Volkswagen Lied, So CO Could Get $61 Million to Electrify Transit and Roads

Coloradans could be seeing a lot more electric buses like, the new MallRide shuttles, around the state. Image: RTD
Coloradans could be seeing a lot more electric buses, like these new 16th Mall shuttles, around the state. Image: RTD

Remember that time Volkswagen cheated American consumers’ wallets and lungs by rigging its “clean diesel” cars to falsify emissions data? Now Colorado will probably get $61 million from the car company in a settlement.

A federal judge is “strongly inclined” to approve the settlement, according to Reuters. About $10 billion will go to fleeced consumers, while the rest is earmarked for states to reduce emissions.

Colorado’s chunk would be best used by electrifying buses and installing charging stations along the state’s highway network, according to the Southwestern Energy Efficiency Project and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group.

“We have to make sure that whatever penalty money we’re getting is invested in the smartest way possible to have the biggest impact on that air pollution,” said CoPIRG Director Danny Katz. “Investing in electric buses and electric vehicle charging stations  — not only does that have a significant reduction in pollution now, but it starts to transform our transportation system and move us in that zero emissions direction, which is ultimately where we need to be.”

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A proposed map of Colorado’s electric vehicle network. Map: CDOT

The settlement could buy between 100 and 125 electric buses for RTD or CDOT’s Bustang service, for example, according to an analysis by SWEEP and CoPIRG [PDF]. “We know that RTD is interested and has already started to purchase electric buses for the 16th Street Mall,” Katz said. “This would be a perfect way to accelerate that process.”

The money could also outfit major highways with charging stations — a huge barrier for fully electric transit and potential electric vehicle buyers — every 30 to 50 miles.

“I think this could impact Colorado even more than other states,” Katz said. “When you have these giant gaps in our transportation system, whether it’s no public transit to the mountains or no electric vehicle infrastructure to the mountains, it tips the scale towards owning and operating a combustion engine vehicle.”

The judge is expected to sign off on the settlement by October 25.

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