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Setting the Stage for an EV Future in Washington State

Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.
By Kate Tudor, Simon Mui, and Noah Long 

Kate Tudor of White Tudor LLC is the primary author of this guest blog and represents NRDC in Washington state.

Washington State has passed two leading laws on electric vehicles! The signing of these bills by Governor Inslee in the coming days will ensure that people will be able to charge their EV as easily as buying gas (SB5192, Das) and will be able to charge their EVs at home, at work, and on the road as the state moves toward a new goal of all new passenger vehicles being zero-emitting by 2030 (HB 1287, Ramel).

Making EV Charging as Simple as Buying Gas

If you drive an EV, you know EV charging networks can still be a patchwork — different networks require different apps, fobs or cards with bar codes, or calls to 1-800 numbers. Some require a monthly pre-paid subscription, even if you only charge once.

SB 5192, sponsored by Senator Mona Das from Kent, will establish standards for the EV charging experience across Washington State. EV chargers will show how much each charging session will cost. Drivers will pay only for the electricity they use, using a credit card. These requirements take effect in January 2023.

Forecasting, Planning, and Building an EV Future

HB 1287, sponsored by Bellingham-based Representative Alex Ramel, includes sweeping policies to ensure Washington State has the EV infrastructure we need to keep our climate promises including:

EV Charging in the Building Code: Washington State already requires new buildings to wire 10% of parking for EV chargers, which was the strongest law in the country when adopted in 2019. But this won’t be nearly enough to serve all the EVs the state needs to meet its commitments to reduce carbon pollution. According to the Washington State Energy Strategy, an estimated one million vehicles in the state must be zero emission by 2030, and over 2 million by 2035, to meet the state’s deep decarbonization goals.

HB 1287 will update the state building code to require both residential and commercial buildings to build enough EV charging capacity as we need to serve a rapidly electrifying fleet.

Looking Into the EV Future: HB 1287 will create a “crystal ball” for Washington to see into the future of transportation. The new mapping and forecasting tool will allow planners to explore different scenarios, including emissions in overburdened communities, human health, transit capacity, passenger and commercial vehicle emissions, and more to plan investments in EV charging infrastructure. The model will help state and local governments, utilities and others figure out how many EVs will be on the road, what types of EVs they are, and where and when they will need to charge. With the promise of new federal funding for EV infrastructure, decisionmakers will need this crystal ball to make wise plans for EV charging investments.

Ensuring Grid Capacity for A Million EVs: Putting millions of EVs on the road means additional load on the electric grid. Utilities will need to power multiple city and county electrified fleets, private vehicles, transit buses and local goods delivery, which may put a strain on local distribution systems absent good planning and smart-charging programs. Utilities must also plan to power electrified freight vehicles, including trucks that travel from outside of their service territory.

Taking a Big Step to All EVs in 2030: HB 1287 has inspired many headlines by establishing a state goal for all passenger vehicles to be EVs in 2030. There is still work to be done, however, as Washington’s new 2030 goal will only take effect when the state has passed a new system for funding transportation with a road usage charge which applies to three quarters of passenger vehicles. Washington state does not have a road usage charge law yet — the state transportation commission is still studying how this funding system might work, and how it might impact low-income drivers, privacy, and the state’s commitment to address the global climate crisis.

The work to get to this ambitious goal will need to start right away. SB 5192 and HB 1287 take Washington State two large steps forward toward a bright, EV future.

Kate White in support of electrifying vehicles in Washington state

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