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On January 17th, Governor Jared Polis issued an Executive Order (EO) “Supporting a Transition to Zero Emission Vehicles”. The EO sets into motion the process for Colorado to become a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) state, joining the ranks of California Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. But what exactly is a ZEV State, how did we get here, and what does that mean for the future of transportation in Colorado?
What is a ZEV State?
The first ZEV program was developed in California as a commitment to reduce state transportation emissions and pollution. The program requires Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to obtain a set number of ZEV credits. Credits are earned through the delivery and sale of ZEVs in the state. Both plug-in electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles qualify as ZEVs. Colorado will become the 11th ZEV state, enabling the state government to set aggressive goals and incentives to electrify transportation.
The Electrification Coalition’s ZEV State Policy Scorecard (written before Colorado’s Executive Order was signed) ranks ZEV states into tiers based on three criteria of their ZEV programs; financial incentives provided by the state to ZEV buyers, commitment to public charging and refueling infrastructure, and public outreach and education.
Financial incentives often include rebates and tax credits for vehicle purchase and residential charging. Infrastructure readiness is not limited to only public availability of charging, but also covers rebates and grants available to encourage installation, workplace charging incentives, EV building codes, utility commission policies, and state use of Volkswagen Settlement Funds. Lastly, outreach and education efforts encompass everything from public commitments to state fleet procurement to vehicle dealership incentives.
Together these measures prepare a state for an electrified transportation sector.
Colorado’s EV History
Colorado has long been a leader in encouraging EV adoption. Since 2017, Colorado residents have been able to claim a $5,000 tax credit that is available at the point of sale when buying a new EV. Between 2013-2017 a credit of up to $6,000 was available to Colorado residents, the full credit depending on the size of the vehicle’s battery. The current credit in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit can be applied dollar-for-dollar by tax payers with a tax liability equal to or greater than the credit. While the federal EV tax credit will vary depending on the size of vehicle battery, the current Colorado credit can be applied in full to both plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.
The Drive Electric Northern Colorado EV accelerator program was launched in northern Colorado in 2013. This project provided a critical foundation for the future of EV adoption in Colorado by installing a network of infrastructure, engaging EV dealerships and other businesses, and educating consumers. The Electrification Coalition’s EV accelerator programs drive EV readiness by engaging and educating communities about EVs and partnering with businesses and municipalities to install EV charging, engage fleets and businesses, and other critical aspects needed to advance EV adoption.
In October 2017 Colorado, along with Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, signed the Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West. The plan provides a framework for an EV corridor connecting the states.
Governor Polis has long been an EV advocate. In 2015 he participated in DENC’s Drive Leadership program to test drive a Nissan LEAF and a BMW i3 to support electrification work across the state.
Together these efforts have led to the sale of over 15,000 EVs in Colorado. This is about 1.8 percent of all national EV sales, with 3 of every 1,000 vehicles in the state being an EV.
In addition to establishing a ZEV plan, Colorado’s EO creates an interagency Transportation Electrification Workgroup. The workgroup will report regularly to the Governor as well as oversee multiple ZEV initiatives. The order allocates nearly $70 million of Volkswagen settlement funding towards the electrification of school buses, transit buses, and trucks. Lastly, the order will develop a Zero Emission Vehicle and Clean Transportation plan, to align investments with program goals to deploy ZEVs and alternative mobility strategies as a means of saving energy, reducing congestion, and increasing safety.