As the capital city of a state that emerged as a leader in transportation electrification in 2019, the City and County of Denver seeks to take advantage of statewide progress and ramp up efforts at the local level. The city will test whether providing expanding public charging services can accelerate EV adoption among transportation network company (TNC) drivers.
State of the EV and Shared Mobility Space
The City and County of Denver benefits from strong regulatory support for EVs across the state and seeks to use recent legislative momentum to drive electrification in shared mobility services. A suite of new legislation passed in 2019 that includes an extension of the statewide vehicle tax credit and a fund to offset the cost of publicly accessible charging station investment are evidence of Colorado’s commitment to transportation electrification and support of projects like EV Shared Mobility.
This legislative push includes a new law directing the state to form a mobility study policy committee. The Colorado Department of Transportation is leading the effort, which will include a specific focus on TNC electrification. The group published their first report in November 2019 and argued that fees should be levied on shared mobility providers to fill transportation funding gaps and that EV TNC drivers should be assessed reduced or no fees. Around the same time, Lyft announced that their plan to add more than 200 EVs to their rental fleet in Denver.
In pursuit of EV adoption goals, the Colorado Department of Transportation will coordinate with local agencies in Denver and other metro areas to assess the state of shared mobility impact and electrification potential. The City and County of Denver does not currently have the regulatory authority to limit TNC activity and relies on coordination with the state. The city is also considering queue jumps for EV drivers and is referencing existing policies in Seattle as potential models.
Compared to other states in the West, electric utility engagement in transportation electrification has been lower in Colorado to date. However, new legislation approved in 2019 directs utilities to develop EV and charging pilots and enables cost recovery from charging station investment. These developments are likely to increase electric utility investment in the sector. Denver is working with Xcel energy to make sure charging infrastructure deployed through the EV Shared Mobility Project are coordinated with wider efforts.
Project Structure and Core Goals
Denver’s goals have adapted to shifts in the EV market since the project proposal was approved in the fall of 2017. This section highlights the dynamic nature of the project and adaptations undertaken by Denver in order to advance transportation electrification and raise EV awareness among TNC drivers in the region.
Initial Goals and Scope
The City and County of Denver initially set out to work directly with vehicle and charging service providers to meet the project goals. This included establishing early partnerships with the EV rental service Maven Gig and the charging service provider EVgo. Original project goals included the installation of six DC fast charging stations around the city and the deployment of 150 EVs via Maven. Providing access to fast charging, in particular, was identified as a core barrier to EV adoption in the region in the project proposal due to the relatively low level of deployment in the city. At the project outset, Denver had the second fewest DC fast charging and Level 2 charging stations deployed on a per capita basis out of all the cities in the project. EV Shared Mobility project.
As a part of the partnership between EVgo and Maven, Denver planned to facilitate an agreement between the two companies allowing for complementary charging by Maven EV drivers on the EVgo network. EV deployment goals would be achieved by subsidizing the rental fees for first-time EV TNC drivers to build confidence in the technology and increase demand for the Maven’s EV offerings. This would be conducted on a separate reservation platform providing preferred access to TNC drivers. Outreach efforts would also be harnessed to market EVs directly to these drivers. By providing EVs directly to TNC drivers and supplying charging infrastructure, Denver sought to make the switch to EVs more attractive. Initial goals did not include a direct focus on work with Lyft and other TNCs, although these companies expressed early interest in the outcomes of the project and how they might inform future plans in the region.
Current Goals and Scope
While securing vehicles for TNC drivers is no longer a core goal of the project, the city remains committed to expanding public fast charging access and supporting TNCs, Lyft in particular, with their electrification commitments. The withdrawal of Maven from the market in Denver and seven other cities led to their departure from the EV Shared Mobility project. Lyft stepped up to fill this gap by committing to expanding EV rental program, leading Denver to shift the focus of the project away from vehicle provision and towards filling remaining charging gaps and enhancing EV awareness among TNC drivers. The departure of Maven increased the project’s focus on DC fast charging deployment and led to the addition of a city-owned site within the project scope. Denver has designed their program to improve the EV value proposition for TNC drivers and expand awareness of the benefits of EVs. In addition to encouraging EV adoption, this will also enhance the usage of public charging to support the growing EV charging market in Denver. EVgo, a leading charging service provider in the region, has remained a strong partner throughout the process and has facilitated progress on the infrastructure expansion component of the project.
Project partners will seek to rollout charging infrastructure at the same time that Lyft adds 200 EVs to its Denver Express Drive program, a service that allows drivers to make short term rentals through Lyft’s partners. In addition to working with Lyft, Denver will engage TNC drivers in partnership with the Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition (DMCCC) to ensure that drivers have the information and support they need to switch to an EV.
Denver’s goals were framed in a way that enables the city to be a local leader as Colorado moves quickly towards clean transportation goals. As a finalist for the federal Smart City Challenge, Denver adopted an aggressive transportation electrification plan, committing to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Like other cities in the project, Denver seeks to reduce the impact of ride-hail vehicles in the city and achieve emissions reductions in line with regional and statewide climate goals. This aligns with the policy directives from the governor’s office and seeks to support a strong EV market in Colorado.
Partnership Building and Contracting
* Indicates partners that have withdrawn from the project
Denver established a strong foundation for the project in the proposal by identifying EVgo as the core charging infrastructure partner for the project. After facing delays and difficulties in initial contracting with EVgo and subsequently securing site host agreements, the city established regular meetings with local regulators to expedite the permitting process. This also included securing regular communication and contribution from the local electric utility, Xcel Energy, as an important stakeholder in the site selection and design process. The robust partnership between the City and County of Denver, Xcel Energy, and EVgo has resulted in successful site selection and contracting at two sites along with expedited construction on the initial charging stations.
Denver identified DMCCC in the project proposal as the primary partner to lead on outreach efforts. While contracting with the DMCCC was initial managed under the umbrella of the American Lung Association, the coalition has since split off due to internal management challenges and Denver has established an independent contract. As a part of outreach efforts, Denver has also worked with Forth, the EV Shared Mobility lead in Portland, Oregon and an active organization in Denver, to ensure that lessons learned in other project cities can be applied in the Denver area when appropriate.
Data Collection and Analysis Strategy
Data collection has proven to be a similar challenge in Denver as in other project cities. At the outset of the project, the city was unaware of some of the data gaps and barriers that exist within the ride-hail sector. The city seeks to secure data from TNC companies on driver behavior, EV uptake, and charging station use.
In the original project outline with Maven as the vehicle partner, the city sought to restrict access to new charging stations to only TNC drivers for the first year of the program. Station access has since been made fully public and Denver will now work with Atlas Public Policy to collect data from EVgo and the city’s own fast charging station on station utilization to assess the amount of electricity used and the total electric miles traveled. Denver will also work directly with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lyft to address challenges around separating TNC charging from general public use and determine if additional data on ride-hail electrification in the region can be included. Other project partners in Seattle and Portland have experienced similar difficulties in distinguishing TNC drivers from the general public and are currently coordinating on potential solutions as a part of the EV Shared Mobility project.
On the vehicles front, Denver will work to collect data from Lyft and Uber on the number of EVs operating on their platforms before and after infrastructure deployment in order to estimate the impact of the additional charging stations on EV usage by TNC drivers. Denver is also leveraging state EV registration data shared by the Colorado Energy Office to ensure vehicle deployment data is integrated into the project. Although not finalized yet, Denver is exploring the opportunity to work directly with Lyft to determine how often Lyft’s newly deployed rental fleet of 200 EVs is utilizing the charging infrastructure installed as part of this project.
Denver has gained insight from talks with Forth and will work with the DMCCC to ensure that metrics from outreach campaigns are being captured, analyzed, and shared with project partners. These metrics will include data on event attendance, views or impressions from any online campaign materials, and the number of individuals engaged both in person and online. In addition to summary statistics such as event attendance, DMCCC will gauge the effect of outreach on event attendees via an attitudinal study questionnaire provided directly to drivers. This questionnaire covers topics related to EV awareness in the TNC driver community such as barriers to EV adoption, knowledge of EV benefits, and likelihood of EV adoption.