Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Guv’s EV goals are going nowhere

Written by on May 4, 2021

I’ll cut to the chase: Gov. Jared Polis’s goal of one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030 is unserious, unrealistic and unsmart. Full stop.

Pursuing massive greenhouse gas reductions in Colorado (i.e., down 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels), Polis set an “ambitious” target for 940,000 EVs hitting the road by 2030. That 2019 objective constitutes approximately 43% of new passenger vehicles sold within a decade. It’s currently at 5%. 

If I’m doing my math right, in the next 8.5 years, EVs need to increase their market share by a whopping 38%, or about 900,000 new registrations. Dream on!

There are two key questions revealing how unrealistic this is.  First, can we build enough infrastructure for this expansion by 2030?  Second, presuming we do build sufficient infrastructure, how will government compel enough people to buy EVs and make the target?

Fortunately, the private sector has taken initiative in financing and constructing new EV charging stations.  Companies like ChargePoint, Electrify America and EVgo have been making investments nationwide.  Target and Walmart are betting customers will shop-n-charge.  In effect, the private sector is already addressing and anticipating the needs of EV drivers.

But then there’s the gargantuan task of providing sufficient charging stations for nearly a million EVs in the state.  CoPo reported Sunday that “EV owners, businesses and the government” will need to share “more than $1.2 billion in the next decade.”  Yikes!

Theoretically, hundreds of thousands of new charging ports could be needed at residential, commercial and public sites.  There are currently 3,400 publicly available charging stations in Colorado.

Xcel Energy recently received state approval for its three-year, $110 million plan to construct 20,000 charging stations.  ChargePoint has a state grant for only 33 locations, with a smattering of other companies in progress.  Will that be enough, and who will pick up that hefty bill?

An enormous expansion of charging ports will boost energy consumption from existing power stations.  Factor in Colorado’s fast-growing population, rise in non-vehicle use of power resources by 2030 (i.e., home energy and heating) and 900,000 new EVs.  How will that impact energy draw for Xcel and other energy providers?

How many new plants or expansions will be made?  How long will it take given inevitable environmental impact studies, protests and lawsuits?  (Mostly by Polis’ party!)

Expanding infrastructure isn’t the only problem, however.  Enough Coloradans must be convinced to actually buy new vehicles and to choose EVs when they do.  Most EVs start at about $40k — a price far above all lower-income family budgets.  These are families that can at most afford only one car and often an older combustion model.

At any income level, EVs must be able to accomplish the mission, whether a driver wants a pickup, SUV or sedan.  A friend travels up to 250 miles per day for sales work.  That’s at or above the range limit for most EVs in ideal conditions.

With 35,146 EVs on the road at last count, Coloradans will need to purchase over 105,882 EVs-per-year for the next 8.5 years starting NOW.  Every year we miss out, the target for the next year goes up.  Has the governor even projected this?   He’s unwise if not.  Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) data indicates that sales of EVs, Hybrids and plug-in Hybrids are improving, but not remotely close to achieving the objective. 

There’s a bigger question: Is the real goal for more EVs — or less driving?  Sunday’s article quotes Rocky Mountain Institute’s Ben Holland, who told CoPo the ultimate goal is to decarbonize transportation.  “[E]ven under the most optimistic scenario for electric vehicle adoption, we still need to reduce our dependence on driving,” he said.  “Even given that scenario we’ll still need to reduce vehicle miles traveled by 20%…a very significant task.”

Wait.  Is Holland suggesting that changing a fundamental aspect of American society since at least the 1950s – the ideal of private vehicle ownership – through social engineering is a “significant task?”  I’m shocked!

Snark aside, “significant” is an understatement.  We Americans notoriously desire our own cars for convenience, status and pleasure.  Otherwise, Colorado would already have much greater usage of existing light rail and buses than we do.  That’s freedom and choice.  All that money spent on transit has been wasteful, especially as ride sharing replaces mass transit for convenience and low cost. 

As CADA president Tim Jackson tells me, “Colorado leaders are going to have to decide if they are pro-EV or simply just anti-car and anti-driving.  If Gov. Polis wants to get 940,000 EVs on the road by 2030, Colorado’s new cars dealers will need to be embraced as the greatest source and resource to achieve that goal.”  This means the legislature and Air Quality Control Council need to decide if they want to sell more EVs or push more transit.

No matter how you look at it, Polis’s centrally-planned strategy just isn’t serious.  If it were, it would be coherent, practical, affordable, market-driven and most of all…realistically possible.

At least it appeases his left-wing base.  Maybe that’s his real purpose?

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s May 4 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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