by Jeff Zayach, Executive Director, Boulder County Public Health
Ozone pollution, a component of smog that damages lung tissue and can worsen asthma, has spread to the entire North Front Range – it’s now exposing most of Colorado’s population to unhealthy ozone pollution levels. Vehicle emissions are one of the largest contributors to this ozone formation. On January 17, Governor Polis signed an executive order that will begin addressing this problem by putting Colorado on a path to get more electric vehicles on our roads.
The Governor’s Executive Order included four directives: 1) create a transportation workgroup; 2) revise how the $70 million Volkswagen settlement funds are used; 3) require the Air Quality Control Commission to develop a zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standard; and 4) require the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a ZEV and clean transportation plan. Together, these directives will help to develop a ZEV standard for Colorado, building on the low emission vehicle (LEV) standard that was adopted in November 2018.
Some say that adopting these standards will limit choices for Coloradans. But in fact, the opposite is true. Today there are only roughly 25 electric vehicle models for sale in Colorado, while over 40 models are available to choose from in other states that have ZEV standards. By 2025, manufacturers estimate they’ll have 100 new electric models to offer. A ZEV standard in Colorado would make more electric vehicle models (including trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and cars) available in our state, subsequently increasing electric vehicle sales to about 6% by 2025, compared to 3% electric vehicle sales currently.
Like any product, with more choices of electric vehicles, prices will likely become more affordable, thereby allowing most Coloradans to help foster sustainability and protect clean air in our state.
A ZEV standard would also help to keep money in the pockets of Coloradans by reducing their fuel and maintenance costs. And because most electric vehicles are charged at night when demand for electricity is low, utilities could better use their infrastructure to lower electricity rates for everyone.
A new ZEV standard would also help to clean the air. Compared to gas-powered cars, electric vehicles create fewer emissions, eliminating about 99% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). More electric vehicles on the road would mean less pollution, cleaner air, and healthier Coloradans.
We, as local government, are ready to help residents transition to a ZEV program. Many Colorado communities are already supporting residents to purchase electric vehicles, and others are eager to partner with the state to do the same. On May 10, the Air Quality Control Commission will begin its rulemaking process on a ZEV program for Colorado. This will include opportunities for public and stakeholder participation.
Electric vehicles have arrived, consumers are purchasing them, and manufacturers are responding with new models every year. We have a great opportunity to help save residents money, protect the public’s health, and spare the environment. Let’s make the switch!