E-bike vouchers to reduce VMT


Denver residents are receiving instant rebates to buy e-bikes (battery powered bikes) following the city’s implementation of a new program to address unhealthy ozone levels. The city’s program aims to help reduce vehicle emissions associated with persistent non-attainment of ozone air quality standards in the Denver metropolitan area. The e-bike rebates are available to all Denver residents 16 years of age or older, with higher value rebates available to income-qualified residents.

In early 2019, Resilient Denver, a resident-led grassroots organization, successfully organized a petition drive to put an energy tax proposal on the 2019 ballot. The proposal was projected to raise $30-$40M annually, primarily from a proposed tax on natural gas and electricity use. Following the attempt by Resilient Denver and a second attempt by sympathetic council members to propose a ballot measure implementing an energy use tax, Mayor Michael Hancock initiated a deliberative process that resulted in the creation of a Climate Action Task Force and the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency.

The Climate Action Task Force explored several financial mechanisms to raise the funding needed to advance Denver’s climate action and sustainability goals. The final consensus concluded that a sales tax would be less regressive, and thereby more productive in the long term, than a tax on energy consumption. While food, water, fuel, medical supplies, and feminine hygiene products are exempt from sales taxes in the city of Denver, other taxable goods provide ample revenue to fund sustainable projects without undue burden on those least able to pay. Additionally, seventy percent of sales taxes are paid by non-Denver residents visiting from outside the city and even out of state, diverting part of the financial burden that would otherwise fall upon the city’s residents.

In August 2020, the City Council adopted Council Bill 20-0684, which placed the proposed sales tax increase before the voters as Ballot Measure 2A, a Sales Tax to Fund Environmental and Climate-Related Programs. In November of the same year, Denver residents voted to pass the ballot measure, allowing Denver to increase sales and use tax by .25%, creating the Climate Protection Fund to combat climate change and economic disparity in Denver. As a result, in 2022, the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency was able to offer e-bike rebate vouchers to Denver residents. The Climate Protection Fund receives about $40 million of funding annually to equitably address and ameliorate the root causes of climate change. According to Transportation Energy Lead Mike Salisbury of the Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency office, $30 million of the funding is intended for transportation and can be utilized at the office’s discretion.

When the program was first implemented in 2022, over 9,500 Denver residents applied for e-bike vouchers, and 4,734 Denver residents received them. “Income-qualified” residents each received a voucher worth $1,200, while others received vouchers worth up to $400 towards the purchase of an electric bike. Residents of Denver could also receive $500 if they purchased an e-cargo bike, which had a greater capacity for carrying goods like luggage and groceries. Among Denver residents who received these vouchers, approximately 71% of those surveyed reported that they were able to reduce use of gas-powered vehicles, using their e-bikes instead.

In its first year, the Denver e-bike program spent $4.7 million towards vouchers and was renewed in January of 2023, allowing 860 additional people to receive vouchers in January alone. Additional e-bike vouchers have continued to be released on select dates throughout the year.

After Denver’s notable success with its e-bike program, the state government of Colorado decided to start its own rebate program, making rebates available to low- and moderate-income households state-wide. The new program was first adopted in June of 2022 and is funded by the state’s legislative bill SB22-193, which is intended to improve the state’s air quality. The state program will be similar in value to Denver’s, with low-income residents eligible to receive an $1,100 rebate and moderate-income residents being able to receive a more modest rebate of $500.

Denver is unique because the geographic location of the city, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, often results in a localized temperature inversion. A temperature inversion traps pollutants near the ground, leading to poor air quality and the formation of ozone. Ozone is created when Nitrogen Dioxides react with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, and heat or sunlight. Primary contributors to ozone formation are vehicle exhaust, industrial site emissions, power plant emissions and assorted other fuel vapors. Ozone becomes a greater threat to environmental and human safety during the summer months due to seasonal higher temperatures, which are strongly associated with the temperature inversions that often occur in the Denver area.

Ozone is a potent pollutant that is also associated with numerous human health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. Exposure to ozone can also worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, reduce lung function, and inflame the lining of the lungs; repeated exposure may even permanently scar lung tissue. The precursors of ozone are also potent climate pollutants.

The e-bike programs adopted by Denver and the State of Colorado are intended to help reduce emission of climate pollutants from fossil-fuel powered vehicles and simultaneously reduce the creation of ozone, improving air quality and protecting the health of many Colorado residents.


  • Reduce use of fossil-fuel powered vehicles by incentivizing purchase and use of e-bikes
  • Reduce emission of ozone precursor pollutants


  • Number of e-bikes purchased and used in lieu of fossil-fuel powered vehicles
  • Number of days with ozone levels above EPA limits

Time to Implement: 

  • 3 years


Climate Protection Fund

Climate Protection Fund Five-Year Plan

E-Bike and E-Cargo Bike Instant Rebates

Additional Information:

How Denver Got Its Climate Sales Tax

Denver’s popular e-bike rebate program gears up for 2023 with multiple release dates

What Denver’s climate office learned from early e-bike rebate enthusiasm

Denver’s e-bike program produced more new riders, less car trips: report

Colorado SB 22-193 Air Quality Improvement Investments

The EPA moves to declare the Front Range a ‘severe’ air quality violator

History of Ozone in Colorado

Contact Info:

Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency
101 W Colfax Ave, Suite 800
Denver, CO 80202
Media Inquiries – 720-308-6055

Mike Salisbury
Transportation Energy Lead
Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency
101 W Colfax Ave, Suite 800
Denver, CO 80202

Sectors(s) Equity, Transportation & Land Use
Date First Adopted November 3, 2020
Last Updated July 26, 2023
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