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Washington State Plans to Ban Sales of Gasoline Cars after 2030

Sebastian Blanco
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan - Getty Images
  • The state of Washington passed "Clean Cars 2030" through the legislature this week, and if the governor signs it, the bill would give automakers the earliest deadline in the country for ending sales of gasoline-powered cars.

  • That deadline could come in 2030, but the actual date will be set by the percentage of vehicles in the state that pay for road use through vehicle miles traveled instead of by taxes on gasoline.

  • Last year, Washington became the 12th state to adopt a zero-emission vehicle program and incentives to make the switch to an EV already exist at the state level, for new and used models.

Clean Cars 2030 is the short, simple name for a new piece of legislation that has passed the Washington State legislature this week and could set up a complicated, first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of gasoline vehicles. As the Seattle Times put it: "It's a 'fringe, crazy' bill no longer."

While other states—California, Massachusetts—have also set up such targets, none would kick in as soon as this new one in the Evergreen State. As with so many of these kinds of upcoming bans, the details remain a bit fluid a decade or so before they’re supposed to go into effect.

Despite the straightforward name, the 2030 date is not a specific mandate in the law. Instead, Clean Cars 2030, an amendment to E2SHB 1287, a state bill that would require local electric utilities to get ready for more electric vehicles, looks for a time when at least 75 percent of the vehicles registered in Washington pay to use the roads through a vehicle miles-traveled tax. A VMT can be used by governments to collect money to pay for roads as an alternative to a gas tax, which EV drivers obviously don’t pay.

One key detail is that the Clean Cars 2030 amendment doesn’t provide for a way to start collecting a VMT in Washington, but there are separate efforts being made to start one in the state. The sales ban would apply to model year 2030 or later passenger and light-duty vehicles.

"Passage of this legislation takes the guesswork and uncertainty out of the electric-vehicle transition by creating a clear timeline with the data, tools, and guidelines we need to help businesses, developers, governments, and consumers plan with confidence," said State Sen. Marko Liias, who pushed for the bill, in a statement. "Clean Cars 2030 is a critical step to meet urgent carbon reduction goals here in Washington and can serve as a model and impetus for other states to accelerate the switch to EVs."

It's not a complete surprise that Washington is at the forefront of the movement to legislatively push for a shift to EVs. In March 2020, the state became the 12th in the nation to adopt a zero-emission vehicle program, and the state offers a tax exemption on some of the purchase price of new plug-in vehicles valued up to $45,000 ($30,000 for used EVs).

The Washington bill has the support of groups such as Coltura, which works for a gasoline-free America. Coltura said this bill sets "the most aggressive state goal in the U.S. for moving to an all-electric future," in part because the potential deadline of 2030 is five years ahead of the target California has set, which is 2035.

Whenever it actually happens that you can't buy a gasoline-powered vehicle in Washington State, a number of automakers are looking at 2030 or 2035 as an important turning point for the vehicles they will sell. Aside from EV-only companies, notably Tesla and Rivian, General Motors has made the most dramatic announcement, saying it "aspires" to sell only zero-emission vehicle by 2035. Volvo plans to have 50 percent of its sales fully electric by 2025, and it will only sell EVs by 2030. And there are many, many more.

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