Colorado renewed and expanded its mandate for electric vehicles to take over the state new car market in coming years, passing a requirement for EVs to make up 82% of dealer lots by 2032.
The vote Friday came as the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association offered reasons for optimism about the tougher mandate with news showing ultra-low emissions vehicles made up 17% of the new car and light truck market in the third quarter of 2023.
The Air Quality Control Commission on Friday approved a staff recommendation for a “Colorado Clean Cars standard,” which largely adopts California’s rules requiring auto manufacturers to sharply ramp up their offerings of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles starting in model year 2027. Colorado has an existing clean cars mandate that expires in 2025 with dealer inventory in EVs set at 25%.
Environmental groups and state energy officials welcomed the move to set percentages that include targets of 51% of sales in 2028, and 68% in 2030. Many, however, wanted the AQCC to go further and adopt all of California’s nation-leading clean car standard, which requires a 100% EV market in 2035.
Colorado energy and electrification officials have said they believe that when the car market has hit more than 80% domination by any one drive train, the transition to all-electric or other clean fuels like hydrogen is all but guaranteed.
“The AQCC stopped short of enacting the strongest possible Colorado Clean Car rules. As a result, we have more work to do to hit our climate goals in the transportation sector and to address our air quality crisis,” according to a statement after the vote from a coalition of environmental and justice groups including Earthjustice, Womxn from the Mountain, GreenLatinos Colorado and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Colorado is ready for zero-emission vehicles, and we are in fact in the top five states in the country in terms of EV sales. Colorado is ready for a full clean cars rule.”
The new clean cars rule also requires tougher emission standards for new cars powered by fossil fuels in an effort to combat volatile organic compounds and other pollution that contributes to Colorado Front Range ozone violations.
The Environmental Defense Fund said it was pleased to see the AQCC direct staff to bring forward a plan to extend the new clean cars mandates through 2035.
The standards “will dramatically cut climate pollution and help clean up the air that Coloradans breathe,” said Larissa Koehler, director of vehicle electrification and senior attorney for the fund. “More zero-emitting vehicles in Colorado also means a more robust market for Colorado consumers, and that will mean even more savings for Coloradans who choose to buy a new zero-emitting car or truck.”
The EDF said Colorado is the ninth state to adopt the second phase of California’s clean car rules, and the first in the Mountain West.
Colorado’s previously announced greenhouse gas emissions goals rely on the state having nearly a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor says the state is on track for those targets. The auto dealers’ quarterly new sales report shows combined sales of EVs and PHEVs, which have both a gasoline engine and a plug-in battery pack, at 17% of the latest period’s total.
That amounts to 9,446 new clean vehicles on the road in the third quarter, said Matthew Groves, CEO of the dealer association.
Environmental groups were less pleased with another AQCC decision last week, giving final approval to a set of rules controlling greenhouse gas emissions at 18 large industries such as Molson Coors, Leprino Foods and the Suncor refinery. The new rules require 20% cuts of greenhouse gases from the group by 2030, from a 2015 benchmark.
But environmental groups have pointed out that because some of the companies have already replaced equipment and cut emissions from the 2015 marker, the new rules allow them to actually increase emissions between now and 2030 and still stay within the law.
An EDF analysis says Colorado will miss its 2025 and 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets.
“At a time when Colorado communities need leaders to advance strong action that protects their health and their future, regulators instead adopted a rule that puts Colorado in reverse, allowing industry to increase its pollution,” said Katie Schneer, a senior climate analyst for EDF.