Sen. Hickenlooper visits Lightning eMotors, discusses future of electric vehicles –

When Sen. John Hickenlooper drove one of Lightning eMotors’ fully electric delivery trucks Thursday, he could have made an easier stop by parking next to an electric bus instead of trying to pull the large vehicle into the spot where it had been parked.

“I’m not afraid to park it,” Hickenlooper said. As he maneuvered the truck back to where it had sat when he took the driver’s seat, he said he hoped that the people waiting for his return would applaud as he pulled in.

Lightning eMotors CEO Tim Reeser shows U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper the underside of a transport van the company is manufacturing during a tour of the plant Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Hickenlooper made a visit to Lightning eMotors in southwest Loveland Thursday afternoon to take a look at what the electric vehicle giant is doing to make its way in the push forward for electric transportation.

The visit came as Hickenlooper continues to push forward and support legislation that would help the push for electric vehicles, including the recently introduced RECHARGE Act, which encourages states to promote equitable and affordable electric vehicle charging, saving drivers’ money.

Lightning eMotors operates as the largest commercial zero emission fleet manufacturing facility in the United States. According to information provided by the company, it is the only manufacturer in the country that sells and delivers zero-emission vehicles in class 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 vehicles, including passenger vans, ambulances, shuttle buses, delivery vans, box trucks and motor coaches. These vehicles are used for everything from package delivery to shuttle operations at airports and have been used by companies like Amazon and DHL.

“This isn’t just transporation. This is a ride,” says U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper as he rides in a transport van manufactured by Lightning eMotors during a tour of its plant Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

While the company has been operating since 2009, in 2017 it moved its headquarters, manufacturing and research and development operations into the campus that formerly housed the Hewlett-Packard/Agilent building, now known as The Forge.

The 231,000-square-foot facility offers more space for the over 170 employees to assemble electric vehicles.

Lightning eMotors CEO and co-founder Tim Reeser and several Lightning and Forge employees gave Hickenlooper a tour of the facility.

Reeser said, as the tour got started, that the company goal goes beyond aiding with sustainability.

“We want to sell a product that is not just about sustainability, but is about having a better product,” he said. “This isn’t just about innovating in terms of how do we make a more sustainable universe, how do we make a more sustainable United States, but also it is about innovating how do we make a fundamentally better product?”

Lightning eMotors welding and fabrication area leader Aaron Raines gets a fist-bump from U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper after he let him use a machine to cut a part during a tour of their plant Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

As Hickenlooper walked around the facility he was able to see where vehicles are put together and assembly stations for electric engines, he cut out some metal pieces with a computer numerical control laser cutter. He drove around the property in a class 6 box truck and got to ride around the campus in an electric passenger shuttle.

After his visit, Hickenlooper said he was not surprised that the nation’s biggest manufacturer is in Colorado. He said that it also gives him and others hope that the fight against climate change is not stopping.

“In many ways this is the first time you can stand here and say we have a fighting chance,” he said. “We are not always feeling the doom and gloom about climate (change). This is some good news.”

Hickenlooper said that the work that Lightning eMotors is doing, a niche that he said they have filled successfully and efficiently, is one of the best ways to push the general public toward understanding and acceptance of electric vehicles.

“A fleet is a way of accelerating the transition, the change to a new world where everything becomes electric,” he said. “Clearly one of the things we, as Americans, have to recognize is climate change is real and that we have to address it immediately. If you want to begin that conversion into an electric future, you need to go right away into fleets.”

Reeser said that having the senator out to see what they do will have a profound impact on his understanding of the topic.

“Having him here to see the innovation, see the people working on it, see the growth, see all the machinery and automation that is here and actually ride in a vehicle and say ‘yes this is truly a better vehicle, I am not just advocating for climate change I am doing something that would make the average American life better,’” Reeser said.

He added that Lightning has positioned itself to use the tailwind created by legislation around electric vehicles to further progress.

“When you think about the opportunity for commercial vehicles, it is very vast,” Reeser said. “When you think about the car you are going to drive, you don’t think about the number of commercial vehicles and the opportunity for those that Lightning sees.”

Hickenlooper said he could not overstate the importance of coming out to see the facility and process in person as well as feel what it is like to drive and ride in a commercial electric vehicle as he continues to support them.

“Once you actually touch it and experience it, you are a much more forceful and much more successful advocate,” he said. “That is what I will be able to deliver.”

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper waves from the driver’s seat of a delivery truck manufactured by Lightning eMotors on Thursday, July 8, 2021, before taking off for a test drive outside the company headquarters in Loveland. He visited to take a tour of the electric vehicle plant. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

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