Saturday, 10 Jun 2023

New Colorado plan targets 2.1 million electric cars on the road by 2035

More than 2 million electric cars and SUVs on Colorado roads by 2035. About 1,700 public fast-charging ports and 5,800 Level 2 chargers installed or in the works by 2025. Zero-emission vehicles making up at least 30% of new sales of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2030.

Those are just some of the mileposts in the new Colorado Electric Vehicle plan released Tuesday. The final draft builds on two previous plans and is intended as a map for electrifying the state’s transportation, the source of approximately a quarter of Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions.

While the new plan drew praise from some quarters, the trucking industry is questioning how realistic some of the goals are. The Colorado Motor Carriers Association has proposed an alternate plan that would phase in requirements, provide exemptions and encourage use of renewable natural gas and compressed natural gas as a bridge.

Earlier plans envisioned 940,000 electric vehicles in Colorado by 2030 as part of efforts to address air quality and climate change. There are currently about 70,000 electric vehicles in the state, below 2% of the total.

But Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, noted that electric vehicles made up 10.5% of new car registrations in 2022.

“When you look at the momentum in the industry, the level of investment that we are seeing from car companies, the policy support at the national level through the (federal) Inflation Reduction Act, the policy support here in Colorado and just the excitement that I think is out there in the public as more people realize the benefits and advantages of electric vehicles, I think that we are really hitting a tipping point,” Toor said.

Billions of dollars are allocated in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for building out networks of charging stations. The Inflation Reduction Act extends tax credits for electric vehicles.

And the Colorado General Assembly and state officials have approved programs to help people buy electric vehicles and install chargers and are considering legislation to bolster state tax credits. Regulated utilities offer rebates through their plans to help electrify the transportation sector.

Toor expects legislation to be introduced that will increase state tax credits to fill the gap that’s anticipated while domestic manufacturing picks up. The federal tax credits require certain levels of domestic content in electric vehicles.

Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement that the state is making sure Coloradans can save money and access electric vehicles of all types. The data-driven plan “is part of our work to fight for clean air, save people money, and protect our environment now and for generations to come,” he said.

“Most of what the administration said it would do in the 2020 plan is either completed or well underway,” said Travis Madsen, the transportation program director for Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

“There are a ton of new policies that have been enacted and are going be implemented in the next couple of years that I think will take us to the next level,” Madsen added.

A significant focus of the new EV plan is electrifying medium- and heavy-duty trucks and transit and school buses. One of the goals is to have 35,000 electric trucks driving around by 2030 and 100% of the new sales be electric by 2050.

“Even though they’re a smaller number of vehicles, they account for a disproportionate  amount of the pollution due  to the pollution from diesel trucks and buses,” Toor said.

The heavier vehicles produce about 22% of the tailpipe greenhouse gasses emitted while making up less than 10% of all vehicles on Colorado roads, according to the state Department of Transportation. They include school buses, delivery vans, work trucks and semitrailers.

A hearing is set for April 19 before the state Air Quality Control Commission on the proposed Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which would require a percentage of the vehicles for sale in Colorado increasingly be electric.

A coalition that includes community and environmental justice organizations pushed for hearings to be held on the clean truck rule a year ago, said Juan Roberto Madrid, the clean transportation and energy policy advocate for GreenLatinos.

“Everything looked like it was moving toward announcing the rulemaking and having the hearing last year,” said Madrid, who chalked up the delay to politics. “While it was delayed, we’re happy the rulemaking is occurring,”

Electrifying trucks, buses and other large vehicles is important to communities disproportionately affected by pollution, both in urban centers and rural areas, Madrid said.

Toor said in an email that the state first focused on plans for the infrastructure and appropriate incentives to support fleets’ adoption of electric trucks.

However, the Colorado Motor Carriers Association said in an alternate proposal that while it supports the transition to “zero or near zero emission trucks,” it doesn’t think the clean truck rule is feasible. The proposal, based on California’s rule, doesn’t fit with Colorado’s particular needs and challenges, including the terrain and cold weather, said Greg Fulton, the association’s president and CEO.

“What we’re looking at is how do we end up with a Colorado plan and approach that achieves both diesel emission reductions and greenhouse gas reductions,” Fulton said.

Adopting the California rule assumes that Colorado is at the same point when it comes to number of electric vehicles, investment and planning, but it isn’t, Fulton said.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, states must follow federal vehicle emissions standards or essentially adopt those enacted by California, which was granted a waiver to craft its own rules. Madsen of SWEEP said the idea was to avoid requiring automakers to meet multiple standards across the country.

While Colorado has limited authority to make changes to the California standards, Madsen believes the industry’s proposal would go too far.

Chris Nevers, senior director of public policy for Rivian, which makes electric vans, trucks and SUVs, said he hopes the state’s proposal goes through as proposed.

“You really need a rule like this to set the market signal and make sure these vehicles end up in Colorado,” Nevers said.

Oregon, Washington and Vermont are among the states that have followed California’s lead on electric trucks.

Other features of the new EV plan would:

• Extend the requirement that manufacturers make a certain percentage of electric cars and SUVs available in Colorado through 2032.

• Support the adoption of 2,000 electric school buses by 2027 and achieve 100% zero-emission buses on the road by 2035, with a focus on adoption in school districts in disproportionately impacted communities.

• Increase access to eBikes for low- and moderate -income Coloradans by providing grants, rebates, and tax credits for at least 10,000 new eBikes by 2025.

• Support 10 community-driven electric mobility projects by 2025 by providing grants or supporting community applications to other funding sources.

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from state vehicles by at least 15% by June 2025 based on 2014-15 emissions.

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