Washington adopts zero-emission standards for car sales by 2035

All new cars sold in the state of Washington must be mostly emission-free by 2035.

On Monday, the Washington State Department of Ecology updated its Clean Vehicles Program to require all new cars sold in the state by 2035 to be electric, hydrogen-fueled or hybrid with at least 50 miles of electric-only range.

Washington lawmakers set the stage in 2020 when they passed the Motor Vehicles Emissions Law, directing the Ecology Department to adopt California’s emissions standards as they rolled out. This summer, the California Air Resources Board voted to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Gov. Jay Inslee then promised to follow California’s lead.

“The EV revolution has begun, and momentum will only continue to build over the coming years,” Inslee said in a statement Monday.

The standards start with model year 2026, according to Ecology, and automakers will be required to sell 6 percent to 9 percent more zero-emission vehicles each year until they make up 100 percent of new sales by model year 2035.

The standards will not bar the use or sale of used gas-powered vehicles.

Automakers are already leading their own carbon-free transition, with General Motors, Volvo, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota and others committing to going carbon neutral or eliminating combustion engines by at least 2040.

“These new standards will accelerate a market transition that is already happening,” Laura Watson, director of Ecology, said in a statement. “They’re designed to incentivize manufacturers to produce more affordable, clean vehicles in a wider array of models to suit everyone’s needs. And by targeting transportation — the state’s largest source of harmful greenhouse gas emissions — these standards will make a significant contribution on our path to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Electric, hydrogen or plug-in hybrid vehicles currently make up about 13 percent of new vehicle sales in Washington, according to Ecology. And nationwide, electric vehicle registrations were up 60 percent in the first three months of 2022, even as the overall market was down 18 percent.

The state currently ranks fourth in the nation for the greatest number of registered electric vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Per capita, the state ranks No. 2.

Cars are the largest source of air pollution in Washington, according to Ecology. Transportation contributes about 22 percent of total air pollution and 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington.

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