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Colorado offers millions to help truck and car fleets plug in

Colorado offers millions to help truck and car fleets plug in


By Michael Booth, The Colorado Sun (via AP Storyshare)

Colorado regulators have wielded plenty of sticks in recent years while mandating the changeover of fossil fuel use in the state to clean-generated electricity. Clean cars, clean trucks, clean stoves and furnaces, clean power stations — the rules are stacking up in bundles.

But state officials say they have plenty of carrots in stock, too. And they’re adding another, calling it Fleet ZERO, and dangling $7 million in the first year with millions more to come.

Fleet ZERO offers grants for building fast charging stations to local governments or private businesses that run large groups of light-, medium- or heavy-duty electric vehicles. The government has done its job requiring manufacturers to produce increasing percentages of clean electric vehicles of all sizes, state regulators say, and now Colorado must ease the change with grants for charging and other support systems.

The transportation sector is the leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and the building blocks of local ozone pollution, said Matt Lerman, infrastructure program manager at the Colorado Energy Office, which is funneling many federal and state grants for electrification. Moreover, truck and service fleets are often located in or spend their day driving through disproportionately impacted communities, so the fleet changeover is a key to environmental justice mandates, Lerman said.

“Infrastructure is a foundation for that change,” he said.

The $7 million first-year fund is part of $310 million in electrification funding available through the Colorado Energy Office and other state agencies in coming years. The budget is also committed to tax credits for new and used electric vehicle purchases, e-bike support programs, home electrification by replacing gas appliances with induction ranges and heat pumps, and more.

Helping fleets transition to clean fuel faster will “protect the environment and significantly improve air quality in some of Colorado’s most polluted communities,” said Will Toor, executive director of the energy office.

Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are only 10% of vehicles on Colorado’s roads, but contribute 22% of transportation greenhouse gases, 30% of the nitrogen oxides that build into ozone, and 40% of particulate matter, another EPA-controlled pollutant. Colorado still generates a significant portion of its electricity through coal, but that percentage is declining fast and coal will be gone from the system by 2031.

Colorado has a goal of nearly 1 million electric light-duty cars, SUVs and pickups on state roads by 2030. The Air Quality Control Commission recently passed rules requiring manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty work vehicles to produce a gradually increasing percentage of clean-fuel engines beginning with the 2027 model year.

The Fleet ZERO (short for Zero-Emission Resource Opportunity) grants can cover up to 80% of the cost of projects, ranging from installing fleet charging stations to upgrading local electrical transformers and other transmission equipment. Disadvantaged businesses or neighborhoods can see up to 90% grant financing for their projects.

Initial projects will focus on fleets and businesses with vehicles traveling up to 150 miles a day and returning to a “base” for nine to 10 hours of overnight charging between shifts. Later grants will help expand public charging access for working vehicles that use interstates or other heavily traveled corridors, Lerman said.

Grant recipients agree to share charging data on a network, which allows the state to see which funding ideas are the most efficient and how charging patterns develop as more electric vehicles join fleets.

The state grants can be combined with utility and local grants for electric infrastructure, Lerman said. The current round of grant applications is open through June 30.

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