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Drivers, carmakers, and states are leaving fossil fuels in the rearview mirror. Is Washington ready

The future of car travel in Washington state will be electric. Washington will join California in requiring auto companies to require that new cars sold have zero tailpipe emissions starting with 2035 models. Many governments are adopting similar measures — it’s a matter of planetary necessity to reduce carbon emissions.

In 2020, the state legislature adopted a law directing the state Department of Ecology to adopt California vehicle emissions standards. This summer, California announced that cars with model years of 2035 or later must have zero tailpipe emissions to be sold within the state. Washington state will adopt matching regulations, but the state legislature had already set a goal of its own. The transportation plan approved by the legislature this spring set a goal five years more aggressive: cars and light-duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later must be electric.

The 2030 target is not a mandate but a goal, one that the state is developing a strategy to achieve. The 2035 measure would be a law and a requirement once enacted. The Washington State Department of Ecology is now accepting public comment on the proposal.

“We think of the California regulation as the floor and we’ve set a new ceiling of trying to get that done by 2030,” said Anna Lising, senior climate advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Electric transportation has been an ongoing priority for Inslee, including cars, buses, ferries, and even rail. Lising has been instrumental in helping the governor craft those policies. She has answers to common questions about EVs.

Washington and California have just committed to electrify personal vehicles. Why now?

This goal wasn’t set overnight — it’s been years in the making.

There’s a sense of urgency. Transportation is the number-one contributor of carbon emissions in Washington state and our biggest opportunity to make a difference.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have entered mass-market production and they are increasingly affordable.

We’re at a tipping point. The threat of climate change is clear. EVs have matured. The private sector is on board. Washington state’s leadership has helped the state, the nation, and the world get where we are now.

Electric cars may be zero-emissions, but not zero-footprint. Are they definitively better for the environment?


EVs leave a much smaller carbon footprint than vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs). Once built, they don’t keep consuming nonrenewable resources and belching carbon emissions. In a state like Washington with such clean electricity, EVs are even better. That said, there’s more work to be done to ensure batteries can be reused and recycled.

Reduced emissions will also improve air quality near roadways. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately located in polluted areas, diminishing life expectancy. EVs are better for the environment, and our communities and people.


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