"I think it's lock-step with our commitment to greater sustainability in Denver," Mayor Hancock said of the incentives. The incentives would likely encourage new construction to include charging stations for electric cars in the City & County of Denver. "We have very environmentally-conscious people in our city and our state," he continued.
Ford is selling its all-electric vehicles in 19 test markets next month, including Denver. The Mile High City is one of the few cities located outside the West or East Coast to participate in the program. The Ford Focus Electric costs $39,995 list price, but its purchase is offset by both federal and state tax credits. The electric car will be available nationwide in 2013.
The Ford Focus Electric runs completely on lithium-ion batteries, and does not take gas at all. Like any device powered by batteries, the car must be recharged to keep going. The car includes a charger for home use, and several businesses are installing charging stations for electric cars.
"The pay-off is very, very quick for these retailers" that install charging stations, said a Ford spokeswoman. The charging stations attract customers who often make purchases while waiting for the car to charge. According to the car manufacturer, there are 5,000 public charging stations located across the U.S. By the end of 2012, 12,000 charging stations are predicted to come online.
The Denver metro area features around 200 charging stations, according to Norm Smith, an electric vehicle specialist at Boulder Electric Vehicle. The charging stations are at 25 Walgreens stores, as well as at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and other locations.
The one major hurdle faced by electric car owners is the range of the car. Without widespread charging systems, it takes planning to drive the car long distances. Unlike conventional or hybrid cars, drivers can't refuel at the local gas station. "If you can't get home in 55 miles, you went too far for lunch," joked Smith.
Mayor Hancock, who drives a hybrid car for personal use, acknowledged driving electric cars is a change in mindset for most drivers. "You have to plug it in, you have to be mindful of how you drive it," said Hancock.
However, with gas prices hovering above $3.50 in Denver this month, electric cars offer an alternative to pain at the pump. The Ford Focus Electric boasts 100 miles per gallon equivalent for fuel efficiency. The vehicle is also constructed with 85% recycled materials by weight, and includes other eco-friendly touches such as soy foam seat cushions.
The bottom line for may car owners is how the car handles, and Ford designed the car to be as similar as possible to conventional vehicles. The one exception is the car's completely quiet engine. While driving the electric car, Mayor Hancock said he found no "differentiation between how I would drive a car fueled by gasoline."