Climate protection: Electric vehicles on the rise locally

Nick Maxwell

Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Edmonds and are getting serious about electric vehicles.

In the third quarter of 2023 (July-September) 25% of purchases of new cars and trucks registered in Mountlake Terrace were purchases of electric vehicles. In Lynnwood, the electric vehicle purchase rate was 20%, up 201% over third quarter 2022. Edmonds’ new vehicle purchases were 16% electric.

Electric vehicles are an important part of local efforts to live up to the United States’ 2015 promise to stop all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Some progress towards zero emissions in 2050 will come from people driving less. The rest will come from electric vehicles for public transportation and for families’ cars and trucks.

Washington State has required that 100% of new car sales be electric by 2035. If Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace continue their current trends, they will have no trouble getting to 100% electric by 2035. Edmonds’s 11% growth will not get Edmonds to 100% by 2035. Perhaps Edmonds will speed up.

One way to get to 100% electric vehicles by 2050 is to stop buying gas-powered vehicles now. If your next car is electric, you will be all set by 2050. Even if you bought a gas-powered car yesterday, it will wear out before 2050, and Washington State has committed to get all fossil fuels out of electricity generation by 2045. That means that your electric vehicle will run on electricity that was generated without burning coal or gas, and without releasing carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the primary air pollutant behind global overheating.

Buying only electric isn’t easy if there are few electric options. For cars, that is an issue in the used market. The used cars you can find come from all of the last 20 model years. Electric vehicles did not take off until recently, so electric vehicles are a smaller part of what is available in used cars. In the used market, electric vehicles are 1-2% of sales.

Most of the cars and trucks you see on the roads are not new. They are mostly the kinds of vehicles people bought five or 10 years ago. That was before electric vehicles were as common as they are now. Registered cars and trucks include fewer electric vehicles than new car sales.

In September, 2.8% of Edmonds’s registered vehicles were electric, up 25% since last September. Mountlake Terrace registrations were 1.9% electric vehicles, up 56% over last year. Lynnwood had the largest growth in electric-vehicle registrations: up 85% from 2022 to 2023.

Gasoline-powered cars

The most important aspect of car ownership for stopping global overheating is how many gas cars there are. It is not essential that people buy electric vehicles. What is important is that they stop burning gasoline. For that, it would work just as well or better to get rid of your gas car and walk, bike and telecommute.

In all three cities, people owned fewer gasoline cars and trucks in 2023 than they did in 2022. In Lynnwood, the number of registered gasoline vehicles increased by 11 cars from September 2022 to September 2023. This tiny increase in spite of Lynnwood’s population growth. The Federal Census Bureau estimates that Lynnwood population has been growing about 6% each year.

The Census Bureau estimates that Mountlake Terrace has been growing by 0.6% each year. In Mountlake Terrace, the number of gasoline cars dropped 0.9% from September 2022 to September 2023.

Edmonds had the largest drop in gasoline cars and trucks: 2.0% from 2022 to 2023. This drop in gasoline-burning vehicles is partly due to Edmonds’s reduction in the number of people. The Census Bureau estimates that Edmonds has been shrinking by 0.3% each year.

Natural gas

Most of the greenhouse gases that are released by residents in Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and Edmonds are from burning gasoline in vehicles and from burning natural gas in homes.

I can report on how natural gas is progressing in Edmonds. Data on Edmonds natural gas burning is available online. So far, I have not found natural gas burning data for Mountlake Terrace or Lynnwood.

There is some promising improvement in natural gas burning in Edmonds. In September 2021 through August 2022, Edmonds burned 1.03 billion cubic feet of natural gas. In the following 12 months – September 2022 through August 2023 – Edmonds residents and businesses burned 5% less: 0.98 billion cubic feet.

This 5% improvement is promising. And at the same time, it is not yet progress over recent natural gas burning. From 2017 through 2021, Edmonds burned between 0.95 and 0.98 billion cubic feet of natural gas every 12 months.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Before accounting for the greenhouse gas emissions of the equipment used to extract and deliver the natural gas, last year’s Edmonds natural gas burning added the equivalent of about 83,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

To learn more

For more about electric vehicle adoption and details behind these figures, see reporting at Climate Protection Northwest. For explanation of the geographies reported on here, see the last report on the adoption of electric vehicles and natural gas usage.

— Nick Maxwell is a Climate Reality seminar leader in Edmonds, a Rewiring America local leader, and a climate protection educator at Climate Protection Northwest.

  1. Didn’t anyone tell electric car buyers that their new cars are carbon front loaded and that it takes years of use to break even? Oh by that time you will need a new battery and what is that cost both financially and from both the environment and greenhouse gas it takes to produce that battery.. kind of looks like a wash to me, I kinda think the best thing I can do is not buy anything new and keep the old one running.

    1. Keeping the old one running is worth considering.
      Different people have different ideas of when it is time to replace their old car. Generally, cars last about 20 years. A hobbyist can keep one running much longer, as you may have seen in the Edmonds Classic Car event. I’m not sure how much hobbyists will want to keep fully computerized cars going. Cars built before 2000 generally involve equipment that you can maintain in your garage if you’re handy. I hear that, for model years after 2000, maintenance outside of the dealership is very challenging, due to the computer interface for everything (door unlocking, window closing, acceleration, braking, you name it).
      When the time comes to replace your car, you might want to switch to no car at all, or buy electric!

      1. I love my Nissan Leaf and have had it for many years. When is the city going to take responsibility for installing EV charging stations that are readily accessible to everyone?

        1. Barb Keefe, That’s a really good question. Some thoughts: The City has put in some chargers that do not yet count as “readily accessible to everyone”. Residents and landlords could get 240V chargers installed in a few months. For the City, there is plenty of money for charging stations from the State and Federal governments. Getting that funding would start with City government figuring out where to add stations. One challenge is that unattended charging stations attract vandalism. Renton put a bunch into their transit station, only to have all their cables stolen. A consideration is that it may work best to have charging available where people park overnight: for most people that brings the charger back onto private property, and probably not a city project. A 240V charger can add about 180-240 miles each night. Many EV drivers could share a 240V overnight charger with about 5 other families. For the city, once locations are planned, a grant application would have to be submitted, reviewed, approved, and then the chargers installed. If all went really well, it might happen by 2026 if Edmonds applies in 2024. And the result would be additional city infrastructure that added city costs for maintenance.

    2. There is some data suggesting that the lifecycle of an EV produces less CO2 than a petroleum vehicle:

      There is overwhelming evidence that over the course of their driving lifetimes, BEVs create fewer carbon emissions than ICE cars and are therefore better for the environment.

      From Euro news.

      ICE engines are 3-20 % efficient (size); electric motors and ~90%.

  2. From a pure financial perspective it’s always more economical to buy a slightly used high quality vehicle ( like Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru some Fords, GM, and Chrysler – avoiding brands like Jaguar, VW, Audi, Volvo, BMW, anything British, etc. that are prone to expensive parts and service); do routine service like a religion; drive at or under the speed limit at all times; and always park as far as possible from other vehicles (avoiding door bangers). If you do those things you can drive just about any vehicle damn near forever, iand still have some resale value when the time comes. Rushing out and spending big bucks on an all electric vehicle right now is a fools game, I’m quite happy to let anyone else who wants to play, but count me out. Government and Climate Action Managers are not going to save mankind but using good science, simpler life styles, and some common sense will, which probably means we are doomed unless we change our ways sooner than later.

  3. Both of my diesel trucks are over 20 years old and should last the remaining 20 plus years I will be driving my gas heat and appliances are much cheaper than than electricity to use plus the cost to switch isn’t something I can afford and I won’t live long enough to see payback of the investment 30 years at $1,200 a year is only about half of the cost to go electric

    1. That’s a great idea. If Perrinville were a golf cart zone, the two women who were run over last weekend would not be in the hospital now.

      Before we get to a golf cart zone, I am hoping we can install great electric bus service from the ferry to the Mountlake Terrace Light Rail station when it opens. If the transition from ferry to light rail were good enough, I think we could get rid of half of the ferry traffic on rt 104. And if we had a good way for people to get around the peninsula, we could save hours every week for those people who wait to get on the ferry each weekend.

      A great bus service requires the kind of investment that Seattle just made in the South Lake Union Streetcar — like what Europeans invest in public transportation. Thanks to the Washington State Cap-and-Invest program, we might be able to do that.

      1. Nick we already have 2 routes that go from the ferry train area up to the Lynnwood light rail which will be open in about a year. Do we really need to add another? Maybe greater frequency but 2 connection routes already exist.

      2. There will also need to be a big increase in parking availability on the Kingston side, for this to work. I’ve house sat over there for friends in Hansville, and while there is parking on that side, it is limited and very full at commute times. The Kitsap population is also very distributed, so maybe the solution on that side is more satellite park and ride lots, with bus service to the ferries. I think this is very feasible, but the while commute has to fit together. By the time this is all done, maybe we’ll have two working ferries again.

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