State working to set zero emission vehicle standards

A battery-electric car at a charging station. A new Washington law will require manufacturers to sell more zero-emission vehicles. (Photo courtesy Washington Department of Ecology)

Cars and trucks are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington. The Washington Department of Ecology is adopting new requirements that will soon take a bite out of that pollution by putting more zero-emission vehicles on the road.

The Zero Emission Vehicle Standard, which the state Legislature approved in 2020, will require that a percentage of the vehicles automakers sell in Washington state use battery electric or hydrogen fuel cells for power, meaning the vehicles will emit no greenhouse gases or other types of tailpipe pollution.

“Transportation is far and away the largest source of carbon pollution in Washington,” said Laura Watson, Ecology’s director. “Getting more zero-emission cars and trucks on our roads will mean cleaner, healthier air for everyone, and help our state meet its greenhouse gas emission limits.”

Under a 2020 law, Washington state is required to reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, 70% by 2040, and 95% by 2050. Since nearly 45% of our state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, cleaner cars and trucks are essential to meeting these limits. The Zero Emission Vehicle standard will reduce total greenhouse gas emissions in Washington by the equivalent of 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Manufacturers that don’t offer or sell enough zero-emission vehicles to meet the standard can buy or trade for credits from another automaker. The standards apply only to manufacturers – people buying a car or truck can continue to purchase whatever type of vehicle they prefer.

Along with the zero-emission standards for passenger vehicles, Ecology will also adopt related standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles such as delivery vans, semi-trucks and similar vehicles. When the regulations are adopted, Washington will join 10 other states that have their own zero-emission standards. Another four states are also working to adopt the standards.

Ecology plans to complete the rulemaking by the end of 2021, but due to federal Clean Air Act requirements, the new standards would take effect beginning in 2024.

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  1. This is not a zero emission vehicle. This is fraud. The California Clean Air Board in a report to Nissan, comparing the Leaf and the Versa (gas powered), determine that each would need to be driven 140k miles to break even with CO2 emissions. Making an electric car emits a lot of CO2. Charging an electric car here in WA emits a lot of methane (worse than CO2).

  2. While I wouldn’t go so far as to label it as fraud, I think Matt makes great points re: our current love affair with all electric vehicles. There are many many issues with going to all EV’s that need to be considered.

    For example, EV’s make a lot more sense in an area like the Northwest because most of our electric power is produced by hydro power, rather than burning fossil fuels to make electricity. We also enjoy a relatively mild climate. That is not true in areas like the Midwest and the East. It is generally recognized in Scientific circles that the electric grids will be severely impacted by all EV and in many cases the fossil fuel burning will only be re-directed, not replaced as we are supposed to believe.

    Other areas of concern are the lack of truly efficient, non-polluting batteries and the necessary use of A/C and Heaters in these cars. Extreme weather conditions suck up the available range of EV’s, a fact totally ignored in the propaganda in favor of these type vehicles. A cautionary note, it was once predicted we would all be moving around in combo car/airplane vehicles by this time; and that never happened.

  3. People’s ability to overlook the environmental impact of their electronics (including electric cars and hybrids) is amazing. The heavy metals for the batteries are often strip-mined in Third World countries, and I’ve read studies and articles about child labor in South America being used (sorry, it was long ago, no links). Supposedly we need to keep a cell phone for 10 years before the CO2 from daily use exceeds the CO2 from manufacture. Electric vehicles just push the environmental damage to someone else’s country. It’s much like the way the food we get in stores is now so remote from the shopper, many people don’t even think about the fact they’re depending on people and large tracts of land for it.
    I’m also concerned about the fact that these cars are not cheap, and as they become more common, low-income individuals and families will become less able to afford personal transportation. We will have a state where the wealthy can afford to leave town for vacation or work, but the poor can never get out of the city because they only have public transportation. There is a serious reckoning coming somewhere down the line between environmental advocates and economic justice advocates.
    There’s my hot-Sunday commentary. Stay cool everyone.

    1. Brian, as I pointed out, hydroelectric has no relative greenhouse gas advantages. Methane is objectively bad to emit in surplus. Imagine building dams all over just so cars here are electric.

      This is the solution.
      1) The US needs to reduce heavy truck gross weights.
      2) Invest in heavy rail infrastructure.
      3) Rely on lorries for local deivery.
      4) slow down road construction in favor of heavy rail.
      T) …with all that, produce light weight petrol cars that all get 60+ mpg.

  4. Complex issues reduced to sound bites and feel good optics. Happens every time. Buy your Tesla with Bitcoin. Reap tax benefits for your solar panels. Fly to wherever while voicing concern about gas engine emissions. Tweet your opposition to 5G towers. Big trees good unless the City needs a few of them gone for a spray pad or to get more sun on their solar panels, then cut some of them down or remove branches. Upzone Edmonds good. Storm water runoff from impervious surfaces bad, so let’s add more of those. Give a handful of grocery works hazard pay, never mind that the cost comes out of everyone’s unequal filled wallets.
    Complex issues. Bungled every time. Feel good soundbytes? Cheap, easy and not at all useful. Social justice when it comes to environmental feel goods? You are thinking too hard!

  5. William, California (like Germany) is importing coal-burnt electricity. California is the largest importer in the country even. I read that the regenerative braking on the Nissan Leaf is about 10% efficient. – that’s 10% efficient if the electricity generated is used on the car that’s making it. The US power generation and distribution system is about 33% efficient. – that’s 33% efficient on electricity generated 100’s of miles away. What sort of assumptions are people making to believe 1) [to your point] that our existing grid can take on powering our transportation infrastructure, and 2) that this is all zero emission? Unicorn farts. This is a failure of public schools. We aren’t teaching people basic science.,the%20state%27s%20total%20electricity%20supply.

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