Every one of us stood back mouth agape in awe of California’s Governor stepping up and committing to a statewide mandate for all new light vehicle sales to be electric by 2035. Fifteen years is not a very long time, and this seemed like an incredible power to wield from a gubernatorial executive order, especially because Newsom won’t be Governor in 2035 as his term limits will preclude him. Washington State’s House transportation committee just moved a bill one step closer to law, which if passed would make California’s EV mandate look like small potatoes.
Washington State House bill 1204, entitled Clean Cars 2030, aims to ban the sale and registration of gasoline and diesel-powered light-duty vehicles. Any new vehicle—barring the occasional emergency response vehicle—weighing under 10,000 pounds must be zero emissions (which pretty much limits new car sales to battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell) by 2030 to be legal in the state.
While California Governor Newsom’s mandate doesn’t really have teeth beyond his term, this legislative mandate from Washington State aims to change state law, which will be much harder to subvert than an executive order. It also draws up the timeline from Newsom’s utopian ideal by five years to 2030, just 9 years away! Actually, it calls for all 2030 model year cars to fall under this mandate, so most new cars sold in the state in 2029 will need to be zero emissions.
Since GM’s Super Bowl commitment to only selling EVs by 2035, many other automakers have come out in favor of an all-EV lineup, including Jaguar, Infiniti, Volvo, and others. Ford has committed to launching more EVs, but it’s all-EVs news cycle headline grab is limited only to the European continent. In any case, there should be plenty of EV choices on the market by 2030 for the citizens of Washington State to choose from.
Washington State already has among the highest EV adoption rate in the country, but electric vehicles are still a minority of new car sales. In 2020 only 4.8 percent of new cars sold statewide were battery electric. To reach this proposed 100 percent goal by 2030, the state will need to see annual growth of 40 percent, which is an ambitious growth rate by anyone’s measure. The Pacific Northwest state has a leg up on the nationwide number, which is was around 1.85 percent in 2020, though by some models that is expected to exceed 3 percent this year.
Obviously this bill will still need to pass the house general assembly vote, and then be passed on to the state senate, before being signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee. It’s fairly safe to assume that if this bill makes it to Inslee’s desk, it’ll be signed. The governor has been bullish on climate, and practically formed his entire personality around that issue.
For the record, I like this idea, and think that Washington is in a particularly unique position to make it happen within the next 9 years. It’ll require a lot of action on the part of the entire state government, including finding budget for massive infrastructure adoption. The homeownership rate in Washington State is over 62 percent, meaning a smaller than normal percentage of the state’s residents will need to charge their electric cars somewhere other than their homes. Washington already averages well above 2 cars per household, meaning many families will be able to adopt a current-spec EV while keeping their older gasoline, diesel, or hybrid-powered cars.
It won’t be without hurdles or struggles, but the bill does specifically call out a need to investigate impacts on the community of the state. A particular focus on “equity, especially including disadvantaged and low-income communities, communities of color, and rural communities, and strategies for maximizing equity in implementation of the 2030 requirement.” The bill also includes a study of job gains and losses which can be expected as a result of the 2022 to 2040 transition period. Thankfully, as opposed to the California mandate, this Washington bill includes a requirement for investing in “Charging infrastructure; software development; grid upgrade and management; battery, vehicle, and charging equipment manufacturing; education; training; and research and development.”
It doesn’t appear that this bill is short sighted or rushed for green points. If it does come to fruition, this will completely change the economy, environment, and lifestyle of Washingtonians. I don’t often root for bills to pass, but I hope this one does. It’ll be an interesting experiment, if nothing else, for the rest of the country to watch with great intent. Someone has to take that first step, and it may as well be Washington State. Whip those votes!