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Colorado’s statewide e-bike program is so popular that it’s already used up its initial funding

Eli Reagh, a mechanic with Mountain Bike Specialists, services a Specialized Como 3.0 Class 1 electric bike on Wednesday, Jun. 14, 2023. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Colorado’s statewide e-bike program has proven so shockingly successful that it’s now clamping on the brakes to review its budget and reallocate funding from a separate grant program for battery-powered bicycles.

The Colorado Energy Office launched the rebate program last August. It followed Denver’s groundbreaking incentive program, which proved governments could spur demand for carbon-free transportation by offering steep discounts on electric bicycles.

The state’s version offered all residents who applied at least a $500 discount, redeemable at specific online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Income-qualified residents got a voucher worth $1,100. In addition, the state offered extra cash to cut the cost of cargo and adaptive e-bikes and accessories like helmets and locks.

The state selected recipients through a lottery each month. After the launch, it expected $6.6 million in funding from 2022 air quality legislation would be enough to sustain the program until February or March of 2024.

It now appears the state has burned through that funding earlier than expected. The program has so far helped 4,520 residents buy electric bicycles, issuing discounts worth a total of $5,417,300.

In a news release, the state said the biggest surprise was how many residents redeemed their discounts. Based on similar local programs, it forecast that only 65% of recipients would actually use their rebates to purchase an e-bike. In the end, 87% cashed in their rebates, including 92% of the low-income recipients.

Rather than continuing to open new rounds of applications, the state now plans to pause the program to reassess its remaining funding. It’s also already selected 400 people from the most recent application pool to receive any money left in its coffers.

How much is available will depend on how many current recipients redeem their outstanding discounts. The state will open one final round of rebates next February. It plans to fund that set with $1.8 million reallocated from a grant program meant to encourage local governments to set up their own e-bike rebate programs.

While the state is wrapping up this rebate program, it’s just getting started with a long-term plan to subsidize e-bikes.

Starting in April, all Colorado residents will be able to receive a $450 state tax credit as a point-of-sale discount at authorized bike retailers. And that incentive is built to last – a law signed earlier this year authorizes the discounts through 2032.

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