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With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting Colorado streets in record numbers, a new study by CoPIRG Foundation, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group finds that the city of Denver will need to add 1,200 electric vehicle charging stations to public places by 2030 to be ready for the estimated 36,000 electric vehicles that could be on city streets by then. Currently, Denver has approximately 150 publicly-accessible charging stations on streets, in garages, and at businesses. The city of Colorado Springs will need to add 950 more stations to accommodate an estimated 26,000 EVs. Currently, Colorado Springs has approximately 50 stations.
“Electric cars are cleaner than gas vehicles, and as record numbers of Coloradans make the switch, we need to make the transition as smooth and fast as possible,” stated Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG Foundation. “After a century of vehicles spewing pollutants into the air, we need to commit to building out electric vehicle infrastructure, including charging stations, to clean up our air and support our quality of life in Denver.”
Vehicles have a significant impact on air quality problems. According to a recent Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center report, in 2015 the Denver metro area experienced 176 days of elevated smog pollution – pollution that is above the level that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined to pose “little to no risk.” The Colorado Regional Air Quality Council projected that in 2017 nearly a third of the ozone pollution in the Denver metro area comes from Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emitted by on-road vehicles.
Because electric vehicles are powered from the current electric grid and do not produce tailpipe emissions from burning gasoline, electric vehicles play an important role in cleaning up our air. According to an analysis by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a battery electric vehicle reduced emissions of Nitrogen Oxides by 38% compared to a new gasoline vehicle.
To reduce air pollution, the groups argued that cities like Denver and Colorado Springs need to adopt electric vehicle friendly policies to drive a transition to a cleaner transportation system including:
- Residential access to on-street EV charging
- Access to public charging stations
- Support for private investment in publicly-accessible stations
- Incentivized EV parking and charging
The study found that by 2030, Denver will need an estimated 1,350 publicly accessible charging stations in the city limits to service an estimated 36,000 electric vehicles. The city of Colorado Springs will need 1,000 publicly accessible charging stations in the city limits to service an estimated 26,000 EVs. The groups emphasized that both cities needs to map out where these charging stations will go. Many of these charging stations will need to be on residential streets, especially in neighborhoods where residents do not have dedicated off-street parking spots, to charge vehicles overnight since that is when most electric vehicle owners tend to charge up.
The estimate of 1,350 charging stations only counts the Level 2 and Direct Current Fast Charge (DCFC) stations, which require special installation and can charge a vehicle much faster than a standard wall outlet or Level 1 charger. A Level 1 charger adds 4 to 5 miles of range for every hour it charges, a level 2 charger adds 12 to 25 miles for every hour charged and a DCFC adds 100 miles or more in an hour of charging.
Cities across the world offer examples of innovative ways to expand electric vehicle charging options including adding electric vehicle charging capabilities to streetlights and utility poles that are already on city streets, partnering with schools, churches, and businesses that have unused parking at night to allow overnight residential charging, and expanding charging options at major employers.
"American cities risk being unprepared for the impending arrival of thousands of electric vehicles on their streets," said Alana Miller, policy analyst at Frontier Group and co-author of Plugging In. “Without forward-thinking policies that give EV owners places to park and charge their vehicles, cities could lose out on the health and air quality benefits that electric vehicles can deliver," Miller said.
Even the change-resistant auto industry recognizes that the future is electric. GM plans to launch 20 EV models by 2023, while Ford announced last month it plans to invest $11 billion in electric vehicles and hybrids, with a goal of having 40 models by 2022. These new cars don’t just check off the “electric” box; they’re earning acclaim from mainstream car enthusiasts. Motor Trend even named Chevrolet’s Bolt the 2017 Car of the Year.
The report’s authors note that local and state officials increasingly are having to lead on issues related to climate change, clean energy, and clean cars, as the Trump administration dismantles federal policies that offered concrete solutions to these issues. In the coming weeks, the administration is expected to propose new steps towards revoking federal fuel efficiency standards and weakening clean car policies.
Denver’s current charging infrastructure is on par with many of its peer cities. Denver currently has more Level 2 and fast charging DCFC stations than Jacksonville, Memphis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Miami, Las Vegas, and Columbus but trails Phoenix, Austin, Atlanta, Kansas City, Seattle, and most cities in California. However, because Denver’s projected 2030 adoption rate is higher than many cities, Denver has one of the larger gaps between where it is at and where it needs to be to accelerate electric vehicle ownership.
The report, Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles, can be found at www.copirgfoundation.org or www.frontiergroup.org
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