As expected, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission on Friday approved new low emission vehicle (LEV) standards for new light-duty and medium-duty motor vehicles sold in Colorado beginning in the 2022 model year.
Prompted by outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper’s June 19 executive order, entitled “Maintaining Progress on Clean Vehicles,” the new LEV standards will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 2 million tons a year by 2030.
“Adopting low emission vehicles in Colorado means we will continue to see more fuel-efficient vehicles that get better mileage. This has been the plan for many years,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “I applaud the commitment of the Air Quality Control Commission and the Air Pollution Control Division to protect the quality of our air and safeguard against returning to the days of the ‘brown cloud’.”
The term-limited Hickenlooper’s order directed the department to develop a rule to establish a Colorado LEV program incorporating the requirements of the California LEV program. The commission adopted Regulation 20, known as the Colorado Low Emission Automobile Regulation (or CLEAR).
Colorado now joins 12 other states and the District of Columbia that have adopted California’s LEV standards – or nearly 40 percent of the new automobile market. Under the Clean Air Act, only the federal government and California have the authority to set new motor vehicle emission standards.
The Trump administration recently proposed rollbacks to the federal government’s emission standards for model years 2021-26, which would make it harder for Colorado to meet its clean air goals, prompting Hickenlooper’s executive order to look at adopting the LEV.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis recently won Colorado’s gubernatorial election, running in part on a renewable-energy platform and support for more-stringent vehicle emission standards. State officials say that although the proposed federal rollback is not yet final, the adoption of CLEAR provides “a cost-effective and sensible backstop for Colorado in the event of a federal rollback.”
More information on the new LEV standard can be found on the AQCC webpage.
Also under consideration in Colorado is the possible adoption of California’s ZEV (zero emission vehicle) standard. Here’s an October story on the ZEV standard produced by Rocky Mountain Post and first published on Colorado Politics:
Colorado Zero Emission Vehicle debate revving up automakers, dealers
State air-quality regulators have launched a rulemaking process that could make Colorado the 11th state in the nation to adopt the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard mandating the sale of electric vehicles. But auto manufacturers say Colorado is already on track without the costly new standard and should keep doing things “the Colorado way.”
Leighton Yates, senior manager of state affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, recently told Colorado Politics that nationwide ZEV sales (plug-in, battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) represent less than 1 percent of all vehicle sales in a year. But in Colorado, ZEV sales currently stand at 1.5 percent of all new vehicles sales.
“We prefer markets, not mandates, and the market in Colorado is ripe for ZEVs,” Yates said, adding that Colorado already outperforms all but two of the nine other states that have adopted the California ZEV standards – all of which are either on the East or West Coast.
“We want Colorado to keep doing it their way. It’s working, there’s proof that it’s working, and there’s no need for the mandate,” said Yates, citing stats showing there were about 4,000 electric vehicles sold in Colorado in 2017. The California ZEV standard would require 43,000 in Colorado by 2025, he said, and that’s too big a jump.
The California ZEV standard (pdf) requires automakers to obtain ZEV credits based on the number of gas-powered vehicles they sell in a state, and credits are awarded based on the type of ZEV and its overall battery range. The California ZEV standard – a variance granted under the Clean Air Act – requires that by 2025 about 8 percent of new sales are electric vehicles.
Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado, told Colorado Politics that its consultants predicted adoption of the ZEV standard would bump Colorado electric vehicle sales from 18,000 by 2025 without the standard to 30,000 in 2025 with the new standard.
“Car companies that are actively trying to sell EVs in Colorado will easily be able to meet the targets and this will spur the other companies to be able to meet those targets as well,” Goad said. “We need swift action in terms of cleaning up our transportation system and spurring the clean-tech economy here, and we think that this takes the good work that Colorado has already done and puts it on an even faster glide path.”
In June, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order (pdf) requiring the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to develop a rule adopting the California Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) program, which can include gas-electric hybrids.
The order required the CDPHE to propose the rule to the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) at its August meeting, where there was overwhelming support from conservation groups and some towns and counties for both the LEV and the more stringent ZEV standard.
Hickenlooper made his move in part because of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts “to roll back vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for model years 2022 and beyond.” Now the debate has reached the race to replace Hickenlooper, who is term-limited.
“Walker’s position on ZEV is the same as LEV — it would hurt Colorado,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton’s spokesman, Jerrod Dobkin. “But ZEV would have even worse effects, and Polis has supported this at the federal level.”
A spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current U.S. Rep. Jared Polis declined to offer a direct comment on the ZEV standard, instead referring to a previous statement from the congressman who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District.
“Clean air is incredibly important to our health, especially for our kids and seniors,” Polis offered in statement to the Durango Herald. “I support and will continue Gov. Hickenlooper’s efforts to meet the growing demand for low-emission vehicles while fighting pollution, protecting our air quality and addressing climate change.”
For the time in its long history, the Colorado Auto Dealers Association in October endorsed a gubernatorial candidate, giving the nod to Stapleton, who wound up losing to Polis by more than 10 percentage points.
The AAM’s Yates says another big hurdle for Colorado if it adopts the ZEV standard is that Coloradans like their light trucks – a category that includes pickups, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers – but technological challenges have that class of vehicle lagging behind passenger cars in terms of being fully electrified.
Yates says 75 percent of the new vehicles sold in Colorado every year fit that light truck category, which is 10 percent higher than the national average. In the Denver metro area, it’s 5 percent higher at 70 percent.
“You have the metro area of the state that probably accounts for most of the ZEV sales, but there’s still more people buying trucks, and that’s not a problem,” Yates said. “The problem is there aren’t currently any electrified pickup options in the United States.”
They’re coming, he said, but the engineering and technology – especially as it relates to payload and all-wheel-drive — hasn’t caught up to the EV demand.
Goad counters that by the time that the ZEV standard would go into effect in Colorado in 2022 there will be at least 21 electric SUVs on the market, including a new Subaru, “and you know how Coloradans love their Subaru’s.”
“So we don’t think this is at all the cart before the horse,” Goad said of mandating electric vehicles that aren’t currently on the market. “This just allows us to capture the energy of the current industry and where they’re going, which is very much to look at the light-duty trucks.”
Go to the AQCC website for more information.