Polis Hails Electric Vehicle Innovation as Colorado Regulators Finalize Mandate

Polis Hails Electric Vehicle Innovation as Colorado Regulators Finalize Mandate
Chase Woodruff
As Colorado regulators prepare to issue a landmark ruling that will require automakers to sell more electric cars, Governor Jared Polis and other state leaders hailed the technological innovations that are making the world’s shift away from fossil fuels possible.

“We all know that the sooner we get electric vehicles on the road, the sooner we’ll be breathing clean air, the bigger impact we’ll have on reducing pollution and combating climate change,” Polis said at an event on Monday, August 12, at Solid Power, a Louisville-based manufacturer of EV batteries. “It’s really a great example of government working with industry.”

Later this week, officials at the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission are set to help accelerate the state’s transition to EVs by adopting a Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate, modeled after a program adopted by California and nine other states. The ZEV rule requires car manufacturers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles as a percentage of their overall sales within a state — subject to a complex system of "credits" that can be traded and banked.

If the AQCC adopts the rule, Colorado will become the first state in ten years to join the ZEV program, and the first to do so with the cooperation of the auto industry, after state officials agreed to a compromise with industry groups that will allow manufacturers to earn credits before the mandate comes into effect in 2023 — incentivizing increased EV sales as soon as next year and, in effect, softening the initial requirements for automakers as the program is phased in.

“It’s really the culmination of six months of collaborative conversation between my administration” and industry groups, said Polis, who directed the AQCC to consider the ZEV rule with his first executive order as governor in January.

By 2025, more than 6 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales in Colorado would have to be electric in order for automakers to meet the ZEV requirements. That’s up from the 2.6 percent market share that EVs represented in Colorado last year — but it’s also significantly less than what climate experts say is necessary to achieve the emissions reduction goals like those adopted by state lawmakers earlier this year. Meeting those targets will almost certainly mean going above and beyond current ZEV targets, and will require technological advances, cost reductions and, above all, a major shift in consumer habits — but both clean-energy advocates and industry representatives believe those changes are already underway.

“I think it’s safe to say that most everybody in this room, we all believe that there’s a tipping point when electric vehicle sales will take off,” said David Schwietert, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, one of the industry groups that agreed to the ZEV compromise. “Virtually every major automaker has announced broad electrification plans that will more than double the number of models on sale in the coming years.”

Increasing the number of EV models available to Coloradans — including electric versions of the trucks and SUVs popular with many consumers — is a key aim of policies like the ZEV mandate. Ted Miller, senior manager of energy storage strategy and research at the Ford Motor Company, said at Monday’s event that his company is committed to offering more EV models, touting an all-electric F-150 that he said is “coming in the next few years.”

Polis was joined at Monday’s event by Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder, and Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who, in his brief remarks, praised the “innovation and entrepreneurship” of Colorado companies like Solid Power but did not mention climate change or greenhouse gas emissions.

The AQCC will hold a three-day hearing on the proposed ZEV rule beginning today at the headquarters of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and could formally adopt the rule as soon as Thursday.
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Chase Woodruff is a staff writer at Westword interested in climate change, the environment and money in politics.
Contact: Chase Woodruff