Get Big Pivots

The short answer is yes. But it will take a lot of carrots from the state and federal governments. The good news is that the seeds have mostly been planted.


by Allen Best

Colorado in 2018 identified a goal of having 940,000 registered electric vehicles in the state by 2030. Is the state on track to achieve that?

Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electrical utility, and the Colorado Energy Office at first glance seem to offer conflicting appraisals.

“The state is on track to meet its 2030 target,” says the Colorado Energy Office in a statement. ”We are well on our way toward achieving our goal of 940,000 electric vehicles on Colorado roads by 2030.”

Xcel Energy, in a March filing to the Public Utilities Commission, seems to suggest a gap.

“It is important to clarify that the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) and IIJA (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) likely do not provide all the funding necessary to reach the state’s EV goal of 940,000 vehicles by 2030 nor the company’s vision of 1 in 5 electrified vehicles by 2030,” says the Xcel document.

The filing was in response to the PUC’s request of utilities to identify how the company intends to tap the new federal funding in those two major laws passed in 2021 and 2022.

“Estimates from other organizations indicate that a business-as-usual forecast of EV adoption could increase by about 20% because of the IRA,” the Xcel filing adds, citing a Bloomberg story. “While such an increase in EV adoption would certainly be material, it would not close the gap between pre-IRA expectations and the amount of electrification needed to meet the state’s clean transportation goals.”

Possible growth trajectories for EVs in Colorado from the Colorado Energy Office. Top photo, charging up a pickup in Julesburg, in Colorado’s northeastern corner.

Actually, both the state agency and the utility are correct, says Travis Madsen, the transportation program manager at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “Xcel is saying that financial incentives in the two federal laws will not be enough to get Colorado, which was 5th among states during 2022 in EV sales, to its goals. It will take more.”

The state agency, he adds, is correct in saying that with aid of new state programs, it is on track to get there.

“If all the pieces come together, I’m optimistic we will meet our goals,” says Madsen. “But we need Xcel, we need the state, we need the federal government, and we need auto manufacturers all working together.”

If still early, Colorado does appear to be in step with its goals. Modeling by the state had concluded that 10% of all vehicle sales during 2022 needed to be EVs to keep the state on track. Sales came in at 10.5%.

As of mid-March, Colorado has 80,486 registered EVs, according to Atlas Public Policy.

Incentives have been sweetened by both federal and state tax credits. Colorado offers $2,000 for a new EV and $1,400 for a two-year lease through 2026.

Federal tax credits allow up to $7,500 for a new EV and up to $4,000 for a used EV, according to Drive Electric Colorado.

“The way I see those tax credits for EVs, they are just incredibly significant,” says Madsen. “There is no cap on how many tax credits can be claimed. As Xcel says, this sets the stage for mass adoption of EVs. I hope Xcel will use some of their own federal resources to drive that transition.”

Charging infrastructure is also part of the package. The federal government provides a tax credit of up to $1,000 for charging equipment.

A Colorado law passed two years ago,

SB21-260, “Sustainability of the Transportation System,” was a sweeping law that was partly concerned with widespread adoption of electric motor vehicles. A component addressed charging infrastructure, particularly in lower-income communities.

Tesla charging stations, Craig, Colo., March 6, 2023

Tesla has 17,000 of the nation’s 37,000 fast-chargers. An agreement announced in February by the White House will make many of those chargers interoperable, available to non-Tesla vehicles. In theory, these charging ports at a gas station in Craig will get heavier use than was the case during this first Sunday in March. Photo/Allen Best

Not all of Colorado is covered. You won’t find a fast-charging station in Springfield, in the state’s southeastern corner, for example, but you will in Lamar, just 45 miles away.

The state’s Charge Ahead program has been responsible for 36 fast-charging stations across Colorado with just one, at Burlington, along I-70, near the Kansas border, still to be completed.

Now comes an agreement announced by the Biden administration in February. Tesla has agreed to have at least 7,500 of its chargers available for all EVs by the year’s end. This includes 3,500 new and existing high-speed chargers. It has 17,000 high-speed chargers at present, while other companies have 20,000 altogether.

Tesla agreed to this new interoperability using third-part software in order to qualify for a cut of the $5 billion in electric vehicle charging grants authorized under the 2021 infrastructure law.

The federal government plans to distribute $5 billion in grants over the next five years through its National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program.

Still to be worked out is the public charging infrastructure of the future. We go to gas stations to gas up. We most likely will charge our cars at home. But companies like 7-Eleven are studying how public charging might fit into their business model.

“A lot of this has to be sorted out,” says Madsen.

Yet to be fully addressed is the charging infrastructure for those who do not live in single-family homes.

One answer may come from HB-23-1233, “Electric Vehicle Charging and Parking Requirements,” which will get its first hearing on Wednesday, April 5, before the Senate Energy & Environment Committee.

Madsen describes this bill as an improved version of last year’s bill sponsored by State Rep. Alex Valdez in the last session that was vetoed by Polis. Among its provisions, the bill would seek to get more charging stations installed in apartment complexes and ban homeowner associations from banning them similar to how some once tried to ban solar panels on roofs.

The 2023 Colorado EV Plan issued in March says the Polis administration wants to see expanded EV tax credits for light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles (and also create a new tax credit for e-bikes).

The state sees expanding the number of fast chargers to 1,700 by 2025.

It also wants to have 23 of Colorado’s 26 designated Scenic & Historic Byways classified as electrified by the end of fiscal year 2025. Three were electrified as of 2020.

This is from Big Pivots 71. Please consider subscribing. Better yet, toss a few bills in the hat.


The next phase of the clean-car standard may also result in accelerated adoption of EVs. This would set greater sales targets for EVs in Colorado starting in 2027.

Madsen expects to see a draft of the rule that will be considered for adoption by the Air Quality Control Commission no sooner than July and then the commission‘s hearing in October.

“Much remains to be worked out,” he says. “Other states have set goals of 100% EVs by 2035. Colorado is not talking about going that far. But if Colorado were to adopt some (higher) standard, that would be a really big deal in terms of driving progress.”

Colorado’s story actually begins with California, which adopted a low-emission vehicle standard. The federal government normally leads in such matters, but California had an exemption that allowed it to go beyond.

In 2018, instigated by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado adopted a standard based on California’s model. That rule requires that fleets of new vehicles sold in Colorado must average 36 miles per gallon by the year 2025, about 10 mpg better than before. In other words, while there may be some energy pigs, like big pickups, the overall fleets of vehicles sold by manufacturers must clear that higher bar.

Now comes a new wave of clean-car standards. Seven states since last year have adopted standards that require 100% EVs by 2035, but Colorado officials have not indicated they intend to propose requirements that high.

Colorado proposed rule, as identified on the CDPH&E website. would move more gradually so that EVs would comprise approximately 80% of electric vehicles by 2032.The proposed rule to be submitted to the Colorado Air Pollution Control Commission would apply to vehicles sold beginning model year 2027 (new vehicles sold in calendar year 2026).

The state agency held a listening session on March 16 and plans another one on May 20. Madsen says he does not expect to see a draft of that rule from the air commission until July. A hearing is likely in October.

If Colorado adopts some standard, “that would be a really big deal in terms of driving progress,” says Madsen.

Allen Best
Follow Me

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This