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New Electric Vehicle Study Shows Expanded Charging Stations Key to Improving Air Quality, Boosting Vehicle Sales

Denver’s Department of Environmental Health today released the findings of a new study the city recently commissioned to measure the health and environmental benefits of electric vehicles (EV), and provide recommendations to guide the acceleration of the growing EV market in Denver. 

Opportunities for Vehicle Electrification in the Denver Metro area and Across the Front Range was funded by a grant from the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC) and developed through a partnership with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). The report is intended to help guide infrastructure and related planning efforts, as the popularity of EVs increase. In 2016, registrations increased more than 43 percent in Colorado.

“To help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, we must significantly expand the use of electric vehicles, and this report confirms that they’re a valuable investment in both air quality and as a tool for fighting climate change,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Electric vehicles are an important component of Denver’s newly released Mobility Action Plan, and the market opportunities identified for charging infrastructure throughout Denver and Colorado shows consumers and businesses that choosing EVs is not just an environmentally-conscious choice, but an economical one.”

Among the key health and environmental benefits, the study concludes that plugging in an EV in Denver reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides by 63 percent and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to the average vehicle. Nitrogen oxides are the primary contributor to ozone pollution, which has serious health and respiratory impacts, and greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change.

Those reductions are forecast to improve over time as Colorado’s renewable energy portfolio increases. By 2025 electric vehicles are expected to produce 84 percent fewer nitrogen oxides and 49 percent fewer greenhouse gases as compared to a new gasoline automobile meeting 2025 emissions standards. 

Transportation is the leading source of air pollution and the second leading source of greenhouse gases in Denver. Electric vehicles can help the City improve air quality and uphold Mayor Hancock’s ongoing commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.

The study also found that ensuring electric vehicle drivers have reliable, convenient access to charging is essential to continuing the growth of electric vehicles.

Key recommended actions include:

  • Changing building codes to require charging preparation during construction or renovation of new commercial or multi-family properties
  • Engaging utilities to help minimize demand charges at direct current fast charger (DCFC) locations
  • Future-proofing charging locations to minimize costs and prepare for faster charging speeds
  • Siting fast chargers at or near high-density multi-family dwellings
  • Expanding fast charging access along highways throughout the state

In addition to a lifecycle emissions analysis, the study pinpoints options for accelerating the growth of electric mobility through deployment of more DCFCs, which can charge a vehicle battery in less than 30 minutes, and charging at multi-unit dwellings. The study identifies market conditions, charging costs, and deployment barriers to consider in planning a more comprehensive charging network. 

According to Will Toor, Director of Transportation at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), “Denver already has the fourth fastest growing electric vehicle market in the nation. Our research found that polices and public investment to get more fast charging and more charging in multifamily housing could further accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in the region.”

The time to purchase an electric vehicle is now! Colorado is the most affordable state in the country to

buy an electric vehicle, and there are grants available to assist in funding electric vehicle charging

stations across the state,” said Steve McCannon, mobile sources program director for the RAQC.

“Tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks account for almost a third of the air pollution in the United

States. The adoption of these zero-emissions electric vehicles can significantly reduce air pollution

caused by motor vehicle travel.”

A companion study on statewide priority EV charging locations conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), RAQC, Colorado Energy Office and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will be released later in the month. The study evaluates hypothetical fast charging networks throughout the state to understand how fast charging could increase electric vehicle miles traveled and how often drivers would utilize the stations depending on the range of the vehicle, temperature, and other factors.

Findings from both studies will set a foundation to inform multiple electric vehicle opportunities in Colorado, including Governor Hickenlooper’s charging corridor partnership with Utah and Nevada, Electrify America’s commitment to invest in more than 300 chargers in the Denver area over the next two years, and the release of approximately $10 million in Volkswagen settlement funds by the State of Colorado for charging infrastructure.

For more information contact Tyler Svitak at Tyler.Svitak@DenverGov.org, 720-865-5426.

About Denver Environmental Health

As Denver’s nationally-accredited local public health agency, the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) is dedicated to advancing Denver’s environmental and public health goals. The divisions of DEH are: Animal Protection, Community Health, Environmental Quality, Office of the Medical Examiner, and Public Health Inspections.

For more information about Environmental Health visit www.denvergov.org/EnvironmentalHealth. Follow us on Twitter.com/DenEnviroHealth

About the Regional Air Quality Council
The Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC) is the lead air quality planning agency for the nine-county, Metro Denver/North Front Range area. The Council’s main purpose is to develop plans and programs to keep the region in compliance with federal air quality standards with significant input from area citizens, business and local governments. One of the RAQC’s programs - Charge Ahead Colorado - is a program formed in partnership by the RAQC and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) to improve air quality and encourage the deployment of electric vehicles. The program provides grants to qualifying entities to support the purchase of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations. Visit
www.CleanAirFleets.org for more information.