Washington’s plan to make electric vehicles affordable and reliable for all

The Transportation Electrification Strategy paves the way for less expensive driving, cleaner air, and clean energy jobs

This week, the Washington Interagency Electric Vehicle Coordinating Council — known as the EV Council — released a landmark report to help state policymakers and program managers lower electric vehicles (EV) costs, buildout a reliable charging network, provide residents with reliable information, address challenges, electrify buses and trucks, and prepare and employ workers in electrical, construction, engineering, and other EV-related fields.

Read the full report.

This isn’t a government report that will sit on a shelf. It’s a plan already on the move.

On Dec. 11, 2023, Gov. Jay Inslee and a crowd of climate allies gathered to preview the governor’s 2024 legislative agenda at the Miller Community Center in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

The state is putting the strategy into action before day one.

The strategy is published, and state leaders and agencies are moving it forward:

· Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed budget includes many strategy recommendations, such as more funding for highway fast charging, electric school buses, and investing in local, community-driven EV projects in areas overburdened by pollution.

· Legislators are considering bills that would push the strategy forward, from helping fire departments become more familiar with EV fire response methods to making tires more energy efficient for all vehicles. Sen. Marko Liias, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, introduced legislation (SB 6304) to implement a suite of strategy recommendations.

· State agencies are implementing funding programs, including Commerce’s Washington EV Charging program, WSDOT’s ZEVIP program, Ecology’s Volkswagen Settlement and Electric School Bus programs, and the Department of Enterprise Service’s state fleet charging program. Agencies are collectively investing more than $150 million in EVs and charging stations across the state.

· The EV Council is considering the 2024 work plan during its Feb. 7 meeting, which would create new committees to develop policies, coordinate programs, and measure success.

Here’s what the Washington Transportation Electrification Strategy means for you:

Affordable EVs — with the fuel savings that come with them.

In January 2019, the average new electric vehicle cost $22,000 more than gasoline-powered cars. Today, the difference is down to $2,000. This change is driven by Washington’s participation in a network of 13 states working with automakers to sell more affordable electric vehicles year after year.

That’s not to mention that Washington EV drivers pay $0.98 per gallon equivalent compared to the average gasoline price of $3.92, saving nearly $3 per gallon of fuel.

And we know that most drivers don’t shop in the expensive new car market, so we need to accelerate the availability of used EVs on sales lots.

An EV driver uses the control panel to adjust settings.
An EV driver uses the control panel to adjust settings.

Recommendations:

· Create a first-in-the-nation low-cost EV lease program to drive monthly payments below $200 on a variety of models for drivers who otherwise can’t buy or lease in the new EV market.

· Work with dealers to move more used EVs for sale, increasing options and ramping down prices.

· Extend the current sales tax exemption for another two years, and expand the sales tax exemption to increase the roughly $1,000 incentive to $2,000 or more.

With these incentives and partnerships, the EV Council projects costs for EVs will fall well below gasoline alternatives.

A reliable and convenient charging network, starting at home.

EV Council agencies heard it over and over again: Driving an EV is fun — the acceleration, the cutting edge technology, the quiet drive — but people are concerned about charging.

TES Figure 23 estimates the number of L2 charging ports that will be required at single-family and multifamily homes by 2035. Residential L2 chargers are assumed to have a capacity of 7.2 kW.

Recommendations:

· Prioritize universal home charging to reduce costs for consumers and projects.

· Continue funding WSDOT’s highway fast charging program and Commerce’s community charging programs.

· Accelerate project timelines by streamlining permitting and interconnection, facilitate data sharing between project leads and utilities, and funding “make-ready” electrical upgrades before planned installations.

· Implement consumer protections to ensure public charging is easy to find and use, and stays more affordable than gasoline.

Charging can be faster and more convenient than filling up a tank of gas with these recommendations.

Easy-to-find information on EVs.

Financial incentives and charging stations are only useful to consumers who know they exist, and not everyone has access to the same accurate information about EVs.

Plus, there’s evidence that attitudes about EVs change dramatically when people experience them firsthand. For example, the Smart Columbus Ride and Drive Roadshow showed a 46% increase in the number of people who said “an EV is for me” from after ride-and-drive events.

Recommendations:

· Create a one-stop EV info website with information and feedback from experts and community leaders across the state.

· Launch a public information campaign aimed at people in the market for a passenger vehicle.

· Plan ride-and-drive events, especially for communities that have fewer opportunities to experience EVs firsthand.

The state is working to solve challenges.

While some perceptions about EVs are caused by misinformation (yes, EVs are still much cleaner than gas vehicles when factoring in battery manufacturing!), EV Council agencies listened carefully to concerns.

Recommendations:

· Require EV charging reliability standards and ensure rapid maintenance when broken stations are reported.

· Provide guidance and training on EV battery safety and fire risk mitigation for emergency responders and tow truck operators.

· Create an EV battery reuse and recycling program.

· Develop an EV emergency management plan to ensure essential services can still charge vehicles during power outages and evacuation routes have fast charging lifelines.

Electric trucks and buses will make our air cleaner.

Many people rely on public transportation and many kids go to school on buses. Our economy relies on port drayage trucks, delivery vans and tractor trailers. Essential public services, like waste management and highway maintenance, only happen with specialized commercial trucks.

These vehicles are essential, but they’re also significant polluters. Fortunately, they are the most cost-effective to electrify. This is especially important in communities that face the worst pollution-related health effects, including neighborhoods near ports and highways.

A worker digs a trench for EV charging infrastructure at a Jefferson Transit Authority station in Jefferson County.
A worker digs a trench for EV charging infrastructure at a Jefferson Transit Authority station in Jefferson County.

The EV Council recommends a mix of policy and funding strategies to spark Washington’s electric truck and bus market:

· Launch a state-level incentive program for fleets and owner-operators who switch to electric trucks, especially for small businesses and drivers.

· Continue to fund electric transit and school buses, and work with school districts to identify timelines for phasing out diesel buses.

· Work with community leaders to Increase air quality monitoring near ports and highways.

Create good-paying jobs to make the EV transition possible.

The Transportation Electrification Strategy is a collection of ideas that can only become real when people have access to training and good-paying jobs.

The EV Council worked with unions, contractors and apprenticeship training directors to better understand the workforce needs associated with EVs. The Council recommends strategies to make sure people with a variety of skillsets are ready and fairly compensated:

· Fund workforce training pathways and certifications, with prioritized access for current gas- and diesel vehicle technicians and related workers to avoid displacement during the EV transition.

· Establish clear goals for increasing racial and gender diversity in electrical, construction, technician engineering, and other EV-related fields.

· Increase local job opportunities and support EV battery manufacturing.

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Washington State Department of Commerce

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