Can I take a roadtrip in an electric vehicle?

Many in Colorado, like me, make their roadtripping dreams a reality by visiting our state’s most iconic parks and landscapes. They shouldn’t have to pollute the air when they do it by driving a gas-powered vehicle. 

Great Sand Dunes National Park at dusk. Credit: Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Eric Timlin

The Great Sand Dunes. Rocky Mountain National Park. Golden Gate Canyon. These are some of my favorite places to recharge on a day hike or a road trip. 

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife 

Many in Colorado, like me, make their roadtripping dreams a reality by visiting our state’s most iconic parks and landscapes. They shouldn’t have to pollute the air when they do it by driving a gas-powered vehicle. 

In search of big skies full of stars or the chance to spot furry little pika or an elusive blue columbine, millions of people each year venture to the special places found in every corner of our state. 

When I dream of taking a trip, I’m always thinking about the vistas and views at my destination. But at the same time, much of the road trip experience is centered around the car, driven for many miles with good company, your favorite snacks (I am partial to clementines) and a stellar playlist.

As the climate crisis grows more urgent, however, it’s imperative that our cars stop burning fossil fuels, and instead run on clean, renewable energy. Transportation emissions recently become the top polluting sector of the economy and I am one of the many Coloradans who experiences over four months of unhealthy air quality every year

Smog over the Denver metro, credit: KUSA

Transitioning to all-electric vehicles is not just a call to action, but an active plan. Colorado is aiming to get nearly 1 million electric vehicles on the road by the end of the decade

But is the electric car market ready in Colorado? The electric car market is rapidly growing, with over one million electric cars on America’s roads today. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of electric vehicles on the road in Colorado more than doubled from over 11,000 to over 24,000. In fact, there are more than 40 types of plug-in electric vehicles today.

Though electric cars are growing in popularity, consumers are still concerned about finding a place to charge. For a road trip, driving an electric car from park to park might seem difficult.

Colorado’s national and state parks are not so hard to get to, but have a noticeable lack of charging infrastructure. Since people charge their electric vehicles when they are parked, a lack of infrastructure near hiking trails means many folks suffer from range anxiety – the fear that they’ll run out of juice on the way back from a day on our public lands… 

Coloradans should not have to choose between having an electric vehicle or going on a roadtrip in a dirty-fueled car, so we need to have the charging infrastructure in the same places we escape to for relief.

EV Charger in Catocin Mountain Park, Maryland, Credit: NPS Photo

Every state park, national monument, national forest and national park could install electric car chargers and make it easy for visitors to recharge their cars while they recharge their souls in nature. 

And even better, the park system doesn’t always have to foot the bill for the chargers. Many companies have an incentive to build out charging. For instance, BMW of North America donated 100 electric car chargers to the national parks between 2017 and 2019.

Obviously, we don’t want to bulldoze any iconic spots to put in a charger. But most major parks have parking lots and facilities already that can be fitted with a charger. 

Electric cars can help us protect our special places from the worst impacts of climate change. Road tripping in an electric car can bring you to amazing natural wonders without tailpipe pollution that fuels climate change.

Generations of Coloradans have criss-crossed our state to enjoy the splendor of the great outdoors. Now, the future of road trips will be in electric cars, especially if our favorite outdoor places have electric car chargers waiting for us when we reach our destination. 


Eric Timlin

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