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From Site Selection magazine, May 2010

Higher Tech

Startup firm Boulder Electric Vehicle plans full-scale production of electric trucks by this summer.
Photo courtesy of Boulder Electric Vehicle

Clean-air sites for clean-transport manufacturers.


olorado continues to embrace a leadership role in renewable energy. Gov. Bill Ritter signed a law in March requiring the state to derive 30 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. That is the second highest percentage among states behind California, which has a goal of 33 percent. Ritter's administration says the goal will lead to 100,000 solar rooftops in the state over the next decade.

Meanwhile, two companies involved in the burgeoning electric vehicle sector are establishing manufacturing operations in the state.

Boulder Electric Vehicle is developing a factory in Boulder to produce a zero-emission delivery vehicle. The vehicles have a range of about 120 miles (193 km.) and the company says electricity costs are three to eight cents per mile. The company is headed by CEO Carter Brown, who is described on its Web site as a "serial entrepreneur."

Brown's background includes development of composite-based kayaks. In 2006 Brown built what he refers to as the heaviest electric passenger car in the world by converting a 1963 Mercury Monterrey with 1,800 pounds of AGM batteries. This project started his longtime association with Bill Dube, an engineer who has built electric motorcycles. Dube serves as the company's chief technology officer. Brown has assembled a management staff that has built more than 50 electric vehicles over the past 15 years.

Brown says BEV is currently tooling up its 60,000-sq.-ft. (5,574-sq.-m.) production facility with the goal of reaching full production this summer. The company has been testing its first truck for about a year.

Only the Beginning

"We started up in Boulder because there is a lot of electric vehicle expertise in this area," Brown says. "One of the things we looked for is keeping the manufacturing facility close to home. Boulder will probably remain world headquarters. It's a small shop, but it gives us the ability to put additional facilities on both coasts and the Midwest. As we do these large-format vehicles — trucks, buses, vans — the carbon footprint and cost of delivery is reduced and the economic benefits will go to several states, not just Colorado. We want to keep our first plant in Colorado so we have great quality control before we expand."

Brown says he expects to produce between 5,000 and 10,000 vehicles out of the company's first facility. When it is fully ramped up, he says the facility will employ 700.

"The time has come for this technology," Brown says. "There are a lot of interesting things we did to make the truck weigh half the weight of a normal truck. Batteries are expensive, and if you can make the vehicle more aerodynamic and weigh less, and be more efficient, it will cost less for a customer."

Brown says early adopters are among the first customers lined up for the new truck. These include city and state governments and private delivery companies.

UQM Technologies, a developer of alternative energy technologies, acquired a 30-acre (12-hectare) site in Longmont to support its expected manufacturing growth. UQM develops and manufactures power dense, high-efficiency electric motors, generators and power electronic controllers for the automotive, aerospace, military and industrial markets.

The company acquired a 129,304-sq.-ft. (12,000-sq.-m.) building to support its expected growth in manufacturing operations. The facility, which includes approximately 30,000 sq. ft. (2,787 sq. m.) of office space, will house the company's engineering, vehicle integration and headquarters staff in addition to the company's high-volume motor and electronic manufacturing operations. Approximately half the site is available for future facility expansion.

UQM, which received a $45-million stimulus grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, supplies California-based electric vehicle maker Coda Automotive.

"This larger facility is ideally suited for the planned expansion of our high-volume manufacturing operations in support of Coda Automotive's all-electric passenger vehicle program and future growth arising from the expected launch of additional production programs," said William G. Rankin, UQM Technologies' president and CEO.

Wind Supply Chain Breezes Into Towns

Two Denmark-based suppliers to the wind turbine industry have recently chosen Colorado, drawn by the presence of turbine builder Vestas. Bach Composite Industry is locating its first North American facility in Fort Lupton, and Aluwind, a supplier of aluminum wind turbine components, chose Castle Rock for its new facility.

Bach is manufacturing in the former Colorado Railcar Manufacturing building, which had been vacant since 2008. Bach plans to employ 100 to 150 as it ramps up during 2010. Bach CEO Geert Skovsgaard touted Colorado's business-friendly environment, skilled work force and dedication to economic development and business assistance as key factors in his decision.

"While its reputation as a leading state for renewable energy and the presence of such an important customer made Colorado an obvious choice, it was not our only option," Skovsgaard said. "Our decision to locate in Fort Lupton is a direct result of the extraordinary attention and assistance we received from the governor's economic development team, which made it possible to acquire, entitle, renovate and occupy a vacant industrial building more quickly than I ever could have hoped."

Aluwind has leased 30,000 sq. ft. (2,800 sq. m.) and plans to expand to 80,000 sq. ft. (7,432 sq. m.). The company is initially employing 30 with plans to add 50 to 75 more.

SGB USA, a division of German transformer manufacturer Starkstrom-Geratebau, is establishing its first U.S. plant in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge. The company produces transformers that convert electricity generated by wind turbines into a form that can be delivered on the power grid. The company is also a Vestas supplier.

Story in Pictures

The Denver International Airport now has two solar power systems totaling 3.6 MW. The airport recently opened a 1.6-MW system that powers the airport’s fuel storage and distribution facility.
Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport

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