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Hickenlooper’s first bill becomes law: Making EV charging stations affordable

RECHARGE Act aligns with Durango goals to lower costs, eliminate ‘range anxiety’
Tom Dowling with Purgatory Resort plugs in his Chevrolet Bolt at the the new fast-charging station at the ski mountain. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Just as Durango City Council begins to plan for and support the adoption of electric vehicles through its Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan, Sen. John Hickenlooper’s legislation to reduce the costs of driving an electric vehicle became a law.

The RECHARGE Act, Hickenlooper’s first major piece of legislation, requires states to find ways to make it more affordable to drive electric vehicles. Its main goal is to stabilize EV charging rates to promote “greater electrification of the transportation sector.”

According to Hickenlooper’s news release, EV charging stations in some states are treated like “factories that put a constant strain on the power grid, which can lead to artificially high prices for EV owners.” The act asks states to consider rate designs that promote equitable charging and accelerate investment in charging stations.

The legislation was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden on Monday.

Hickenlooper

“To fight climate change, we’ve got to transition to electric vehicles,” Hickenlooper said. “The RECHARGE Act makes it cheaper to drive an EV, and we’re overjoyed that it will be our first bill to become law!”

The Colorado Energy Office already has a similar program in place, called ReCharge Colorado, which works to advance the adoption of EVs and installation of charging infrastructure across the state. Its fast-charging electric vehicle corridors project established fast-charging stations at Purgatory Resort, Durango Transit Center and Centennial Park in Pagosa Springs.

Laurie Dickson, executive director of Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency, said the legislation will have the biggest impact on stabilizing rates across the state, specifically ones in rural areas.

“It’ll have a tremendous impact for rural Colorado because our rates are all over the map. In my particular service area, I serve six small-member co-ops, and their rates and incentives are all over the place,” Dickson said. “These small co-ops are just learning how to adjust their rates to make them equitable for electric vehicles and their charging.”

La Plata Electric Association is one of the co-ops Dickson manages, which serves Durango. She said the rates in La Plata County are much lower than those in Alamosa County, for example. She hopes the legislation will make rates the same across the board.

Dominic May, LPEA’s Energy Resource Program architect, hopes the public funding and investment will spark the interest of more private companies to invest in charging stations in the region, as well as people’s interest in buying electric vehicles.

“We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in private interest in EV charging stations,” May said. “To make it worthwhile for private companies, the market is going to take a while, so this stimulus money is critical in developing these stations.”

If there are more charging stations created, specifically in rural areas, people may be more inclined to buy electric vehicles.

Tim Jackson, the CEO of the Colorado Auto Dealers Association, said one of the main reasons why people don’t buy electric vehicles is because of range anxiety, which is the driver’s fear that a vehicle has insufficient energy storage to reach its destinations, or that there will not be enough charging stations along their route.

He thinks the law will alleviate people’s range anxiety because it aims to increase faster charging for all vehicles as well as develop more across the state, helping people make long-distance trips.

“Hickenlooper’s component on the recharging issue will be beneficial to attract people in electric vehicles, especially those in rural areas where electrification has been slower,” Jackson said. “A fast charger will take most electric vehicles from 20 to 80% in about 40 minutes, which isn’t bad at all.”

The Durango City Council also recently voted to change its development codes so that gas stations are no longer able to be developed downtown. They also decoupled EV charging stations from fueling uses, making it so that businesses and residents could still develop EV charging stations. Before the change, EV chargers and fueling stations had the same use classification.

The initiatives are a part of meeting Durango’s electric vehicle and greenhouse gas emissions goals. Similar to Hickenlooper’s electric vehicle goals, Durango’s plan aims to increase the number of charging stations, as its goal is for 70% of light-duty vehicles and 75% of heavy-duty vehicles to be electric vehicles by 2050.

“Any legislation, be it state or federal, that allocates funding or assisting EV charging stations is going to be welcome here,” said Kevin Hall, managing director of community development for Durango.

Kelsey Carolan is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a senior graduating in December 2021 at American University in Washington, D.C.

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