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Washington State bans gas cars by 2030 – the earliest in the US

Washington State legislature has passed “Clean Cars 2030,” a bill setting a goal to require all light-duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later to be electric. The bill passed as part of a larger package directing utilities to prepare the state for all-electric transportation.

With this bill, Washington State becomes the first US state to pass a gas car ban legislatively (as opposed to by executive order), and now has the earliest gas car ban in the US. California and Massachusetts also plan gas car bans by 2035.

The bill, which we previously reported on when it moved out of committee, has now passed both houses of the state legislature and goes to Governor Jay Inslee’s (pictured) desk to be signed into law. It passed with a vote of 25-23 in the Senate and 54-43 in the House

Washington’s bill specifically seeks to ban the sale, purchase, or registration of any non-electric vehicle of model year 2030 or later. Thus, it would even apply to cars purchased out of state and imported into Washington.

These would not need to be battery electric vehicles, they can be any electrically powered vehicle. Thus, fuel cell vehicles, which are powered by an electric motor connected to a fuel cell rather than a battery, would qualify as well.

However, the bill is written more as a set of goals than strict regulation. So we are sure that we will see more developments as Washington State tweaks its implementation.

Road usage/VMT fees – better than EV fees

It also includes a clause that won’t go into effect until 75% of vehicles in the state are covered by a road usage/vehicle miles traveled charge, where taxes are assessed based on how many miles a vehicle is driven (possibly also with a multiplier for larger vehicles). The bill itself does not provide for this, though there are separate efforts in Washington State to implement a road usage fee.

Road usage fees would replace or supplement a gas tax to raise revenue to pay for roads. The idea is that road usage fees are a more equitable way to raise funds for transport projects than a gas tax.

Currently, many states are worrying about the future of gas tax revenue as more electric vehicles are adopted. Many states (including Washington) have also implemented punitive electric vehicle fees (backed by fossil industry propaganda) using this rationale, scapegoating electric vehicles for poor road status, rather than the fact that they haven’t raised the gas tax in decades.

Over-reliance on gas tax revenue for road funding is not an issue that currently needs addressing, but it is an issue that will need to be addressed in the future as we move to more electric vehicles. Many (including Electrek) have advocated for a move to a road usage/vehicle miles traveled tax with a weight multiplier as a better solution for road funding. This would also separate road usage from pollution – something that also needs to have a price associated with it.

Earlier than California

Again, as we did in our previous article, we must point out that Washington has leapfrogged California with this effort. While California has always been a leader on environmental regulations, Washington is now beating them by five whole years on electric vehicles.

California is in many ways the home of EVs in the US, with the state accounting for half of national EV sales and home to the largest EV company in the world, with many other automakers setting up technology offices in the San Francisco Bay Area to leverage California’s tech talent in building up their electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

California’s transportation regulations also lead the country, with many other states, including Washington, following California’s ZEV rules.

But Washington, a state that lags behind California in EV sales, still thinks it’s possible to end gas car sales five full years earlier than California. And why shouldn’t they? European governments are coalescing around the same date, automakers are planning to end gas car sales by around then, even the US government wants to be all-electric by then.

If anything, 2030 seems like a neutral target, not even all that ambitious. Who’s going to want to buy a new gas car by then anyway? If nothing else, they will depreciate rapidly as everyone moves away from driving on gas.

We’ll need to stay tuned for further developments on this front, including specifics on Washington’s road usage fees and how exactly this ban will be implemented. But it’s becoming more and more clear: Gas cars are not going to be relevant by the end of this decade. And entities (governments, automakers, consumers) that don’t recognize and work with that timeline are going to end up scrambling by the time the decade is out.

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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