Colorado charges forward with Zero Emission Vehicle proposal

This post was written by EDF attorney Laura Shields 

Colorado moved farther down the road toward a cleaner, less-polluting transportation sector today.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission unanimously voted to move forward with a formal hearing to consider adoption of state Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards.

The ZEV standards would provide for manufacturers to sell a certain number of clean zero-emitting vehicles in Colorado. That would deliver vital reductions in climate pollution, smog, and other harmful air pollution. At the same time, it would help save Coloradans hard-earned money through major fuel cost savings.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Air Division’s initial economic impact analysis projects Colorado ZEV standards would reduce the state’s greenhouse gas pollution by roughly 2.2 million metric tons between 2023 and 2030.

The analysis also projects that a ZEV program would decrease the contaminants that contribute to ground-level ozone (otherwise known as smog) in the state. Colorado has struggled to meet both the 2008 and 2015 health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone, and the American Lung Association’s 2019 State of the Air report ranked Denver the 12th most ozone-polluted city in the nation.

Moving forward to adopt state ZEV standards can also help protect Coloradans against the damaging impacts of the Trump Administration’s decision to rollback federal clean car standards. A recent analysis by William Becker shows that Trump’s proposed Clean Car rollback would have serious health implications for Coloradans. Becker’s analysis indicates that in Colorado alone, Trump’s rollback would lead to 286 heart-disease-related and 234 lung-disease-related hospital admissions, and up to 304 more premature deaths by 2050.

In addition to these important climate and human health benefits, Colorado’s consideration of ZEV standards comes at a period of rapid growth in the availability of new ZEV models – including SUVs, cross-overs and pick-up trucks – and dramatic reductions in the costs of these vehicles.

A recent analysis by energy consulting firm MJ Bradley and Associates highlights automaker commitments to invest billions of dollars in electrification – including job-creating investments in American manufacturing plants to build electric vehicles.

The analysis finds:

“Between 2019 and 2022, the number of battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models available to U.S. consumers will increase from 55 to 81. The range of vehicle types available will also increase to include sport utility vehicles (SUV), cross-overs, and pick-up trucks.”

“The cost of battery packs has fallen dramatically, from approximately $1,000/kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2010 to approximately $176/kWh in 2018. Most analysts project that battery pack prices will continue to fall, reaching $100/kWh around 2025 and $62-72/kWh by 2030. These projections have been endorsed by auto manufacturers.”

“There is general industry consensus that EVs will reach price parity with [internal combustion engine] vehicles (based on total cost of ownership without considering any tax incentives) when battery pack prices fall below $100/kWh. While some industry experts believe this could happen as early as 2021, most believe it will happen around 2025.”

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s decision to move forward with consideration of state ZEV standards comes on the heels of Colorado’s passage of HB 19-1261, historic legislation setting rigorous climate pollution reduction goals. It is also part of the state’s broader commitment to address climate impacts and reduce emissions from Colorado’s transportation sector.

In January of this year, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order aimed at accelerating transportation electrification and dedicating funds to expand electric vehicle infrastructure development.

The Colorado General Assembly also just enacted major electric vehicle-focused legislation that will continue to drive costs down and build up infrastructure:

  • HB 19-1159 extends the state electric vehicle tax credit through the end of 2025
  • SB19-077 facilitates greater public utility investment in electric vehicle infrastructure
  • HB19-1198 empowers the Colorado Energy Office to use the state’s electric vehicle grant fund for charging station installation and to offset station operating costs.

Colorado ZEV standards would help the state reach the climate targets established in HB-19-1261 and would build upon the climate, health, and consumer benefits of Colorado’s existing clean cars program. The standards have already received broad support from Colorado communities and businesses.

Adopting ZEV standards now will deliver the greatest benefits for the state, will position Colorado as a leader in driving electric vehicle innovation, will ensure Coloradans have access to new models and technologies as they are rapidly deployed, and will help cut climate pollution and secure healthier air for all Coloradans.

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