each setting, community members advocated for electrified mobility options beyond EVs as better for reducing road and parking lot congestion in the city, as better for getting residents outside and recreating in healthy ways, and as more equitable thanks to their affordability and charging flexibility. Based on this input, our EV readiness plan became an electric mobility plan with a vision statement that targets increased “electric mobility” options for residents, as opposed to increased rates of individual EV ownership.  

Over the months of the EV plan’s development, residents have embraced e-scooters that were launched in a separate micro-mobility pilot study. According to the two vendors taking part in the pilot study, e-scooter ridership in the City is the highest in the state except for in the City of Denver, and that has come during summer break for Colorado Mesa University. And when the Sustainability Division opened applications for 40 e-bikes in a grant-funded, income-qualified e-bike ownership program in early summer, we received 93 applications in just over a week.  

All of which is to say that, although increasing EV adoption will be vital to reducing GHG emissions over time, perhaps other forms of electrified mobility are better options right now for communities like ours, where EVs are often seen as opposed to, or in competition with, internal combustion engine vehicles while other forms of electrified mobility are viewed as novel, affordable, and approachable. Given that EV battery materials sourcing and vehicle weights do bring concerns of their own and that fewer vehicle miles traveled is a key sustainability metric, perhaps this is a positive trend that we should lean into at the same time that we try to educate about opportunities in EV adoption.