Author:Garvey, John

The electric vehicle (EV) market in Colorado appears poised for a turbo-charge. Last October, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the governors of six other Western states signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a network of EV fast-charging stations. The regional electric vehicle plan for the West, known as the "REV West Plan," spans 5,000 miles of 11 interstate highways, including 1-70, 1-25 and 1-76.

Among other things, the plan aims to tackle one of the biggest detriments to EV purchases: range anxiety. A recent addition to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term refers to the stress EV drivers can face when planning longer trips because of a lack of charging stations. The best EVs can cruise for 85 to 335 miles per charge, with pricey Teslas at the top end.

Colorado is receiving $68.7 million from the Volkswagen settlement from the emissions scandal, 15 percent of which will help fund the plan. Additional private and public funds are expected to help bring the plan to fruition.

According to the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), the state ranks eighth in the U.S. for EV market share and seventh for per capita EV ownership. It already boasts more EV registrations than the other six signatory states combined, with nearly 12,000 as of last fall. Under a high-growth scenario, the CEO estimates that number could hit 940,000 by 2030.


Critics of plug-in EVs point out that they aren't carbon neutral because the grid that charges them is powered largely by coal. Nonetheless, the environmental case for EVs is strong.

"Only on the most coal-heavy grids today is it clearly more carbon-intensive to drive an EV than an [internal combustion engine vehicle]," says energy analyst Chris Nelder, who leads the EV-Grid Integration initiative at Rocky Mountain Institute, a clean energy think tank. "And by that I mean like really, really coal-heavy grids. In most of the U.S., there's clearly a benefit, in terms of emissions, to go into EVs."

The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium reports that despite the shortcomings of grid infrastructure, "today's plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) can 'fuel' for the equivalent of about $1/gallon," while also greatly reducing C[O.sub.2] emissions on a per-mile basis.

Some are concerned about how the grid will bear the additional demands the rapidly growing EV market will place on it. The grid itself is being decarbonated as cheap natural gas and renewables are substituted for coal. A 2015 RMI report makes the...

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