We’re truly at the dawn of the Electric Vehicle age. Last month, California air regulators approved new rules that will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, and more states could soon follow their lead. Nationally, the Inflation Reduction act extends federal tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) through 2032 (but with a whole lot of new caveats). And here in Colorado, the state’s EV Plan is a roadmap (pun intended) to get some 940,000 light-duty EVs on the road and in people’s garages by 2030.

Like anything new, however, EV ownership can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are the basics.

More on Electric Vehicles:

7 Leaf Peeping Road Trips Perfect for Electric Vehicles


What You Need to Know About Charging Levels

While your EV’s integrated navigation system or your favorite EV-specific route-planning app will take the different types of charging stations—many paid, some free—along your path into account when calculating your ETA, knowing the difference between the three charging levels could save you time and headaches.

EV charger near Aspen, CO. Photo by c2 Photography.

Level 1 Chargers

Time To Full Charge: 40 to 50 hours
Where You’ll Find Them: Everywhere. Any 120-volt wall outlet can be a Level 1 charger if you keep your charging cable in your frunk (front trunk).
Good For: The average Joe. According to AAA, the typical American only drove 31.5 miles a day in 2019, so if you charge at home overnight, a Level 1 cord is usually all you’ll need.

Level 2 Chargers

Time To Full Charge: 4 to 10 hours
Where You’ll Find Them: At hotels, restaurants, small businesses, public libraries, etc. As of May 1, Colorado had 3,424 Level 2 charging ports.
Good For: Overnight recharges or topping off for the trip home from the trail during a long lunch.

Level 3 Chargers

Time To Full Charge: 20 minutes to 1 hour
Where You’ll Find Them: Major travel arteries such as I-70 and U.S. 40. Tesla has even announced plans to open its proprietary Level 3 Supercharger network to non-Tesla EVs by the end of the year.
Good For: Road trips where you don’t want to wait four hours to get back behind the wheel.


Tip:

Each charging network (think Shell or BP, but for EVs) has its own app, which can be required to start charging, so it’s a good idea to make sure you download the ones you’ll need before you hit the road.


A Quick Guide to EV Tax Credits

“A lot of what scares people about EVs is the upfront cost,” says Julia Davila, communications and engagement manager for Drive Clean Colorado, a nonprofit focused on breaking down the barriers to EV adoption. But while the average price of a new EV was a hair above $60,000 in February (nearly $15,000 more than a typical new vehicle), according to car shopping resource Edmunds, new models such as the 259-mile-range Chevy Bolt can be had for around $30,000. And depending on the car you purchase, Davila says, Centennial Staters could pay a lot less thanks to hidden savings (maintenance costs are around half that of gas-powered vehicles) and state and federal tax credits. Here’s a breakdown:

Federal

There’s been a $7,500 federal EV tax credit since 2008, but at press time, the Inflation Reduction Act was poised to change things next year. It sets income restrictions for buyers ($150,000 for single filers, $300,000 for joint, and $225,000 for heads of households); price caps ($55,000 for a sedan and $80,000 for SUVs, trucks, and vans); and a restriction that final assembly be done stateside. The law also creates a new credit for used EVs and removes a provision that limited the credit to manufacturers that have sold fewer than 200,000 EVs—meaning Tesla and General Motors models are back on the menu.

State

Colorado’s tax credits are a lot easier to navigate: Simply buy a qualified vehicle and you’ll receive a $2,500 tax credit (or $1,500 for a two-year-minimum lease), which can often be applied at the time of sale. That amount is set to drop to $2,000 next year.


Tip:

Getty Images

Keeping your vehicle’s charge between 20 and 80 percent will help extend the life of your EV’s battery, which could last between 12 and 15 years, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.


A Q&A With the President of the Western Colorado EV Club

If Benjamin Westby can make an EV work in the Centennial State, anybody can. He lives at 8,930 feet in the Flat Tops and drives his 250-mile-range Tesla Model 3 16 miles to his job as an elementary school teacher in New Castle. He’s also the president of the Western Colorado EV Club, one of several regional organizations across the state that host events for aficionados and the EV curious, advocate for EV charging infrastructure, and generally geek out about these high-tech rides.

5280: People get twitchy about range—but you’re not worried?
Westby: You’d have to really not be paying attention to run out of battery, because the car does the calculations for you. If it thinks that I can make it to Lakewood, but maybe I’m driving fast, then it will just reroute me to the Supercharger in Silverthorne.

Is it easy to find a charger when that happens?
The Roaring Fork Valley, where I live, has a strong level of EV infrastructure. Every town has a free Level 2 charger. Some have 10. But the real kicker for me was finding out that I hardly used public chargers. My garage is my charging station.

Benjamin Westby. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Westby.

You have to drive through some pretty extreme conditions just to get to work. How does your EV handle it?
Sometimes it’ll be negative 10 outside, and I’m breaking ice off the car door handle. But you can schedule a timer in the car’s system, so it’s 70 degrees inside and the battery is ready to go. The cold does affect your range, but it’s maybe 20 percent, max. And every time I’m driving down a steep grade it’s like, “Oh, that’s free gas.” The car sends some of that energy back to the battery pack.

What’s the most significant lifestyle change?
Road trips take longer. That’s just part of it. You have to stop every few hours for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure you can get to the next charger. But I actually really like the rhythm of EV road tripping. You don’t feel as beat up because you’re forced to take breaks.


Tip:

Go beyond your EV’s standard route planner with these two essential apps for finding your way.

A Better Routeplanner
Data nerds can fiddle with everything from road conditions to the weight of their luggage to calculate their max range. Free; premium version available

PlugShare
Users can check in at more than 600,000 charging stations around the world and report charge times, broken ports, fun activities nearby for passing the time, and more. Free


Why an Electric SUV or Truck Will Be Your Next Adventure Rig

Rivian R1T vehicles. Photo by Elliot Ross/Courtesy of Rivian.

Think an EV won’t cut it for your mountain lifestyle? Think again.

Cybertruck

Make: Tesla
Range: 500 miles
Claim To Fame: Elon Musk said the angular design of Tesla’s first truck would be too aggressive for a lot of people. He wasn’t wrong.
When You Can Get One: It’s expected to enter production in 2023; price TBD

R1T truck and R1S SUV

Make: Rivian
Range: 260 to 400-plus miles
Claim To Fame: Two prototypes drove 13,000 miles from Patagonia to Los Angeles as part of Ewan McGregor’s electric motorcycle travel documentary Long Way Up.
When You Can Get One: Both are available; R1T from $79,500, R1S from $85,000

F-150 Lightning

Make: Ford
Range: 320 miles
Claim To Fame: Tesla’s truck may look post-apocalyptic, but the new Lightning can actually power your home for up to three days in an emergency.
When You Can Get One: Available now; from $46,974

Ocean

Make: Fisker
Range: 250 to 350 miles
Claim To Fame: Fisker claims this SUV’s solar panel roof can add 1,500 miles of range or more each year, meaning there’s no fear of a dead battery in the backcountry so long as you don’t park in the shade.
When You Can Get One: It’s expected to hit the market in 2022; from $37,499

This article was originally published in 5280 September 2022.

Nicholas Hunt
Nicholas Hunt

Nicholas writes and edits the Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections of 5280 and writes for 5280.com.