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Colorado’s Local Governments Leading the Way on Electric Transportation with GoEV City Commitments

Colorado’s Local Governments Leading the Way on Electric Transportation with GoEV City Commitments

Local governments around Colorado are making the GoEV City commitment — a pledge to electrify 100% of the cars, trucks, and buses in their communities over the next few decades. By joining the GoEV Campaign, six communities — Fort Collins, Boulder County, Denver, City of Boulder, Summit County, and City of Golden — are giving their residents an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, breathe cleaner air, save money, and lead the way toward greater electric vehicle (EV) adoption nationwide. 

Transportation is the number one source of climate-changing pollution in Colorado, and one of the largest contributors of dangerous local air pollution like ground-level ozone (smog). EVs have zero tailpipe emissions and are a key strategy to improving local air quality and public health, and addressing the climate crisis.

Shifting to EVs will also save consumers and fleet owners money since they are cheaper to fuel and maintain than gasoline and diesel vehicles. EV drivers pay the equivalent of $1 per gallon to recharge their vehicles (as low as $0.64 if they take advantage of Xcel’s residential time-of-use rates) and spend about half as much to repair and maintain their vehicles. Consumers want EVs, and a recent survey showed that 63% of prospective car buyers are interested in purchasing one for their next vehicle.

Xcel Energy compares the cost of owning an all-electric Nissan LEAF versus a gas-powered Nissan Altima over 5 years. (This calculation includes $10,000 worth of state and federal EV tax credits.)

GoEV City was modeled after the Ready for 100 campaign — a commitment from local governments around the U.S. to source their electricity from 100% renewable energy no later than 2050. These initiatives demonstrate that local action can shape the public’s understanding of clean energy and climate. To date, Ready for 100 has secured commitments from over 180 local governments across the U.S. including 15 cities and counties in Colorado. It’s time to build on this success by applying the same approach to transportation, which is now the leading source of GHG pollution in Colorado. The fates of these two systems are inextricably linked — EVs are only as clean as the grid they plug into, and if plugged in at the right times, EVs can support the integration of more renewables, cleaning up the electric grid and transportation system at the same time. 

GoEV Cities & Counties set ambitious Electric Vehicle targets 

GoEV Cities and Counties set targets to electrify 100% of municipal fleet vehicles, transit buses, school buses, carshare and rideshare vehicles, and all vehicles in the community. They also commit to creating an Electric Vehicle Strategy or Roadmap with EV-supportive policies and programs to accelerate transportation electrification in their communities. 

The 100% electric transportation target may seem overambitious to skeptics, but similar concerns about feasibility were voiced when Colorado adopted its first Renewable Energy Standard in 2004, requiring 3% of electricity to come from renewables by 2007 and 10% by 2015. Fast forward to 2021 and over 30% of Xcel Energy’s electricity generation is now sourced from renewable energy. As of last week, all the major electric utilities in Colorado have committed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2030 through the retirement of coal plants and the development of renewable energy projects. 

In the transportation sector, there are signs this market transformation might happen even faster. At this point, over a dozen countries plus California and Massachusetts have announced plans to completely phase-out the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2035 or 2040, and every major automaker in the world is converting their fleet to EVs. Together, states, counties, and cities can accelerate EV adoption by creating EV-supportive policies and programs, and sending a clear market signal to automotive manufacturers that Colorado is ready for EVs. 

GoEV City and County Commitments:

By our count, Colorado’s local governments already have around 300 EVs in their fleets and a few cities, like Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder, are moving ahead from the pilot phase to full implementation. The City of Fort Collins already has 70 EVs in their fleet and was awarded the #1 Green Fleet in America at the Government Fleet Virtual Honors Celebration in June. To institutionalize fleet electrification, GoEV Cities like Boulder and Golden established "EV First'' fleet procurement policies, which set EVs as the default vehicle purchase and require departments to "opt-out" should the technology not fulfill the operational needs of the vehicle.

Boulder's new 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV (PHEV)

GoEV Cities and Counties advocate for stronger state and federal clean transportation policies

In addition to leading by example, cities and counties can also use their influence to advocate for stronger climate and clean energy policies at the state and federal levels. In Colorado, the groundswell of local government advocacy for clean transportation policies has resulted in strong EV policies at the state level, such as the Zero-Emission Vehicle Standard, which was unanimously approved by the AQCC in 2019. More recently, local governments made their voices heard at a Public Utilities Commission meeting to support the approval of Xcel Energy’s Transportation Electrification Plan, a $110 million investment in EV charging infrastructure, fleet advisory services, EV education programs, and an EV rebate for low-income customers. Combined, these policies will increase EV model availability at Colorado dealerships, boost incentives for EVs and EV charging stations, and support the state’s goal of getting 940,000 EVs on the road by 2030

GoEV Cities & Counties launch innovative EV pilots and policies

The future of transportation is electric, but as with any new technology, implementation comes with its own set of challenges and exciting opportunities. The City of Boulder passed a GoEV City Resolution in September establishing an "EV First" fleet procurement policy, which will include the cost of fuel, maintenance, and the social cost of carbon in their vehicle cost calculations. Boulder is also experimenting with bidirectional EV charging to power their buildings with their EV batteries while the vehicles are not in use. The pilot is expected to reduce annual energy bills at city-owned facilities by thousands of dollars per EV by lowering electricity demand during peak hours. 

Further west, Summit Stage received their first three electric transit buses in October of 2020. Bus electrification presents an opportunity for transit agencies to save money, improve services, and ultimately get more people on cleaner buses. Summit Stage is collaborating closely with state agencies, utilities, local governments, and the private sector to integrate the electric buses into their fleet and early results show the buses are performing well in cold temperatures and mountainous terrain. This knowledge-sharing is critical for problem-solving and building confidence in electric transportation.

The Summit Stage is set to cut the ribbon on the county's first three Proterra electric buses (Photo from Summit County)

Denver took the reins in developing one of the country’s most advanced EV-ready building codes, which require parking spaces in new residential and commercial buildings to be pre-wired for EV charging. Denver’s EV-ready building codes served as the basis for similar code requirements in Boulder, Summit County, Breckenridge, Dillon, and Frisco, and has been recognized as one of the strongest EV building codes in the country. 

Denver is also leading the way toward electric shared mobility services like ride-hail, car-share, and bike-share. Last year, Lyft introduced 200 new EVs to their Express Drive rental program in Colorado and is working closely with Denver and Xcel Energy to build public charging infrastructure and promote EV adoption to their drivers. Ride-hail vehicles are particularly important to electrify since they drive five times more, and produce five times more pollution than the average vehicle.

GoEV Cities and Counties commit to improving transportation equity by increasing access to electric mobility for all residents

GoEV Cities recognize that low-income households are disproportionately impacted by the environmental and health impacts of transportation pollution. In addition, vehicle ownership is expensive and the average low-income household spends about a third of their total income on transportation. As a result, these households have the most to benefit from replacing their gasoline cars with lower-cost EVs. To address these inequities, GoEV Cities like Boulder and Golden committed to “improve transportation and social equity and extend the benefits of transportation electrification to low-income households and communities disproportionately affected by the harmful effects of air pollution.”

These communities understand that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to electric transportation isn’t going to work for everyone and by pledging to electrify school buses, transit buses, rideshare, carshare, and micro-mobility vehicles, GoEV Cities are working to expand their electric mobility offerings to all residents. For example, Denver is working with eGo Carshare, Xcel Energy, and Mariposa Affordable Housing to offer electric car-share services for affordable housing residents. 

2020 was the year of the electric bike and local governments in the Denver metro-area are teaming up with the Colorado Energy Office and Bicycle Colorado to expand the state’s electric bike incentive program for low-income essential workers in 2021. 

GoEV Cities and Counties educate the public about the benefits of electric transportation

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, local governments have an important role to play in educating their residents about the benefits of EVs and correcting common misconceptions about the reality of owning an EV. A 2020 Colorado EV Consumer and Market Survey found that over half of participants think EV ownership requires expensive charging equipment, when in reality, a portable charger is typically included with the purchase of an EV and works with a standard electrical outlet in your garage or driveway. In addition, only one in five survey participants were aware of the state’s $4000 EV tax credit, the highest state EV purchase incentive in the country. (The EV tax credit stepped down to $2500 on January 1). To better inform their residents, Denver launched the Pass Gas campaign, with important information about EV models, charging locations, the cost of EV ownership, and state and federal incentives.

Denver’s EV Ride & Drive event outside the Capitol building

Local governments have also been instrumental in generating interest and support for state and utility-led EV incentive programs. To date, the Charge Ahead Colorado grant program has awarded funding for more than 930 public EV charging stations, including awards for 52 local governments in all corners of the state, from Alamosa to Ouray and Dinosaur to Fort Collins. In addition, the Alt Fuels and Transit Bus Grant programs are using Colorado’s portion of the Volkswagen settlement funds to replace high-polluting diesel buses with 30 electric transit buses and five electric school buses in 2021. 

Kicking it into Overdrive in 2021

So far, Denver, Fort Collins, Aspen, and Boulder have published EV Readiness Roadmaps with specific strategies and programs to advance transportation electrification. Other local governments around the state are developing their own EV Plans. Here’s a preview of what’s to come in 2021:

  1. Longmont Equitable Carbon-Free Transportation Roadmap
  2. Colorado Springs EV Readiness Plan (DOLA grant)
  3. Estes Park EV Infrastructure & Readiness Plan (DOLA grant)
  4. Pueblo County EV Readiness Plan (DOLA grant)
  5. Durango EV Readiness Plan
  6. Steamboat Springs EV Readiness Plan
  7. Summit County EV Readiness Plan
  8. Golden: Fleet Electrification Plan

Tackling climate change is going to require action at all levels of governments and Colorado cities and counties are rising to the challenge by making the GoEV pledge to 100% electric transportation. For more information about the GoEV City campaign, visit our website and review our local government EV policy toolkit at goevcity.org.

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The GoEV Cities and Counties campaign is a joint effort of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), Conservation Colorado, and Colorado Sierra Club.