Hundreds of miles away from a major city brimming with urbanites and potential early adopters, Stefan Johnson devotes his time to generating interest in electric vehicles on Colorado's rugged Western Slope.
This is oil-and-gas country. Not all that long ago, Johnson's attempts may have only stirred derision.
But today, a rise in EV-curious consumers, a broader product portfolio from automakers and his own efforts as transportation program manager with the Clean Energy Economy for the Region nonprofit organization have all created a foothold for electric vehicles there.
Another turning point has been the group buys he helps organize with local auto dealerships. Clean Energy Economy for the Region, which advocates for oil independence and an accelerated push toward a cleaner economy, negotiates for discounts and incentives. In return, it brings dealerships eager individual customers.
"We're not salespeople, but we will create demand, and we will generate those leads when dealerships would normally have to do their own marketing," Johnson said. "We've developed some great relationships with dealers who are responsive. There might still be a few who say, 'No, EVs aren't going to sell here,' but with some of these new models coming on the market and anticipation for the Ford F-150 Lightning, we're seeing a changing of the guard."
A 2019 group-buy effort over three rural counties resulted in sales of 60 EVs. In sheer numbers, that's not sizable. But it counts as a big success in a rural area, and it perhaps highlights another method in which dealerships nationwide can adapt to selling vehicles that arrive with new sets of questions and expectations from prospective consumers.