Colorado Follows California's Lead, Moves to Implement Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate

The new rule will require automakers to sell zero-emission vehicles in the state.

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Colorado just took an important step toward cutting emissions from cars and trucks. On Thursday, Governor Jared Polis announced that he had signed an executive order  "supporting a transition to zero-emission vehicles." It includes a recommendation to adopt the zero-emission vehicle mandate already implemented by California and other states. This would require automakers to sell cars with no tailpipe emissions in Colorado.

This isn't quite a done deal: Polis' executive order instructs the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to put a plan together for increased zero-emission vehicle adoption, and report to a committee by May. But zero-emission vehicle mandate adoption is expected to be part of the plan, which would make Colorado the 11th state to implement the rule, as well as the second inland state (along with Vermont).

The move follows Colorado's decision last year to adopt California's emission standards, which are stricter than federal standards. The Clean Air Act gives California the exclusive right to set its own emission standards. Other states can choose between California's standards and the federal government's, but they can't set their own.

The executive order also creates an interagency task force to focus on programs encouraging the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, as well as how to spend the $70 million of Volkswagen diesel settlement money allocated to Colorado. The order requests that funds be used to support the deployment of electric vehicles, including larger commercial vehicles like buses and trucks. Colorado also wants to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

The zero-emission vehicle mandate has led to so-called "compliance cars," which are models, like the Fiat 500e, built solely to comply with the mandate. These models are becoming less common as automakers adopt more aggressive electric car sales targets. The mandate covers both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell cars, but no automaker has taken the risk of selling a fuel-cell car outside California to date due to the lack of available fueling stations.