New report touts clean-car benefits for Colorado

DENVER – Coloradans—who frequently endure unhealthy air pollution largely from gasoline-burning vehicles—stand to receive major jobs, health, and energy savings benefits if the state adopts a strong Colorado Clean Cars plan that would speed up the transition to zero-emissions electric cars and light-duty trucks, a new report shows.

“The Benefits of the Colorado Clean Car Standard” report released today [May 18, 2023] finds that the total benefits for Colorado would be as much as $95 billion in 2050 from public health and climate improvements, savings to drivers of zero emissions vehicles, and utility customer savings—under a Colorado Clean Cars program, also known as Advanced Clean Cars II, if adopted through 2035.

ERM prepared the report for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the Sierra Club, and Western Resources Advocates (WRA) to show the full benefits available through 2035. Vehicle pollution harms public health statewide but impacts low-income and communities of color living near transportation corridors the most.

“Coloradans are poised to breathe easier, find new jobs, and be able to buy cleaner vehicles if state leaders push the pedal to the floor on the Colorado Clean Cars program,” said Kathy Harris, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Advocate at NRDC. “By adopting the clean cars plan through 2035, the report shows Colorado would receive substantial benefits—including from improved public health, savings for vehicle owners and less polluted air—while addressing the climate crisis and rising energy costs impacting people across the Rocky Mountain state.”

“Colorado has an important opportunity to act on climate, improve air quality, and provide economic benefits to communities by adopting this program to put cleaner cars on roads. Let’s get moving to slash pollution from transportation,” said Sierra Club Colorado Lead Organizer Sarah Clark.

“Bold action from our leaders is required to meet the dual crises of climate change and poor air quality,” said Aaron Kressig, transportation electrification manager at WRA. “Colorado took an important step forward in April by unanimously adopting Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) and Low-NOx rules, which will increase the number of zero-emission trucks and buses available from manufacturers. Colorado should continue this momentum and adopt the strongest Clean Cars standard this year. As this new report illustrates, the benefits of a rapid transition to zero-emission vehicles to all Coloradans are clear, and we urge state officials to put Colorado on the right track – one which will bring emissions from the passenger vehicle sector down to nearly zero by 2050.”

“The Benefits of the Colorado Clean Car Standard” report outlines three scenarios for how manufacturers might meet requirements if the state adopts Colorado as Colorado Clean Cars – through 2035. The report finds that by 2050:

  • Coloradans will avoid up to 236 premature deaths and 225 hospital visits from breathing polluted air, for a total of $2.6 billion to $2.9 billion in health benefits;
  • Up to 221 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 70,820 metric tons of NOx, and 6,230 metric tons of particulate matter will be reduced throughout Colorado;
  • More than 4,990 jobs will be created, many in well-paying positions in electrical component manufacturing and charging infrastructure construction;
  • Colorado urban and rural drivers of zero emissions vehicles will save between $6,000 and $19,000 in lifetime vehicle costs depending on the year the vehicle is purchased;
  • The average Colorado household will save up to $153 and the average commercial customer saves up to $959 on electricity bills;
  • Colorado will gain cumulative net societal benefits (the sum of public health and climate benefits, net cost savings for vehicle owners, and net utility costs from increased electricity demand for electric vehicle charging) of up to $95 billion.

The Colorado Clean Cars program will require vehicle manufacturers to increase sales of light-duty zero emission vehicles (ZEV) in Colorado. If it is adopted through model year 2035, it could require 100 percent of new ZEV sales by 2035. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently holding stakeholder meetings about the Colorado Clean Cars program and has announced its intent to propose the rule in July and hold a rulemaking hearing in October.

In addition, the federal Inflation Reduction Act signed into law last year will help people buy a zero emissions electric vehicle, with discounts up to $7,500 for new EVs and $4,000 for used EVs.

In Colorado, there currently are 3.5 million light-duty vehicles –vehicles weighing under 8,000 pounds including passenger cars, SUVs, crossovers, and pickup trucks—that travel more than 51 billion miles a year and burn more than 2.2 billion gallons of gasoline, the report shows.

Emissions from internal combustion engines contribute to air pollution and climate change. Because the nation’s light-duty fleet is projected to grow 59% by 2050, the problem will grow much worse, so we must shift now to zero emissions vehicles.

Nationally, light-duty vehicles account for about 90% of all on-road vehicle miles traveled and emit about 67% of total greenhouse gas emissions annually from the on-road vehicle fleet. Light-duty vehicles also account for 33% of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 30% of the particulate matter emitted by on-road vehicles.

Together, these pollutants worsen air quality and harm public health in many urban areas, including in low-income and communities of color often disproportionately affected by emissions from nearby transportation infrastructure.

* “Report: Colorado Clean Cars Plan Can Save Drivers Millions and Deliver Major Jobs, Health, and Climate Benefits,” May 18, 2023 Natural Resources Defense Council press release.

Last updated on Jun. 7, 2023 at 11:40 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

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