Get Big Pivots


John Stulp triangulated his travels between his farms in eastern Colorado and Denver and decided it was time to buy an electric pickup. Will other farmers soon be doing the same?


by Allen Best

John Stulp is the proud owner of what he has reason to believe is the first electric pickup in Southeastern Colorado’s Prowers County.

A few Teslas can be found in and around Lamar, he says, but his Ford F-150 Lightning is the first pickup. He grows wheat and other crops seven miles south of Lamar.

Stulp says he was counseled against the purchase.

“Everybody has 10 reasons why something won’t work,” he said. He thought otherwise, and paid $100 to enter a reservation in Colorado to purchase a Lightning, which retails for just under $40,000. Now he answers questions.

“Everyone is curious.”

After 13 years as a Prowers County commissioner, Stulp was the agriculture commissioner in the administration of Gov. Bill Ritter. He then was the water czar in the administration of former Gov. John Hickenlooper from 2011 to 2019.

All of Colorado’s 64 counties have at least one EV registration. Sedgwick (Julesberg) and Hinsdale (Lake City) had only one as of July 1. A few farm counties only have 2, 3, or 4 EV registrations. Stulp’s Prowers County had 9. Presumably his recent purchase boosted it to 10.

Denver County, perhaps not surprisingly, leads the state in EV registrations, with nearing 10,000 on the road. Boulder County comes in second at 8,500 and Jefferson County — still the state’s most populous county — lags only a little at 7,000.

Colorado altogether as of July 1 had nearly 60,000 EVs on the road. The state goal is 940,000 by 2030. That’s roughly half of all auto sales.

That sounds like a huge gap, but the model variety coupled with lowering price points in the next few years looks to significantly increase the adoption of the new technology in the next few years. In the first half of this year, 6.4% of all automobile sales were for EVs, according to Colorado Auto Outlook, a newsletter sponsored by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

A website called EValuateCO, which was created with help and support from the Colorado Energy Office, provides a wealth of information. For example, what two of Colorado’s counties would you expect to lead the state’s 64 counties in EVs per thousand residents? I’ll provide the answer at the end.

In general, EV uptake has been stronger in urban and suburban areas than in those that are distinctly rural for perhaps obvious reasons. The models useful for those engaged in agriculture have been slower in coming. Most EV models have been sedans or small SUVS, often without all-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Now comes the Ford F-150 and others, including the Rivian. Experts point out that EVs deliver even greater benefits to rural residents than urban and suburban residents because they tend to drive more. That will increase the cost savings from the lesser fuel costs of electricity.

Ben Westby can see the Ford F-150 Lightning delivering value added to farmers and ranchers because of its electrical capacity. An option is to have a 9-kw onboard generator, which would allow it to provide tools at 240 volts or multiple 110-volt outlets.

“It’s a work horse,” he says.

Ford has an even catchier slogan: “It’s ready to work, even when parked.” And if power to the house from the grid goes out? Well, the pickup can pick up the slack for awhile, too.

Westby is a member of the Western Colorado EV Club. It’s an informal organization, made up primarily of EV owners from the Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction areas. They stay in touch via Facebook but have monthly meetings. Last year, they all went to a drive-in theater in Montrose for their monthly meeting.

Ben Westby

Ben Westby and his family look for charging stations congruent with interesting places, such as the museum and river walk in Utah’s Green River. Photo/Ben Westby

An elementary school teacher in New Castle, Westby described improving charging infrastructure from Aspen to Rifle, stations in every town along the way, 10 or so miles apart. When his family drove to San Diego last year, they had to stop about every three hours. That was just fine with a young family, with the need for stretching and restrooms during a 20-minute charge. Such charging stations tend to be located in more interesting areas than gas stations, he points out. The Westby family favors Green River, Utah. The John Wesley Powell River Museum has a charger and a nice path along the river, too.

Charging of EVs still requires forethought. I considered renting an EV to drive to Lamar and Springfield in southeastern Colorado earlier this year but then checked out the charging stations. They exist, but not like in an urban area. And the story here lies in fast-charging stations. The 480-volt chargers take longer to fill a battery than it takes to fill up a car or pickup with gas. As for 220-volt chargers? Good for home and overnight applications.

Before buying his F-150 Lighting, Stulp calculated his distances. The pickup he purchased has a range of 270 miles. (Ford says 320). Still, that’s enough to cover his drives between his farm south of Lamar and a house in Lakewood where he spends part of his time. He also owns property in Yuma County, where he grew up. He is getting 220-volt outlets installed at all three corners of that triangle.

Colorado in a partnership with ChargePoint and site hosts has committed to build 34 fast-charging stations across Colorado’s major corridors. As of late July 24 were operating. The remainder are expected to be ready by year’s end. This is the result of a $10.33 million grant awarded in November 2018 using federal funds.

“Fast-charging stations give EV drivers the confidence to reliably travel to all corners of the state,” said then-Gov. Hickenlooper.

That program funded stations in Lamar, Burlington, and Sterling, among other locations. New funding from the federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program will yield even more fast-charging stations along Federal Highway Administration routes.

The EV dashboard funded by the state projects an increase from roughly 600 fast-charging stations in Colorado in 2021 to 900 through 2024.

It has a more complicated plan for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. Ford F-150s qualify as medium in this classification.

Stulp was an early supporter of developing wind energy in the Lamar area. His farm is about 15 miles from Colorado Green, Colorado’s first major wind farm. The repowered wind farm now produces more energy than all the oil and gas production in Prowers County.

In a sense, he sees himself driving down the highway powered by the same wind that blusters across the highlands of Prowers County.


  • As for those two counties that lead Colorado in EV registrations per 1,000, they are Boulder at 24.21 and Pitkin (Aspen) at 24.21. Broomfield is third at 19.13, followed by Douglas, Eagle, and Larimer counties
Allen Best
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