Colorado's Proposed ZEV Mandate Ignores Realities of Rural Life

Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ administration has announced that talks with automakers to create a voluntary electric vehicle (EV) plan have failed to reach an agreement, meaning that the state’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate will move forward. Such a ZEV mandate would force automakers to sell a certain percentage of ZEVs a year.

Unfortunately, as happened with the oil and gas overhaul bill, this rule is being pushed through without proper consultation with all of the affected parties. Although such a mandate would impact consumers statewide, there is currently only a single hearing scheduled—which will be held in an affluent Denver suburb.


Excluding rural and lower-income residents is particularly egregious in rules relating to electric vehicles, given that wealthy urbanites benefit disproportionately from tax credits and ratepayer-funded EV infrastructure programs.


These advantages flow from characteristics of electric vehicles that should be discussed among non-urban and working-class residents when considering mandating more EV sales:

  • Electric vehicles are more expensive than traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, with price tags that put them out of reach for most Americans.

  • Weather-induced variations have a significant impact on an EV’s range, with cold cutting EV range by over 40 percent, according to the AAA. Given Colorado’s snowy winters, this has real consequences for anyone who needs to drive significant distances on a regular basis.

  • Outside of urban areas—where ratepayer-funded superfast chargers are concentrated—charging can take extended periods of time. A 2018 Nissan Leaf, for instance, would take 11 hours on a 3.7kW home charger.

While these concerns are less likely to affect wealthy urban residents (many of whom have EVs as their second or third vehicle), they can be deal-breakers for less-affluent rural families. And they have the right to have their perspectives taken into account when the state undertakes such a major overhaul of the automobile market.


Especially when such mandates equate to a hefty fee for those groups for whom EVs are impractical. As Tim Jackson, CEO and president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, recently wrote:

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is considering the adoption of California Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rules that would actually place a financial penalty of several thousand dollars or more on those who, for whatever reason, find that an electric vehicle doesn’t fit their needs.

So if you need a vehicle that can haul a large family, or equipment to a worksite or farm, you’re going to pay a huge surcharge under these proposed California ZEV rules.

Punishing rural and low-income Coloradans for having lifestyles that don’t align with EV limitations is ridiculous. But at the very least, these populations should be given a chance to speak up and have a say in the development of such a potentially burdensome mandate. Allotting time for hearings around the state is the least that the Polis administration could do to ensure that voices from outside the wealthy Denver area are heard.