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Washington sets ambitious goal: All new cars sold will be electric by 2030

A line of Teslas charge outside a dealership in Littleton, Colo., on Aug. 23, 2020.
David Zalubowski
The Associated Press file
A line of Teslas charge outside a dealership in Littleton, Colo., on Aug. 23, 2020.

In less than a decade, all cars and light-duty vehicles sold in Washington will be powered by electricity, not fossil fuels. That’s the goal set within legislation that has passed the state House and Senate. The 2030 timeline is now part of a bill that aims to prepare the state for a zero-emissions transportation future. It’s on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing.

The original Clean Cars 2030 bill would have mandated the goal. It is instead now a target. But Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), who was the prime sponsor of the original legislation, says it’s still the most ambitious legislation of its kind passed by any state in the nation. It’s five years ahead of California’s mandate of 2035.

“It does not mean that all cars are going to be electric in the next nine years. It means that as new cars are purchased and registered in Washington state, they will be electric, which sets our timeframe for a transition over several years to 100 percent of zero-emission vehicles in our state,” Macri said.  

She says bumping up the timeline by just five years will save the state an additional 65 million metric tons of carbon emissions. Transportation is Washington’s largest source of greenhouse gases.

That’s why Matthew Metz, executive director of the environmental nonprofit Coltura, says he will keep fighting for a mandate. But he’s excited to see Washington committing to this timeline.

“It's a really big step forward,” Metz said. “You know, the fact that the state is saying, 'Look, we don't want any more gas cars after 2030. We're basically done with the oil business. We're exiting this relationship that we've had for over 100 years.’ That's important. That's a big deal.”

He says the policy means all state agencies and local governments will work toward the 2030 goal. And it creates certainty for businesses.

“So, like, for example, a real estate developer thinking, ‘Am I going to build electric charging in my apartment building?' And saying, ‘I better, because, you know, this is the state's target to do this. And, people might not be able to park any cars in my apartment building if I don’t.’ So there's a lot of things like this, that this sets in motion,” Metz said.

And he says they all have support from the car industry, with many manufacturers offering more electric models, as well as the Biden administration, which is making electric cars and infrastructure more affordable.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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