Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. Jared Polis

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, left, and Gov. Jared Polis arrive at a press conference in an electric vehicle Thursday morning, Nov. 14, 2019, at the Colorado Capitol.

At the foot of the state Capitol steps, the ride-share company Lyft announced a historic investment in Colorado on Thursday: 200 electric vehicles that Lyft drivers will be able to lease from the company starting in December.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cal Lankton, Lyft's vice president of infrastructure operations, with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. Jared Polis standing nearby.

Lankton cited the public policies by the city and state to advance electric vehicles, including five bills signed by the governor this year.

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The first executive order signed by Polis after he took office in January was to expand the availability of the vehicles statewide.

Lyft officials on Thursday challenged other states to follow Colorado's lead to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and lower the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.

"It's a really exciting way to save money, to get where you're going in a quieter car and, of course, do your part to reduce pollution in our Denver metro area," Polis said.

He talked about his campaign promise to work toward the goal of moving Colorado's grid to 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Polis said his state budget has a goal of choosing electric vehicles for half the new purchases for the state fleet.

"We know we need to get creative, and we're excited to have a partner here in Lyft," the governor said. "Lyft has opened the door on chartered electric vehicles in their fleet."

He spoke of the ripple effect of people hailing rides in electric vehicles, then perhaps deciding to buy one for themselves. More sales will lead to lower prices and more charging stations, Polis predicted.

"This is what our renewable energy future looks like, getting creative, saving people money, providing more choices, creating jobs and staying focused on our goals of reducing emissions and improving air quality," he said.

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Polis said Denver's mayor has been a key ally and catalyst to push the state "toward more aggressive renewable energy goals."

Hancock said, "Thanks to Lyft, today Denver got cleaner and healthier."

He said the city government plans to add 200 electric vehicles to its fleet this year.

Denver also is deploying more charging stations, raising the number to more than 400, with $3 million in the new budget to further vehicle electrification efforts in the city.

"Getting more EVs on the road and building the infrastructure to complement it has been and is a goal of Denver not only for climate change but for all of us to be smarter, to be cleaner and to be healthier," Hancock said.

Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, said he's supportive of ideas to sell more vehicles.

But he was realistic about the challenges of electric vehicles. Conventional sports utility vehicles and light trucks remain, by far, the most popular vehicles in Colorado and nationally.

The median price for new gas-powered vehicles is about $36,000 compared to more than $55,000 for electric vehicles, before owners can recoup the cost in fuel savings. Audi's most recent e-vehicle lists for nearly $75,000.

He said the state had about 23,000 electric vehicles on the road at the end of 2018, with 40% between Boulder and Denver.

"There were nine whole counties in the state where nobody has bought their first electric vehicle yet," he said after Thursday morning's press conference. "In fact, 32 of the 64 (counties) have fewer than 10 electric vehicles on the road."

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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