Washington refines strategies to increase electric vehicle sales

    Susan Baird-Joshi, a data scientist and member of the Electric Vehicle Advisory Council in Washington, has emphasized the importance of funding every recommendation in the state’s plan to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Baird-Joshi believes that these recommendations, aimed at promoting the health, safety, and welfare of everyone in the state, should not be treated as optional measures. Leah Missik, a senior policy manager for Climate Solutions, also echoes this sentiment, stating that the recommendations are not simply “nice to have,” but rather “need to haves” in order to meet climate targets.

    While funding is a crucial concern, there are other controversial aspects of the plan. One such suggestion is allowing consumers to buy EVs directly from automakers, bypassing traditional dealerships. Currently, only Tesla is permitted to sell directly to customers in Washington. The report contends that allowing all automakers to adopt this practice would accelerate the sales of EVs, but car dealers strongly oppose the idea.

    The state’s electrification strategy aims to ensure accessibility and availability of EV incentives and charging infrastructure throughout Washington. The final version is being prepared by the Electric Vehicle Coordinating Council, which consists of representatives from various state entities. Public feedback on the proposals is welcome until October 30.

    The strategy document outlines actions that lawmakers should consider in the 2024 legislative session to achieve two important goals set by the state. The first goal is for all passenger cars and light-duty vehicles sold, purchased, or registered in Washington to be electric starting from the model year 2030, as outlined in the Move Ahead Washington transportation package. The second goal is to reduce the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 45% below 1990 levels by 2030. To achieve these targets, the report suggests increasing incentives for e-bikes, cars, and trucks, allocating additional funds for electrifying public buses, and implementing a “social leasing program” to make EVs more affordable for individuals below an income threshold.

    The strategy also proposes requirements for charging infrastructure, such as mandating charging outlets in new multi-family developments, installing them in public light poles, and providing hook-ups for electric big rigs at ports and other industrial areas.

    One contentious issue revolves around the recommendation to allow automakers to sell vehicles directly to consumers. Dealership owners and representatives argue against this, citing potential negative impacts on locally owned businesses and their connections with communities. However, advocates for direct sales argue that it promotes equity and accessibility, particularly for marginalized communities who may face barriers to financing and purchasing vehicles through traditional dealerships.

    The proposed change to vehicle sales would require legislative action, but a previous bill supporting direct sales by automakers did not pass in 2021.

    In conclusion, Washington’s ambitious plan to electrify cars and trucks in the state faces challenges, not only in terms of funding but also in finding consensus on contentious issues such as direct vehicle sales. However, advocates emphasize the importance of fully funding the recommendations and consider them essential to meeting climate targets and promoting equity in EV adoption.

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