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Polis wants more electric vehicles, but they aren't welcome everywhere

Gov. Jared Polis' (D) first executive order set a goal for EVs in Colorado. There are a few roadblocks on the road to that.

DENVER — When the Colorado Rockies sell out Coors Field, there are more people in the stands than electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in all of Colorado.

Coors Field has a capacity near 50,000.

As of January 2021, the state has 44,352 EVs on the road.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) has signed more than 400 executive orders dealing with COVID-19. His first ever executive order, more than a year before the pandemic, set a goal to get 940,000 EVs on the road in Colorado by 2030.

There are a few roadblocks on the road to achieving that.

A homeowners association (HOA) in Keystone recently alerted residents that EVs would not be allowed to park or charge in the garage.

"Several EV manufacturers and EV battery manufacturers have spent billions to recall possible faulty designs because of the risk of fire. For this reason the Board of Managers has decided for the time being to prohibit any and all EVs from using the Decatur garage, either parked or charging," the letter, provided to 9NEWS, stated.

"They were trying to say, 'Does an electric vehicle burn more?' And I was like, all vehicles burn. It can happen," said Div. Chief Kim McDonald, fire marshal for Summit Fire & EMS.

The HOA letter also said, "The Fire Marshall (sic) understood and agreed an EV battery fire at Decatur would result in a substantial loss."

"With an electric vehicle fire, yes it's more intense, takes a little bit longer to put out, takes a little bit more water, but that was pretty well the extent of our conversation," said McDonald.

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HOA LETTER

The letter sent to residents said:

Dear Decatur Homeowner, 

The Decatur Board of Managers has been monitoring news about fire hazards when charging and parking electric vehicles "EV" in enclosed garages with attached dwellings. Decatur's design creates increased risks if an EV fire happens in our garage. It is well established that the longer a fire takes to extinguish in high-rises, the exponential probability of total life and property loss. Several factors significantly increase time to extinguish an EV fire at Decatur. First, water will not extinguish a battery fire in an EV making a sprinkler system useless. Second, The enclosed design of our garage makes it problematic for Firefighters to access the fire with the required amount of retardant. EV fires require an enormous amount of retardant. Our parking design also will lead to other gas or EV vehicles nearby catching fire and accelerating the fire. All EV fires have happened while the cars are unattended while parked or charging, allowing them to grow until beyond control. 

The Board of Managers contacted the Fire Marshall (sic) at Lake Dillon Fire and Rescue to determine their risk assessment of EVs in the community. The Fire Marshall understood and agreed an EV battery fire at Decatur would result in a substantial loss. While both the state and county is looking seriously at the issue and understands that guidelines are needed for properties such as Decatur there are no such guidelines available yet. 

Several EV manufacturers and EV battery manufacturers have spent billions to recall possible faulty designs because of the risk of fire. For this reason the Board of Managers has decided for the time being to prohibit any and all EVs from using the Decatur garage, either parked or charging.

We have provided links below to several articles of interest on the topic. 

Sincerely, 

Decatur Board of Managers

"It is a bit of a stretch to say that EV fires would cause more damage or would lead to a catastrophic fire in an underground parking garage any more than it would be for a conventional vehicle," said Summit Fire & EMS Community Resource Officer Steve Lipsher. "We, at Summit Fire, are not advocating one way or the other about electrical vehicles being parked in their parking garage."

When Polis signed his first Jan. 2019 executive order to get to 940,000 EVs by 2030, there were between 15,000-17,000 EVs in Colorado. Two years later, it was 44,352.

And some of them cannot park at a downtown Denver parking structure at 19th and California Streets.

"What we have behind us appears to be a proactive nature by the building owner here," said Denver Fire Capt. Greg Pixley.

The garage has a "safety warning" out front.

"Due to a safety recall involving battery fires, Chevrolet Bolt EVs and EUVs are prohibited from parking at this facility until further notice."

"What we have here is somebody that is looking at the concerns surrounding these type of vehicles and trying to go a step farther than the Denver Fire Department would," said Pixley. "The building owner here is working to be proactive and going above the fire code."

The parking structure is now anti-EV. Just inside the gates, past the safety warning, are two EV charging stations. Just not for Chevy Bolts.

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