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Colorado sees big EV sales but still needs charging infrastructure (Local Tips & Reviews)

Colorado’s electric vehicle-hungry car buyers are on pace to make EVs 25% of new car sales by 2025, according to a new three-year review by state officials, but energy leaders must build thousands more charging ports over two years to keep pace. 

If Colorado stays on track for 65,000 light-duty EV sales in 2025, governments and utilities need to have installed or at least awarded 1,700 ultrafast DC chargers and 5,800 slower Level 2 public chargers by then, according to the “2023 Electric Vehicle Plan,” the first since 2020. 

Transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, and one of the largest local sources for ozone-causing emissions that lead to EPA rule violations. Colorado set goals for 26% greenhouse gas reductions from a 2005 baseline by 2025, and 50% by 2030. Those goals have long depended on getting 940,000 EVs on state roads by 2030. U.S. statistics show about 1.6 million light duty cars registered in Colorado. 

Colorado car sales included 10.5% EVs in 2022, up sharply from 6% in 2021. Coloradans buy about 200,000 to 220,000 new light-duty cars a year. 

Colorado had 719 DC fast chargers in place by the end of 2022, and 3,750 Level 2 chargers, the report said. Adding thousands of ports with federal and state money in coming years includes targeting both business and tourism corridors. Colorado has $56.5 million to build DC fast chargers along federally designated interstates and other major roads, and also plans to increase the number of “electrified byways” on state Scenic & Historic Byways to 23 by 2025 from three in 2020 . 

The effort for an “electric future,” as the Colorado Department of Transportation describes it, is led by CDOT, the Colorado Energy Office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

“We’re awarding grants to help build fast-charging stations across the state and to fund EV repair technician training,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said. The 2023 plan looks backward and forward. “This plan moves us closer to our EV adoption goals and closer to the low emissions future we all want,” Lew said. 

Colorado, federal agencies and utilities are all boosting their tax credits and rebates for buying light-duty EVs, which include passenger cars, SUVs, minivans and most pickups. With the lucrative rebates and a rapidly expanding menus of EVs in varying sizes from popular manufacturers, light-duty sales are on track. 

To spread electrification into all modes of transportation, Colorado should facilitate electric bike rebates for 10,000 low- and moderate-income residents by 2025, the report said. Denver’s city-funded program for e-bike discount vouchers has helped more than 5,000 people buy bikes, city officials said this month.

A next major challenge is swapping out diesel-burning medium- and heavy-duty trucks for electric or hydrogen fuel cell drive trains. The new plan sets goals of 30% zero-emission truck sales by 2030, with 35,000 on the road by then — from virtually none now. The Air Quality Control Commission in April will hold hearings and vote on adopting California’s existing Advanced Clean Trucks standard for medium- and heavy-duty sales in Colorado, with required levels of new sales that ramp up beginning with the 2027 model year. 

Trucking industry officials say Colorado’s goals will be a steep challenge, as there are few alternative-drive heavy trucks on the market. Colorado’s cold weather and steep terrain will also sap the available life from heavy truck batteries, and battery packages that can weigh 8,000 pounds replace money-making payloads for larger trucks, they say. 

If electric or hydrogen-drive trucks are not widely available for the next few years, the new EV plan commits Colorado to work on programs or rebates to replace older, high-emissions trucks with newer fossil fuel models. The trucking industry says the newest vehicles emit 90% less nitrogen oxide, a key element in Colorado’s ozone violations, than current standards. 

The state EV plan also sets goals of converting the entire public transit fleet to zero-emission vehicles no later than 2050, and retirement of all diesel or gas school buses by 2035. 

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