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Cheyenne Mountain State Park ranges are seen on Friday, August 20, 2021, from Fountain Creek Park in El Paso County. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

Despite a pledge to install public electric vehicle chargers in all Colorado state parks beginning in July, the EV maker Rivian has yet to sign an agreement with the state and chargers won’t go in before 2022, a state official said. 

The state Parks and Wildlife Commission accepted a Rivian proposal in March to install universal electric vehicle chargers at every park, at no cost to the state. Building out a charging grid is key to convincing more consumers they won’t be left stranded by the electric cars state officials and conservation groups want them to buy to replace rides powered by dirtier fossil fuels. 

Colorado officials say their relations with Rivian are good and that they are making progress finalizing an agreement that would give the company access to parks for construction.

“As you know, with the state sometimes it just takes time to get through all of the process to get to the point where we can have a signed agreement,” said Heather Dugan, assistant director for Law Enforcement and Public Safety for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “So we should be there soon.” 

Multiple state agencies have to review and approve the contract, from risk management to information technology, Dugan said. The earliest Rivian could start installing chargers, Dugan said, is “ideally within three months,” but that would also put a start time in the middle of Colorado’s snowiest weather. 

Rivian representatives said the company would not comment on the state negotiations because the automaker is in a “quiet period” ahead of its expected initial public offering, which values the company at $80 billion. Rivian has been losing billions of dollars while it ramps up to full production of its highly sought — and delayed — electric pickup. 

Rivian will benefit from the publicity of supplying the parks chargers, but also from expanding the network where its customers can find a charge. The Rivian chargers will fit most electric vehicles, while Tesla has been building chargers that are exclusive to their technology. 

One question still being negotiated with Rivian is the order of construction at Colorado’s 42 state parks. The projects will be divided up into “tier 1” parks, with easier access, and “tier 2,” farther away from cities and easy electrical connections. 

Colorado has a few electric vehicle chargers at state parks, like this one at St. Vrain St. Park. In March 2021, EV maker Rivian agreed to build chargers in all other state parks. (Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife photo)

The first Rivian chargers are likely to go into Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs, Dugan said. Remote parks, such as Paonia, will be in the second tier. The chargers need access to a reliable power supply, and the state wants them to be close to the visitor centers or other popular sections of the parks. 

The state will also try to limit disruption by coordinating Rivian’s installations to happen while other state construction projects are going on, Dugan said. 

A remote network of chargers blanketing public and private land is key to eliminating the “range anxiety” that is one major hesitation among potential EV buyers and users, according to EV shoppers and state and industry leaders. Electric vehicle clubs and conservation groups testified in favor of the Rivian agreement with state parks when the commission heard about the plans in March. 

Xcel Energy, which offers incentives for EV and charger purchases, estimates there are about 15,000 charging ports in the state. Separately, the government-funded information clearinghouse Drive Electric Colorado estimates more than 1,000 public charging stations

Advocacy groups say charging ports need to grow elevenfold to serve the size of the EV market that Colorado wants to reach. 

The state’s emissions reduction plan commits to getting nearly 1 million EVs on Colorado roads by 2030, as part of an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Colorado has made progress solidifying future cuts in major categories like eliminating coal-fired power plants, and now is turning to electrifying the transportation sector to speed progress in both air pollution control and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Michael Booth is The Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of The Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He and John Ingold host the weekly Sun-Up podcast on The Temperature topics every Thursday. He is co-author with...