Gas-Guzzling Cities, State Blow Past Deadline For Electric Vehicles In Washington

A parking spot is designated for electric vehicles at the charging station outside of the Ballard Market on Monday, December 11, 2017, in Seattle. CREDIT MEGAN FARMER - KUOW
A parking spot is designated for electric vehicles at the charging station outside of the Ballard Market on Monday, December 11, 2017, in Seattle. CREDIT MEGAN FARMER - KUOW

Listen

Washington state’s electric vehicle law is being widely ignored, according to a new report.

June 1 was the deadline set by a decade-old law that requires vehicles in government fleets to run on electricity or biofuel. But just two percent of the state’s motor pool is electric now, and many cities and counties have no electric vehicles at all.

It’s all because of one big catch in the law.

“All cars and trucks driven by public entities are supposed to be 100-percent powered by electricity or biofuels, to the extent practicable,” explained Matthew Metz. He’s an anti-gasoline activist with the group Coltura, which authored the new report.

That last part of what Metz said is key. The law states that the change to electric can be “to the extent [determined] practicable.” And that leaves a whole lot of wiggle room for local governments and agencies.

It seems most have determined making the switch isn’t practical at all. The city of Seattle finds it practical to have a 5-percent-electric fleet, but no other government has even matched that percentage.

“A lot of them hide behind the idea that it’s not practical yet,” Metz said. “They say, ‘We don’t have to because it’s not practical.’ That’s basically where their analysis stops.”

County governments, including Snohomish, Spokane and Whatcom, have no electric vehicles, according to the Coltura report. That’s also true for some state schools otherwise known for their environmental programs, like Western Washington University and Evergreen State College.

The report states that the University of Washington, with which KUOW is affiliated, has 20 electric vehicles out of a fleet of 690.

Peter Moulton with the Washington State Energy Office said the law isn’t effective for a couple reasons.

“The available vehicles have only been in the marketplace for the last couple of years,” Moulton said.

He added that the state lacks the ability to enforce the law — or to help local governments kick their gasoline and carbon emission habits.

“You really want us to do this, then you’ve got to give us some money,” Moulton said. “You’ve got to have bodies. [It] can’t just be a piece of paper.”

Moulton said that since last year, one out of five new vehicles purchased by state government have been electric.

Copyright 2018 KUOW

Related Stories:

Plug-in cars charge up at the Washington State Capitol Campus. A disproportionately high number of the state's legislators drive electric vehicles compared to the general population. CREDIT: TOM BANSE

Pay-Per-Mile Tax Gets A Test Drive In Washington Legislature To Augment Gas Tax

Washington state senators have teed up a mileage-based tax for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as the first step toward changing how the state pays for road maintenance and other transportation needs. Policymakers expect gas tax revenue to decline long term. Oregon has been experimenting with a per-mile charge for years. Continue Reading Pay-Per-Mile Tax Gets A Test Drive In Washington Legislature To Augment Gas Tax

Read More »
Snow covers the ground in Waco, Texas, on Feb. 17. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has blamed renewable energy sources for the blackouts that have hit the state. In fact, they were caused by a systemwide failure across all energy sources. Matthew Busch/AFP via Getty Images

No, Texas Blackouts Weren’t Caused By Wind And Solar Energy Failure. Here’s What Really Happened

The focus on windmills ignores the evident fact that — as Abbott acknowledged on local TV — every kind of power generation fell short in this storm. In fact, significantly more natural gas and coal went offline than renewables. But that doesn’t suggest fossil fuels were uniquely to blame either — they were responsible for more production, so it’s no surprise they were the source of more failures. Continue Reading No, Texas Blackouts Weren’t Caused By Wind And Solar Energy Failure. Here’s What Really Happened

Read More »
All new cars sold in Washington state would need to be electric by 2030 if the legislature approves a pending bill. CREDIT: Tom Banse/N3

Washington Lawmakers Consider Shifting All New Car Sales To Electric Only By 2030

You may be used to hearing a pushy car salesperson ask the timeless question, “What can I do to get you in this car?” But one big thing could be different in Washington state a decade from now. Proposals introduced this winter in the Washington Legislature would end sales of new gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2030. Continue Reading Washington Lawmakers Consider Shifting All New Car Sales To Electric Only By 2030

Read More »