Tri-State looks to future with EVs

Tri-State looks to future with EVs

The HT took a test drive in a Tesla last week, courtesy of WREA and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

MEEKER | “The Jetsons,” a 1960s and ‘70s era Saturday morning cartoon, was set in the year 2062. In 2020 we’ve seen some of those creative innovations come to pass, like video calling, but we have yet to see flying cars. 

We’re getting a little closer, though. Some shiny new — and remarkably silent — Tesla all-electric vehicles (EVs) have been tooling around Meeker sporting Tri-State Generation and Transmission logos. The EVs are part of Tri-State’s “Beneficial Electrification” program, and are on loan to White River Electric Association (WREA) for about a month.

Tri-State is seeking to promote all kinds of “electrification” with the program, including everything from electric lawn mowers to electric vehicles, according to Trina Zagar-Brown, WREA’s general counsel and manager of member services.

“In the bigger picture, it supports Tri-State’s carbon goals and encourages efficiency,” Zagar-Brown said.

WREA was part of a statewise promotion two years ago that brought two EV charging stations to Meeker, as well as other communities in Tri-State’s group. Those charging stations have seen a “noted increase in activity with the closure of I-70,” Zagar-Brown said. 

Shortly after the charging station promo, Tri-State began acquiring electric vehicles, and about a year ago, invested in a suite of Teslas. 

“A huge section of our community is commuter traffic,” she said, with employees driving out to Natural Soda, Enterprise, and Colowyo. She pitched that idea to Tri-State and they responded by sending two Teslas to Meeker. 

“WREA’s goal remains to provide easy access to our members to a quality electric vehicle so they can begin to better understand the emerging EV market. Electric vehicles have come a long way and will continue to improve over the next few years. Most importantly we are eager to see extended range so that folks have more confidence to travel farther distances,” Zagar-Brown said. 

WREA has invited various individuals and groups to test drive the cars, including staff at the county shop and the Herald Times, among others. This week, hospital staff got to go for a spin, and next week they’ll show off the car to science classes at the high school. Starting last Thursday, commuters from Natural Soda, Enterprise and Colowyo will have the chance to try out the cars for 10 days.

Overall, response to the cars has been favorable. Todd Gerloff from WREA is the designated Tesla tour guide, showing members the nuts and bolts of the vehicles before they hit the road. Even figuring out how to open the doors requires instruction. He said it’s been fun to watch even hard-core mechanics get out of the EVs after the test drives with big smiles on their faces.

According to a fact sheet shared with WREA by Tri-State, the average fuel savings cost of an EV is $1,500 per year and owners can receive the Electric Vehicle Federal Tax Credit for up to $7,500. Not only are there cost savings involved with owning an EV, but there are also reduced operating costs. EV’s don’t require oil changes, emission system maintenance and less frequent brake replacement. The battery lifespan on an EV averages 200,000 miles. 

“WREA will host a more member wide Tesla test drive event the first week of September. Please call WREA if anyone would like to set up a test drive prior to our scheduled events in September,” Zagar-Brown said.