Washington passes bill to ban gas car sales by 2030 – for real this time?

Washington state has passed a bill that would ban the sale, purchase, and registration of new gas-powered vehicles of the model year 2030 or later. The bill passed yesterday and will now be delivered to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature.

If signed, this will become the earliest gas car ban in the US, five years earlier than the gas car bans adopted by California, Massachusetts, and New York.

The reason we have to specify “if signed” is because this happened once before, but then Governor Inslee vetoed it due to concerns with the road usage charge included in the language of the bill. Road usage charges would be a more intelligent way to fund roads than current methods (which generally involve some combination of gas taxes, registration fees, road tolls, and general funds, depending on the state), but Inslee claimed that he didn’t want to tie the two ideas together, since a failure to adopt a road usage charge would mean scrapping the 2030 all-EV requirement.

Washington has relatively clean and cheap electricity as compared to almost every state, given the state’s high hydropower mix. It also has relatively high gas prices and more public chargers than most states, making the state an ideal place to own an electric car. The main downside is their dumb EV fee – which the last bill’s road usage charge might have helped avoid.

The current effort is part of a $16.9 billion transportation package called “Move Ahead Washington.” The bill includes a section which reads thusly:

Sec. 415. (1) A target is established for the state that all publicly owned and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later that are sold, purchased, or registered in Washington state be electric vehicles.

(2) On or before December 31, 2023, the interagency electric vehicle coordinating council created in section 428 of this act shall complete a scoping plan for achieving the 2030 target.

Notably, this looks like it would apply to any vehicle registered in Washington, not just sold and purchased. This suggests that gas cars of the model year 2030 bought outside of Washington could not be registered inside the state of Washington, which would eliminate one of the possible workarounds to this ban.

But more specifics will be worked out later, and guidance will be provided for all levels of Washington government and industry by an interagency electric vehicle planning council which will work out the infrastructure needed to prepare for an all-electric vehicle fleet.

Since this effort is part of a bigger bill and does not include the same road usage charge requirement, it seems unlikely that Inslee would veto the entire effort, so this time it’s likely to become law.

This would catapult Washington into the lead nationwide at ending gas vehicle sales, on a much more reasonable timeline than the 2035 laggards in California, Massachusetts, and New York (and…. every other state which has not set a target).

As we’ve shown before, 2035 is not ambitious at all, because that date could be achieved by simply continuing the status quo with every automotive industry effort and simply not starting new development on gasoline vehicle models from here on out – which is something any carmaker ought to be doing at this point anyway.

There have been a few other 2030 efforts in the US, though Washington’s is the first to be adopted at the state level. The California Democratic Party and several California cities have endorsed moving the state’s timeline to 2030, Hawaii and Rhode Island have introduced bills targeting a 2030 ban, but otherwise, most states have either made no effort or have stuck with the unambitious 2035 timeline. The earliest worldwide target is in Norway, which wants to hit zero gas car sales by 2025, but might achieve that three years sooner.

Nationwide, US voters widely support all-EV sales by 2030, but states and our national government have as yet refused to adopt this desired timeline – which is also a necessary one if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. President Biden wants to make the entire US federal vehicle fleet electric, a plan that is compromised by corrupt US Postal Service leadership planning to spend billions on gas guzzlers. And 12 governors asked for a 2045 timeline last year, which is, again, an extremely weak commitment given the state of the climate and momentum in the automotive industry. Even the US Army recognizes the necessity of converting to electric, wanting to electrify all non-tactical vehicles by 2035 (and light-duty ones by 2027).

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