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Opinion: On Earth Day, let’s get real about how to reach Colorado’s electric vehicle goals

Why would the state demand that car dealers sell more EVs even while some work to discourage Coloradans from buying new cars and driving at all?

An electric SV Plus Nissan Leaf model on display at Empire Lakewood Nissan on April 8, 2021 in Lakewood. (Kathryn Scott, special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in 2018 set the goal of 940,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in Colorado by 2030. As The Colorado Sun reported last week, this ambitious goal will require that Coloradans buy more than 100,000 new EVs a year through the end of the decade.  

To put that in perspective, Coloradans bought a total of 220,000 new vehicles in 2020. Of those, fewer than 7,500 were fully electric, The Sun noted.

Tim Jackson

That is a daunting gap.

Every year that Colorado falls short of the 100,000-plus EV pace needed to reach the governor’s goal, the threshold for the remaining years increases. It will require that more than half of new cars sold be EVs, and that proportion will keep growing as we approach the end of the decade.

The Colorado Energy Office just chose Edelman, an international communications firm, for a $550,000 EV awareness campaign.  Edelman has experience in this area, having helped automakers and seven northeastern states pursue their EV goals through the Drive Change. Drive Electric. campaign.

Whether Edelman’s strategies will translate to the mountain West remains to be seen. (Edelman used a photo of a right-hand-drive car driving on the left side of the road on its pitch deck. It will want to exercise more care in the future in reflecting knowledge of Colorado’s unique dynamics.)

Edelman’s proposal says that for targeted Colorado consumers, “EVs are a pathway to helping rid their eco guilt.”

I would suggest Coloradans are enthusiastic about protecting the environment, but they also have unique transportation needs, whether they use their vehicles at the farm, ranch, construction site, to take kids to practice, or to access the outdoors.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Edelman will need to know that Coloradans like their SUVs and pickups, which make up more than four out of every five new vehicles sold here.

Coloradans also are very loyal to the brands you see on the roads today. They will start looking at EVs when they come in familiar forms.

For example, Tesla does not have a pickup on the market, and its prototype Cybertruck is, well, unique. (I have a hard time seeing Colorado farmers and ranchers buying many.)

Coloradans will find the brands and types of vehicles they trust at the statewide network of dealerships they know.

Even then, they will need more state and federal incentives to bridge the typical $10,000-$15,000 disparity for EV costs. A recent survey found that, of consumers likely to buy an EV, 69% said they would not pay more than $500 over the price of a gas-powered car.

Simultaneously, some activists – and accommodating state and local officials – want to limit or even reduce road capacity for private vehicles. Denver, for example, is steadily turning car lanes into bus and bike lanes even as the city grows.

Their end goal, it seems to me, is to make it so frustrating to drive that people give up their cars entirely. In my view, they are simply anti-car, no matter what technology a car uses.

Why would the state demand that dealers sell more EVs even while some work to discourage Coloradans from buying new cars and driving at all?

In short, it should not.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Colorado’s new car dealers enthusiastically sell the new vehicles Coloradans want and need, whatever technology these vehicles use. They are rolling out a wide array of EVs, among other energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly technologies.

On Earth Day or any day, we know that today’s new vehicles increasingly protect Colorado’s air and climate.

We hope that state officials recognize our central role and embrace us as partners in reaching their EV goals.


Tim Jackson is president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, which represents about 260 dealers of new cars and trucks across the state.


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