The State Legislature Just Sped Up Colorado’s Transition to Electric Vehicles

May 7, 2019


(DENVER, CO) – This Friday, a key clean air commission could take the next big step by considering a new electric vehicle standard.

While the federal government stalls out on clean transportation, environmental, public health and consumer advocates came together Tuesday to celebrate major progress on electric vehicles at the State Legislature, and to call attention to the next major step Colorado can take to speed up vehicle electrification. Advocates called on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to begin consideration of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program this Friday. Adopting the ZEV program is one of the single biggest actions Colorado could take to reduce air pollution, tackle climate change, save consumers money, and increase the number of electric vehicles available at Colorado dealerships.

At the event, E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) also released a new video providing Coloradans with an overview on the state of electric vehicles in Colorado.

The 2019 Colorado General Assembly passed major electric vehicle bills, including:

  • HB 1159 – This bill extends Colorado’s leading EV tax credits. It will reduce the upfront cost of purchasing an electric vehicle until 2025, when experts anticipate that the purchase price of an EV will equal that of a comparable gasoline car. Governor Polis is expected to sign it into law.
  • SB 077 – This bill requires Xcel and Black Hills Energy to propose transportation electrification plans by May 2020. It will expand the network of EV charging stations across the state, including for transit fleets, school buses, workplaces, public locations, multi-family housing, and individual homes. Governor Polis is expected to sign it into law.
  • HB 1198 – This bill widens the scope of the Charge Ahead Colorado program, which awards grants to offset the cost of a new EV charging station. Colorado needs thousands of new charging stations in order to reach our state goal of 940,000 EVs by 2030, and this bill will help us get there. Governor Polis signed this bill into law on April 17.

Background on Friday’s Air Quality Control Commission hearing and the Zero Emission Vehicle Program:

The next step Colorado can take to accelerate transportation electrification would be to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. This would require auto manufacturers to develop and market vehicles that emit no tailpipe pollution, starting in model-year 2023 and increasing in later years. Advocates estimate that it would require about 8 percent of new vehicle sales in Colorado to be electric by 2025. Colorado would be the eleventh state to adopt the ZEV program, and the first non-coastal state.

At an AQCC hearing this Friday, advocates expect the commission to initiate a formal process to consider adopting the ZEV program. If the commission votes yes, technical experts and the public will be able to weigh in on the proposed rule over the summer. The AQCC would then likely take a final up-or-down vote in mid-August.

Background on the benefits of electric vehicles in Colorado:

Electric vehicles offer widespread benefits for all Coloradans, including cleaner air, less climate change, significant dollar savings and greater consumer choice:

  • In 2018, an electric vehicle running on electricity from Xcel produced 71 percent less smog-forming pollution, 99 percent less VOC pollution, and 34 percent less global warming pollution, compared to a new gasoline vehicle.
  • EVs will get cleaner as our electricity system continues to move away from polluting fuels. In terms of global warming pollution, an EV using electricity from Xcel in 2018 was comparable to a gasoline car that gets 52 miles-per-gallon (mpg). However, in 2026, that same EV will perform like a gasoline car that gets 105 mpg, because more than half of Xcel’s electricity in that year will come from clean, renewable sources.
  • Powering an electric vehicle is two-thirds less expensive than filling up at the gas pump. That means a typical rural driver could save more than $600 per year by switching from gas to electricity.
  • EVs cost much less to maintain as well. For example, New York City is currently saving more than $900 per year in maintenance costs for an electric Nissan Leaf compared to a gasoline-powered Ford Fusion in the city fleet.
  • Dollar savings will extend even to people who do not drive EVs, because transportation electrification can help our electricity system work more efficiently. Electric vehicles could cumulatively reduce our electric bills by more than $4 billion by mid-century.
  • Cumulative net-benefits from vehicle electrification in Colorado could exceed $40 billion by mid-century, according to analysis by MJ Bradley & Associates.

There are currently 43 electric vehicle models available in the United States and more are coming, including 21 electric SUV models over the next 2 years. Unfortunately, the vehicles that already exist are mostly sent to states with ZEV standards and many Coloradans report being unable to purchase the electric vehicles they want in-state. If Colorado adopts the ZEV program, consumers here will be more likely to get access to a wide variety of models.

A broad array of stakeholders support the Zero Emission Vehicle Program:

Supporters of ZEV adoption include a wide range of organizations, local governments, businesses, and Colorado automobile shoppers including Conservation Colorado, SWEEP, Sierra Club, Environment Colorado, CoPIRG, NRDC, E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), and Environmental Defense Fund.

“The Zero Emissions Vehicle program is a tried and tested program. It’s a sure-fire way to get cleaner cars, clean energy and cleaner skies. Colorado moving forward with ZEV is hugely significant in the region and nationally.  It will guarantee the expansion of the market for the cleanest cars in the heart of the mountain west,” said Noah Long, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Colorado’s future is electric,” said Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director at SWEEP. “The faster we get off oil, the better — for our wallets, for our health and for our climate. We thank the General Assembly for their important efforts to speed up electric transportation this session, and we urge the Air Quality Control Commission to build on that momentum by adopting the ZEV Program.”

“Electric vehicles are cheaper to drive and they don’t come with tailpipe emissions. Colorado needs to adopt strong electric vehicle standards to protect our health and support a Colorado quality of life,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Director.

“Coloradans are already feeling the effects of climate change and environmental degradation is only expected to worsen if we do not take action,” said Emily Struzenberg, Environment Colorado’s Climate Organizer. “Electrifying our transportation sector is one of the many essential advancements our state must pursue to protect our environment, our air, and our communities.”

“Half of Americans want their next car to be electric, but many of them are having trouble finding an electric vehicle that fits their lifestyle. The ZEV program would solve that problem by bringing a wider variety and greater quantity of electric vehicles to Colorado dealerships,” said Emily Gedeon, Conservation Program Director with the Colorado Sierra Club.

“Senate Bill 77 is a critical step forward and a big win for all Coloradans. The addition of more charging stations on our streets, more electric buses in our transit fleets, and statewide electric vehicle connectivity will speed Colorado’s shift toward cleaner cars. Paired with the consumer options of a ZEV rule, Colorado is poised for cleaner cars and cleaner air,” said Jenny Gaeng, Front Range Field Organizer with Conservation Colorado.

“Colorado Zero Emitting Vehicle standards will help reduce climate-destabilizing and health-harming pollution and ensure Coloradans have a greater number of clean, zero-emitting options to choose from when buying a new car or truck.  We encourage the commission to move forward swiftly to adopt ZEV standards, which will help to protect Coloradans’ health and save Colorado consumers money,” said Peter Zalzal, Lead Attorney with Environmental Defense Fund.

About SWEEP: The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project is a public interest organization advancing more efficient energy use and clean transportation options in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.