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Automakers are slow to sell EVs in places without zero emission vehicle mandates, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Colorado’s new Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order this week to create a zero emission vehicle program to increase the number of electric vehicles for sale, while also funding charging infrastructure.
The state joins 10 others with ZEV programs to meet greenhouse gas emission standards it implemented in 2018. Curbing transportation pollution is key to that goal, as this sector is the biggest carbon dioxide producer.
Colorado also has a goal of putting 940,000 EVs on its roads by 2030.
“This is a huge deal for Colorado and for the country within the context of the Trump administration trying to rollback standards for fuel efficiency,” Noah Long, a director with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate & Clean Energy Program, told Route Fifty. “It’s making a huge stand to ensure vehicles available to Coloradans will be the cleanest and cheapest to operate.”
Polis, a Democrat, ordered the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to craft a zero emissions rule by the end of May requiring automakers to make EVs 9 percent of their passenger vehicle stock in the state by 2025.
Some automakers limit EVs to markets that have adopted ZEV standards, and even then California—which adopted its policy in 2009—accounted for 2.5 times the number of electric vehicles for sale in the other nine states, according to a 2016 Sierra Club study. Coloradans can’t currently purchase a Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid, for instance.
“We’re seeing a huge number of EVs coming onto the market, and in case after case automakers are prioritizing only those with ZEV programs,” Long said. “State policies ensure they have that access; Coloradans are now going to be getting vehicles otherwise not showing up in the interior West.”
Of the approximately 80 electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles expected to be on the market by 2021, 20 will be sport utility vehicles and crossovers popular in Colorado, according to NRDC, an advocacy group.
While Polis’ order has bipartisan support, not all Colorado Republicans were pleased.
“This action does not encourage our automotive industry to innovate, it forces them to do so, and the result will undeniably be increased costs for Coloradans and lackluster, rushed products,” said state Sen. John Cooke, the assistant minority leader, in a joint statement with state Sen. Ray Scott, reported the The Colorado Sun.
Polis’ order further directs more than $68 million the state received from Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate” settlement—when the automaker was found to owe $14.7 billion for circumventing the emissions control system in about 550,000 vehicles sold in the U.S.—to be spent on EV charging infrastructure and cleaner public bus and truck fleets.
Protégete, a group working with school districts in low-income communities of color plagued disproportionately by air pollution, will receive financial support for its Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign upgrading diesel school buses to electric ones.
The order also boosts Colorado’s participation in Regional Electric Vehicles for the West, a group of mountain states working to evenly distribute fast-charging stations along their corridor of interstate highways.
“That’s a long ways to drive,” Long said. “We need a clear, fast, public charging station network.”
Colorado stands to save $43 billion between reduced vehicle operating costs, greenhouse gas emissions and electric bills through widespread EV adoption by 2050, according to a 2016 analysis by consultant MJB&A, and that figure doesn’t include savings from public health improvements.
To that end, the order establishes a working group across Colorado agencies to improve state Department of Transportation programs and policies facilitating EVs.
“Our goal is to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2040 and embrace the green energy transition already underway economy-wide,” Polis said in a statement. “Today’s executive order will strengthen our economy and protect the wallets of consumers across the state. As we continue to move towards a cleaner electric grid, the public health and environmental benefits of widespread transportation electrification will only increase.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.