Clean Cars 2030


Switching to electric vehicles is key to reduce GHG emissions from transportation, especially for Washington where in many places there are not good alternatives to personal vehicles for mobility. Electric cars are getting steadily cheaper relative to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Cost of ownership of the vehicle is now arguably less than that of a gas vehicle, because although the upfront cost of the vehicle is greater, the cost of electricity is much less than gas or diesel, and electric engines require far less maintenance. As a share of the total market, sales of electric vehicles are growing relative to ICE, but are still very low. Although many experts project that by 2025 electric cars may be more popular than ICE cars, adoption so far has been less than anticipated - in 2019, electric cars were just 2% of the total sales. The average lifetime of a car is about 12 years, so if we banned sales of new gas-fueled cars in 2021, it would be not until 2033 that most cars on the road are electric, and 20 to 25 years before they all are. Setting a date by when sales of new ICE vehicles will end accelerates the conversion, and also makes it easier for people and organizations to plan the conversion.

Photo credit: Robin Briggs

At the federal level, laws around conversion have now become mainstream policy; Kamala Harris wants all new cars to be electric by 2035, and Joe Biden has promised "rigorous new fuel economy standards aimed at ensuring 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified". Governor Newsom in California has issued an executive order directing the California Clean Air Resources Board to establish that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California in 2035 be zero-emission vehicles. Although Washington law conforms to California on matters of gasoline composition and this California requirement is being proposed as part of that California provision, the Washington law proposal has many advantages over just letting California force action in Washington. First, the California path will require a Federal waiver. And, as a regulation, it has much less certainty than legislation. A Washington law would send a stronger signal to auto makers and the public.

A number of other countries have enacted rules to phase out new gas vehicles:

  • British Columbia passed the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act to phase in clean cars: 10% of new cars by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040.

  • UK bans sales of most gas powered vehicles by 2030, bans sales of hybrid ICE by 2035

  • France by 2040

  • Netherlands requires emission free by 2030

  • Germany bans vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2030

  • Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City will remove diesel cars and vans by 2025

For a more complete list, see World Gasoline Phaseouts.

Policy in Washington State

In 2020, Nicole Macri introduced Clean Cars 2030, a bill that would require all new passenger and light-duty cars sold in the state to run on electricity or hydrogen, beginning with the 2030 model year. It is backed by Coltura, and gained the support of eight committee chairs in its first year. It was reintroduced in 2021, passed the House Transportation Committee, with an amendment that made it a goal and not a mandate. The reason that the bill was converted from a mandate to a goal was to allay concerns brought by NRDC and the Attorney General that there would be a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Washington 2030 legislation is preempted by the federal Environmental Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), which would in turn negatively impact litigation challenging California’s waiver authority under the Clean Air Act. The bill was not passed by the House floor in time for the cutoff, but there is a chance that it will be attached to another bill currently moving through the Senate.

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