Looking at the list of the most EV-ready cities just released by Ford, it’s no surprise many of them are coastal. On the east and west coasts energy is pricey, so the pressure is on to achieve innovation that will control costs and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
But what’s up with Denver out there in the middle of the map, all by its lonesome?
Government leaders in Colorado, and Denver specifically, have long been committed to sustainability and energy efficiency. Denver has worked hard over the years not only to position itself as a national leader in sustainability, but also to lead by example.
Denver was home to the first “Green Fleet” of city-use vehicles in the early 1990’s, which now includes 138 hybrid electric vehicles. The city hosted the greenest Democratic National Convention to date, and shows continued focus through clean-energy legislation. Its concentration of clean-energy workers and companies is on the rise, and Colorado continues to attract more venture capital financing for clean-tech start-ups than nearly any other state.
And, we’re not so alone after all. Denver is also participating in a U.S.-China “Eco Partnership” sponsored by U.S. Department of the Treasury, which is focused on the implementation of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
On the forefront of the EV-push is the Colorado Plug-In Working Group, which engages communities (like Denver and Boulder), government and private businesses to facilitate EV market growth. Current members are no strangers to the scene: Xcel Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Rocky Mountain Institute, Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition and the Governor’s Energy Office.
In putting together its list of EV-ready cities, Ford looked at several criteria including complementary state and regional activities. Of these, Denver has no shortage:
- Intellectual resources abound. Colorado’s universities are actively researching how to increase efficiency of electricity generation and transmission and testing smart grids, and collaborating with Colorado-based national labs.
- Greenprint Denver was established by then-Mayor Hickenlooper to position Denver as a national leader in sustainability and integrate environmental impact considerations into the city's programs and policies.
- The Utilities & Transmission Program at the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has its sights set on working with utilities to increase the proportion of demand-side management within their resource portfolios.
- Denver P2 Partners, a pollution prevention program, works with small businesses to increase participation and adoption of sustainable practices that go beyond compliance. It’s developed industry-specific criteria to target environmental issues and concerns specific to auto repair shops. Reducing transportation pollution is one of five criteria that auto repair shop must address to maintain certification through the program. While “educational training on hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle maintenance” is listed as an elective criterion, a partnership with Denver P2 Partners could be easily expanded and used to enlist auto repair shops to support EV implementation.
- Voluntary Ozone Reduction program. The City & County of Denver’s Environmental Transportation Coordinators hit the streets during critical summer months to educate employees about ozone pollution and ways to reduce ozone levels.
- Recharge Colorado Rebate Program has pumped more than $90 million into the Colorado economy since late April 2010.
- A year ago, Colorado company UQM Technologies received a $45 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand operations of its electric motor factory, accelerating electric vehicle projects across Colorado.
Tax incentives are also in place. The Colorado Department of Revenue offers an income tax credit for titled, registered Colorado vehicles that use or are converted to alternative fuels, are hybrid electric vehicles or have an alternative power source.
The question remains: Why Denver? Its blue skies, spectacular mountains and love of all things outdoors certainly create good motivation to adopt protective technologies; or it may simply be a persistent, Wild-West spirit of independence that drives (no pun) Colorado’s hunger for that next frontier: energy independence. Whatever the reason, the verdict is in: Colorado’s ready to plug in.
Cara Miale is a freelance writer in Denver.