Denver proved the power of e-bike rebates. Now, the discounts are going statewide

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An electric B-Cycle station just off Boulder’s Pearl Street, Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Denver kicked off a two-wheeled craze last year when it launched a program to offer residents steep discounts on electric bicycles.

Colorado is now gearing up to follow the lead of its capital city. 

The Colorado Energy Office is putting the final touches on a $12 million program to provide e-bike rebates for low- and moderate-income residents. The state hasn't detailed the size of the discounts but plans to open applications sometime this summer.

Further incentives will soon be available to every Coloradan. Under legislation approved by state lawmakers earlier this week, residents at any income level could get a $450 tax rebate toward an e-bike purchase beginning in the spring of 2024. The legislation also doesn’t restrict combining the rebate with other local e-bike incentives like Denver’s.

"Electric bicycles are a great option to replace short car trips," said Will Toor, the director of the Colorado Energy Office. "This bill will also play a big role in improving air quality, promoting active lifestyles and saving Coloradans money on fuel costs.”

The new statewide tax credit is one piece of a climate package first pitched by Gov. Jared Polis. If he signs the legislation as expected, fiscal estimates suggest the program would cost the state around $100 million before it expires in 2033.

That prediction comes with a major asterisk, though. Under the bill, if the state's economy grows by less than 4 percent in a given year, the e-bike tax credit would be cut in half.

Colorado's plans could nevertheless amount to the country's single largest bet on e-bikes. Data assembled by Portland State University shows other states have proposed or approved programs with larger individual discounts, but they’re only available to residents below a certain income.

Colorado's e-bike tax credit, by contrast, will be available to everyone. There’s also no cap on the total number of available discounts either, so the state must cover the cost if applications exceed expectations. 

Rachel Hultin, the sustainable transportation director and acting policy director with Bicycle Colorado, sees a potential political benefit in generous, widely accessible rebates. In the long term, she hopes it helps build a chorus of cyclists pushing for more bike paths and bike lanes. 

"We're really excited to see those e-bike riders advocating for more safe spaces to ride those bikes," Hultin said.

An original draft called for an $800 e-bike tax credit. Hultin says lawmakers clipped the total as they looked to trim the budget during the legislative session. 

But the bill includes a suite of other discounts for climate-friendly purchases. 

Colorado will double its electric vehicle tax rebates from $2,500 to $5,000. Residents who purchase heat pumps — efficient electric machines for home heating and cooling — could get a discount worth up to $3,000 through a new refundable tax credit.