Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan Paves the Way toward 100 Percent Clean Vehicles

April 28. 2020 | Matt Frommer

On April 23, the Colorado Energy Office unveiled the new and improved Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan, a guiding document that sets forth the State’s ambitious EV targets and outlines the programs, policies, and strategies required to transition the transportation sector to clean, zero-emission vehicles. Transportation is a leading source of climate-changing pollution in Colorado and vehicles are also a major source of soot and smog pollution that harm public health (and increase the risks posed by the pandemic.) With the new EV plan, Colorado has articulated a vision to transition all vehicles in the state to 100 percent clean energy. This is the first time the state has set a goal of moving the whole transportation sector to zero-emission technology.

The updated EV Plan builds off the previous version, which was released in January 2018 and included several specific action items, such as the development of a statewide EV fast-charging network, the adoption of the Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Standard, and the allocation of Volkswagen settlement funds to replace old diesel trucks and buses with new electric ones. With bold leadership from the Polis Administration, the state achieved all of these goals in the past two years. Colorado has also made significant progress on climate and clean energy policy, passing legislation to extend the State’s EV tax credit through 2025, require regulated utilities to build EV charging infrastructure, and set economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals. (See the full list of 2019 clean energy legislation here.)

With the new EV plan, the state commits to support the electrification of all light-duty vehicles in Colorado, with an interim goal of 940,000 EVs on our roads by 2030. Meeting such a goal would require a 50 percent increase in EV sales each year for the next 10 years. Today, only about 30,000 of the 5 million registered vehicles in Colorado are electric, but most experts predict exponential growth in EV sales in the coming years, propelled by a combination of supportive policies, lower-cost EVs, more diverse model selection (with electric SUVs and pickup trucks on the horizon), and greater access to EV charging stations.

Unreliable access to EV charging stations is one of the biggest hurdles for EV adoption, and the new EV Plan aims to quantify the state’s charging needs by undertaking a EV charging infrastructure gap analysis. The state will also continue to support the build-out of community and highway charging stations by facilitating new partnerships, developing installation guidelines and resources, and expanding funding through the Charge Ahead Colorado Grant Program.

Colorado recognizes that this is about all kinds of vehicles. This plan expands the state’s focus beyond passenger vehicles to also include medium- and heavy-duty trucks and transit buses, with a goal of 1,000 electric transit buses in Colorado by 2030. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for about one-quarter of climate-changing pollution from transportation. To reduce emissions from these vehicles, the state will help transition 100 percent of the medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in Colorado to zero-emission vehicles, which includes electric, hydrogen, and other zero-emission technologies. To drive the market, state agencies will investigate the adoption of policies like the Clean Truck and Clean Transit Rules, which would set meaningful zero-emission vehicle targets for new truck and bus purchases in Colorado.

The new Plan represents a coordinated effort between the Colorado Energy Office, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Environment, and the Regional Air Quality Council to deliver the environmental and economic benefits of electric transportation to all Coloradans. All state agencies will lead by example, prioritizing the purchase of EVs for state fleets and expanding access to workplace charging for state employees. The State is also supporting the development of local EV Readiness Plans, several of which are supported by state funding. (See Denver’s new EV Action plan).

We’re glad to see the Governor’s office continue to demonstrate leadership on the state’s climate and clean energy goals, even while dealing with the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. Securing a healthy future for Coloradans requires leadership on many fronts.

The next big step forward will be in May, when Xcel Energy and Black Hills, the state’s regulated utilities, will propose plans to invest in transportation electrification. The new Transportation Electrification Plans (TEPs) will result in significant investments in the EV charging infrastructure Colorado will need to support more electric vehicles. In addition, the Air Quality Control Commission will be developing rules (required under House Bill 19-1261) to significantly reduce climate-changing pollution from all sources, including the transportation sector. The state is developing a greenhouse gas roadmap to articulate pathways forward to achieve the targets set in legislation. Initial results suggest that hitting the overall goal will require cutting transportation-related emissions on the order of 40% by 2030. We anticipate that the AQCC will begin a climate-related rule-making later this summer.

We look forward to working with the State and other partners to implement the action items in the Colorado EV Plan.

Matt Frommer is SWEEP’s Transportation Program Senior Associate, where he focuses on electric vehicle policy and EV-grid integration.

Travis Madsen co-authored this blog. Travis Madsen directs the Transportation Program at the SWEEP. He works to promote efficient, clean, sustainable, affordable movement of people and goods across the region.