Colorado Passes New Low-Emission Vehicle Standard

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The state of Colorado recently passed a low-emission vehicle (LEV) standard to start with the 2022 vehicle model year. Jeremy Neustifter, an air quality planner with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, answered some questions about this for CleanTechnica.

1. Are light- and medium-duty motor vehicles passenger vehicles mostly?

Yes, “mostly.”

2. Does the new standard allow commercial vehicles to not be LEV?

The Colorado Low Emissions Automobile Regulation (CLEAR) applies to all new light-duty (< 8,500 lbs.) and medium-duty (mostly < 14,000 lbs.) sold in Colorado, whether they are for private or commercial use.

3. It might be an obvious question, but does the new standard inadvertently favor manufacturers that are already making LEVs, ULEVs, and PZEVs?

CLEAR ensures that Colorado maintains the same emissions standards that were set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2012. All automakers were most likely planning to make their vehicles meet these standards in model year (MY) 2022 and beyond. EPA proposed to roll back these standards earlier this year, however. That proposed rule, known as The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (83 Fed. Reg. 42986), is not final.

4. Are there currently any state tax credits for PZEVs, hybrids, and EVs?

Yes, Colorado provides the most generous tax incentives in the country for these vehicles.

5. If the state wanted to exceed the LEV standard, could it do so?

Under the Clean Air Act, only the federal government and the state of California can set new motor vehicle emission standards. Under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, states can choose to adopt California’s standards, exactly as they are, in lieu of federal standards. So, no, Colorado does not have the authority to create a “third standard.”

6. Might some manufacturers increase their prices to offset the costs in manufacturing LEVs?

This is a possibility that CLEAR has already considered. In summary, increases in initial vehicle costs will not be as much as savings in fuel costs, thus creating net cost benefits.

7. Do you have an estimate about the number of LEVs currently in operation in Colorado?

The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles might have data for LEVs registered in Colorado. This data does not, however, account for out-of-state vehicles operating in Colorado.

8. What are other air pollutants that will be reduced by having an LEV standard?

The Air Care Colorado program inspects emissions of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Hydrocarbons (HC), and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) from all gasoline-powered light-duty vehicles registered in its program area (Denver Metro and North Front Range). These are the primary components of ground level ozone, which the Clean Air Act requires us to regulate.

The Colorado Mobile Sources Program inspects these same emissions from all diesel-powered vehicles registered in the Front Range (Larimer/Weld to El Paso Counties). CLEAR maintains existing EPA standards on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for all new light-and-medium-duty vehicles sold throughout Colorado as of MY 2022. It is possible that there will be reductions in other pollutants upstream of vehicles, such as at refineries and gas stations, due to the expected decrease in fuel consumption from CLEAR.

9. Does Colorado have a “Cash for Clunkers” program to get the most polluting vehicles off the roads?

All Federal funds have been allocated for the Cash for Clunkers program. The Clear the Air Foundation accepts donations of old “gross emitter” vehicles, sells them to parts yards, and donates the proceeds to various charities.

10. Will having an LEV standard reduce smog in cities?

It could definitely help, but vehicle tailpipe emissions are not the only contributors to ground level ozone (i.e., “urban smog”). Fossil-fueled power plants, construction, oil & gas development, industrial activities, wildfires, paint, etc. also contribute, and Colorado is addressing each of these through other programs.

11. How much might having an LEV standard improve over all air quality?

Our answer to #10 can also apply here, as “overall air quality” varies widely based on different combinations of all those contributing sources. As for climate change, however, we predict that CLEAR will help reduce over 30 million tons of GHGs in the years 2022-2031.

Image via Pixabay

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter:

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