Electric Trucks and Forklifts – Funding Options in Colorado

August 22, 2019 | Neil Kolwey & Matt Frommer

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular by the day as the technology rapidly matures. The potential benefits over conventional gas-powered vehicles are numerous –  they reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, reduce fuel costs, are easy to maintain, fun to drive, and are quickly becoming cost-competitive with traditional vehicles. For these reasons, many companies and local governments are quickly adding electric vehicles to their fleets.

But what about electric freight trucks and other industrial equipment? Progress has been a little slower in these applications, but more and more manufacturers are introducing new models. To reduce air pollution and move the market toward electric trucks, heavy forklifts, and airport ground-support equipment, Colorado is awarding the money from the Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds towards these cleaner options. In addition, Colorado has several pots of money available to help companies and local governments pay for light-duty EVs, such as the Chevy Bolt, as well as the required charging infrastructure.

Let’s start with the most generous and temporary of these funding sources, the VW settlement money. For freight trucks and forklifts, the VW settlement funds are being distributed through the Alt Fuels Colorado program. Some money has already been distributed, but as of summer 2019, $16.5 million remains to be awarded. There will be about three “application rounds” per year until the funds are used up, likely within the next two years.

The Alt Fuels Colorado funds can be used to purchase:

  • New electric or renewable natural gas (RNG) fueled freight trucks to replace Class 4-7 (medium-duty) and Class 8 (heavy-duty) diesel freight trucks;
  • Heavy electric forklifts or port cargo handling equipment replacing diesel or gas forklifts/equipment;
  • Electric airport ground support vehicles (replacing diesel); and
  • Electric railroad freight switchers (also replacing diesel).

For electric or RNG-fueled vehicles or equipment, the funds will pay for 110% of the incremental cost of the electric vehicle or RNG vehicle vs. the standard diesel vehicle. For example, using hypothetical figures, if a new diesel freight truck costs $100,000 and the equivalent capacity electric freight truck costs $200,000, the company would receive $110,000 from the Alt Fuels grant program and pay $90,000 out-of-pocket for the electric freight truck. Additionally, the funding can be used to purchase EV charging infrastructure to service the electric vehicles listed above. For EV charging infrastructure, the VW settlement funds will pay for a portion of the EV charging station costs, with a cap of $9,000 for Level 2 charging systems and up to $30,000 for Level 3 charging, which is also known as DC fast-charging (DCFC). 

Companies or local governments can apply for these funds through the Alt Fuels Colorado website, which provides an “AFC Program Guide” and sample applications. The next application period will begin in late September or early October 2019, and will last for about 30 days, and interested parties can sign up to receive email updates regarding the opening of the application period. The Regional Air Quality Council administers the Alt Fuels Colorado program and will be hosting an informational webinar before the next application round opens. Now is an excellent time to consider options, do the research, and develop a plan.

Heavy electric forklifts (with lift capacity of at least 8,000 lbs.) are slightly more expensive than the diesel or gasoline-powered versions, but they reduce maintenance costs, fuel costs, and air pollution. Manufacturers of heavy forklifts include Toyota, BYD, and CAT. Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp, which has facilities throughout the U.S., including in Golden, Colorado, routinely uses heavy electric forklifts in its operations to move multiple pallets of aluminum cans and other loads.

Medium-duty delivery trucks with a limited 100-150 mile range of operation, are also an ideal application for these funds. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency, which just completed a study on medium-duty electric trucks, found that “Medium-duty trucks (especially for delivery services) are going to be one of the first trucking applications with significant EVs.” In November 2018, FedEx announced that it was purchasing 1,000 new Chanje V8100 electric vans for its commercial and residential pick-up and delivery services in the U.S.

The E-Crafter, pictured above, is the first full electric delivery van produced by Volkswagen.
The E-Crafter, pictured above, is the first fully electric delivery van produced by Volkswagen.

Electric freight trucks are also beginning to make inroads, especially in California. In September of 2018, the California Air Resources Board awarded $200 million of new funding for 11 electric freight transportation projects. Frito-Lay was among the recipients and received a $15.4 million matching grant for the purchase of 15 heavy-duty Tesla electric tractors and six Peterbilt electric trucks. A catalog of medium- and heavy-duty electric truck manufacturers and models is available on California’s HVIP website. For companies that are interested in the potential benefits of transforming their fleets, SWEEP urges them to  consider a pilot program, where they could apply for funding for a small number of new freight trucks to test out their performance.

In addition to the Alt Fuels Colorado funds, a second pot of money exists in a program called “Charge Ahead Colorado.” As the name implies, this fund is designed to grow the number of electric vehicle charging stations in the state. By the end of 2018, the program has already awarded funding for 680 new charging stations. Charge Ahead Colorado will fund 80% of the cost of any Level 2 charging station for smaller vehicles (cars and light-duty trucks). A Level 2 charger typically provides 10 to 20 miles of range per 1 hour of charging and takes about 8 hours (the length of the average workday) to fully recharge an electric vehicle. For companies and local governments, these funds have been used to install new charging stations for employee electric vehicles, and for fleet vehicles. The Charge Ahead funds can also be used to pay for 80% of the incremental costs of new electric vehicles (passenger cars or small trucks) for fleets inside the 7 county Denver Metro Area. More information about how to apply for this funding is  available on the Charge Ahead website.

For companies interested in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and their fuel costs, electric vehicles, including trucks and heavy forklifts, are an important option to consider. With free money available for vehicles, equipment, and for charging stations, now is an excellent time to pursue a vehicle electrification path for your company.