Climate protection: Electric vehicles growing 51% each year – natural gas down 10% last year

I got nice news from my son last week.  I was explaining that we’re headed towards electric cars and no more natural gas by about 2050.  He pointed out that the air in cities will be cleaner than it has ever been before. Ever.

There will be none of the fumes from cooking on natural gas.  I’ve seen folks say not to worry about the health damage of natural gas; just make sure you vent well when you’re cooking. 

That’s good advice, and when you vent, the fumes go outside so your neighbors can breathe them. It’s the same for the fumes from a gas furnace. Out they go. 

If you have a high-efficiency furnace, the fumes come out cool.  If you have a regular natural gas furnace, the fumes come out heated, because 20% of your natural gas heat is spent on heating the fumes coming out of your chimney. 

Heated fumes rise into the sky, so chances are you won’t induce an asthma attack with a low efficiency furnace. People cooking and heating with electricity don’t have even that low risk.

Fumes from gasoline cars and trucks will be gone too. Currently, folks take a health hit for living next to highways. That health hit will be reduced to just the particles that come off tires.

Before cars got popular around 1950, city air included coal smoke. Before coal heating took off in the 19th century, there was smoke from wood fireplaces. Ever since the very first cities appeared, winter in cities has been like campgrounds where every campsite has a fire going.

When all the cars and trucks are electric, there will be no gasoline pollution. When heat pumps heat all our homes and water, there will be no pollution from gas either. City air will be like countryside air.

Surveys have found that some young couples are holding off having kids or are planning to have no children because it seems unethical to bring new lives into our overheating world.

Some of my son’s friends talk that way. One couple explained they don’t believe things will get better because they don’t see people trying to make things better – especially their own parents.  My son is starting to realize that people are working on it and are making progress.

I was sharing our natural gas and gasoline progress with my son because every three months I report how things are going in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. Today’s column is my fourth quarterly report on our greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States and Washington state have both committed to nearly eliminating greenhouse gas pollution by 2050. For us on the Puget Sound, that includes stopping carbon dioxide emissions by stopping gasoline and natural gas.

The focus of my reports has been mostly on electric cars and trucks and how gasoline burning is going down. For Edmonds, I also report how much natural gas we burn. I haven’t seen data about natural gas in Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood.

The new cars and trucks people buy now will become the used market for the next 20 years. That’s why Washington state has committed to getting electric cars and trucks up to 100% of new vehicles by 2030, and hasn’t made any commitments about used cars.

The chart below shows what portion of new cars and trucks were electric in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. Four years ago, at the start of 2020, we were below 5%. We’re now up to 20%.

This data is from the Washington State Department of Licensing.  The blue line with dots shows the actual EV percents for new-car and new-truck purchases. The orange line shows the overall trend: 51% growth each year.

When electric vehicles get closer to 100%, the growth will probably slow down. The current trend is probably heading towards something like the orange line in the chart below.

This trend looks like new-vehicle purchases will get to about 90% by 2030, and 99% by 2035.

The chart above shows the actuals for new-vehicle purchases in dark blue on the lower left.

The green line shows the estimated percent of cars on the road that will be electric. Because the cars on the road are the cars that were purchased new over the last 20 years, the estimated EV percents are lower for cars on the road than for new cars and trucks.

The current trend is that half of the vehicles on the road will be electric by mid-2035, and 100% by the end of 2050. That is hitting our commitments.

The light blue dots show the actual EV percents of the cars and trucks on the road over the last three years.

The chart below shows the total cubic feet of natural gas burned in Edmonds each 12 months. On the far left, where the line is just under 1.2 over January 2015, that’s reporting that Edmonds burned almost 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas from February 2014 to January 2015.

The last point on the right shows that Edmonds homes burned 1.3 billion cubic feet from December 2022 to November 2023.  That’s from just the homes that burn natural gas. Many homes already do not burn natural gas.

In 2023, natural gas burning dropped 10% in Edmonds. If that 10% reduction continues until 2050, we will almost completely eliminate natural gas.

This natural gas drop is just one year so far. I can’t tell what will happen next. I’ll show you more about it in my next report, in May.

— By Nick Maxwell

Nick Maxwell is a certified climate action planner at Climate Protection NW; teaches about climate protection at the Creative Retirement Institute; and serves on the Edmonds Planning Board.

  1. WE need to be stewards of our environment, but this EV anti natural gas rhetoric is a fad like anything else and is being promoted by people who have significant investment in the alternatives to gas and oil. Just like the group that wants to get rid of all livestock and go to plant based foods only (Bill Gates). The earth has been around for billions of years and has gone through many cycles (research it). Going all electric has its own problems especially in states where you don’t have the luxury of Hydro Electric Power. Also in other areas of the country how are EV’s supposed to function when the temperatures get into the teens and near zero? The cost to the environment is higher with an EV than a clean diesel vehicle if you add in what it takes to make the battery (over 500,000 pounds of minerals extracted form the earth per battery and using gas powered equipment and slave labor). Additionally, EV cars are significantly heavier, so they throw off more tire debris into the environment (Oil) and cause our roads to deteriorate faster. If you want to drive an EV and get rid of natural gas in your own life, go for it but don’t force others to do the same based on bogus science.

    1. The 500,000 pounds of earth moved to make one EV battery From social media is disinformation. Please review the Poynyer Institute politifact statement from November 30, 2022 from politifact website.

    2. Rod Schick,
      Can you tell us more about what’s on your mind about what we need to do to be stewards of our environment?

      1. Not buying EV’s and getting rid of natural gas. Not by eliminating livestock and taxing farmers into oblivion based on some agenda forced upon us. I’m a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and want to protect what we have with common sense solutions based on real science. Not some made up agenda that controls people and forces them to do and think as they want us too. It’s happening in Europe and all over the world. Their views and ideas are extreme. There are things we can all do to protect what we have. Keeping our river, streams and body’s of water clean. Reducing pollution in a common sense way.

        1. taxing farmers into oblivion

          Except for mega-farms and conglomerates that get all kinds subsidies and tax breaks. I’d like to see the something done to resuscitate the small family farm or ranch, but they can’t compete with the corporate farms.

  2. So, where is all of the electricity going to come from ? Wind and solar are not the answer. Several thousand nuke plants might help, but then there is the question of the currently non existent infrastructure AKA grid? And thousands of times more quantity of rare earth minerals for batteries to be mined and processed for batteries. ICYMI: CO2 = Foundation of Life on Earth.

    1. I was struck by the comment that some young people don’t think things will get better because they don’t see people trying to make things better —-especially their parents. This pair of grandparents has one electric car, and a 15-year old car that will age out with them. Our lawnmower and yard tools are electric. We have solar panels and a heat pump, and our next project is to replace the gas cooktop with an induction stove. (There have been grants and programs to help make these changes.) We recycle with Ridwell and donate other items to local thrift shops. Our church is going to invest in solar panels. If you look around, many people are taking steps to improve the environment., one step and one decision at a time. We do this for our kids and grandkids —- no better inducement in the world!

    2. Frank Demme,
      Thank you for a really good question.
      First, as we add electric vehicles , we haven’t been increasing our electricity consumption. The reason is that we have been balancing those vehicles with increased efficiency:
      Second, we have to replace all our coal and natural gas power plants over the next 30 years. The reason is that they wear out. As we replace power plants, we will switch over to wind and solar. In the west, hydro will cover the electricity during nights without wind:

  3. Keep the reports coming Nick. I think you are being over optimistic with your projections, but I hope even if targets are missed we’ll be in much cleaner air in the future.

  4. We just had an eleven year old gas furnace go out and our choice was to replace it with a $6K gas unit or a $20K electric heat pump system. We are in our mid and late 70’s so we went with the gas unit, as when we are gone; our house will either get torn down and replaced with two to four housing units or remodeled with another story and a tiny home on the same lot; so new HVAC units will be installed then. The environmental police can come put us in the cuffs anytime they want to. We will go peacefully to Save the Planet prison.

    1. Clinton,

      How many bids did you get for the heat pump? I recently collected three bids for adding minisplits to two rooms that had not had heating before. The bids ranged from $10,000 to $25,000. For the same work.

      Did you consider electric resistance heating? For those rooms, we ended up using space heaters. Edmonds is warm compared to Montana, Minnesota, Maine. We don’t need as much heating as they do in those places. Maine is leading the country on heat pump adoption, and it makes more financial sense there, because they have a lot of heating to do every year. And the atmosphere doesn’t care how you get away from natural gas. Just do it.

      AND . . . will you comment later about your thoughts about how many children young people should be having? Your opinion on the matter is valid and worth reminding people of. (Even if it’s not where I go.)

      1. I just purchased a Pioneer 230v 18000 btu ductless unit from Home Depot online shipped to my driveway for $1200. It was replacing an older one so electrical & line set were present. After looking for bids on Yelp ( most contractors wont install products that they didn’t sell ) I found one that did for $ 600. Total install with warrantee: $1800.00. Think outside the box people…….

        1. If that’s working for you, that’s great. What is the square footage of your home? Multi-level? That unit wouldn’t be adequate enough for most homes as a primary heat source. One of the hidden costs in heating sources is that if they’re not adequate or are done on the cheap there is a substantial deduction of the value of the home for resale. Penny wise and dollar foolish.

      2. We had a similar problem with our heat/cool system and needed to replace it. Quotes for heat pump replacements ranged from $18K to $25K. So it’s going to be a challenge for many to switch from furnaces to heat pumps while the prices are up there.
        Nuclear would provide a good solid base layer of power, but studies repeatedly show that the cost per unit of power delivered to the customer is way higher than wind and solar. Perhaps more to the point is that we need to make changes now, and wind and solar can do that. Nuclear takes years and is almost always way over budget and years late. Just look at Hinkley point C in the UK. Now almost double the original estimated cost and it’s going to be 7 years late – and that’s being built for them by the French, who know something about building nuclear power stations. Small modular reactors would be a great solution, if only some company somewhere had actually shown they could build them economically. We’re left with wind, solar and batteries as the only viable approach if we’re to do something now.

    2. Nick, We got two bids for electric heat pump systems. The first came in at $26,000 and the second at $19,000. The second bid was from the company we had install the replacement gas furnace. You have to appreciate that it was quite cold outside at the time and we were heating with our really inefficient gas fireplace and three electric space heaters. A quick and no red tape solution was needed.

      Not sure I understand the point of your second question or where it’s coming from but here goes. I don’t see how I would have any reason or right to tell other people how many children they should have or not. My opinion is that our climate change issues are real and the real problem is that humans have over populated the earth with themselves and that is a much bigger factor to consider than what fossil fuels we are burning or not. I seriously doubt that all these high minded, and some even draconian, attempts to save and multiply our species by using clean electricity will work, and nature will adjust however it wants to. Our numbers will probably go down, and they probably should, is my take on it all. I know I will do my duty and die sooner than later.

      1. I’m sorry to be confusing, Clinton.
        I expect you to point to overpopulation in your comments here. “the real problem is that humans have over populated the earth.” Thank you for chiming in.
        Amazing population growth is real. Back in 1750, Earth had 2.2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide in the air. Since then, we have added 1.8 trillion tons: almost as much as was there before we started the coal, oil, and natural gas industries. Part of how we have managed to burn gas, coal, and natural gas and release so much carbon dioxide is that there are so many humans on the planet. There are about 126 billion acres on the surface of the earth. Back in 1750, there were about 800 million human beings. In 1750, there were about 160 acres with air over them (including oceans) per person. There are now 8 billion human beings. Enough people so that there are 16 acres per person, total.
        How long would it take someone to muck up their 16 acres of air? Well, 16 acres is less than half of the “back 40” on a typical farm, and we each have an entire lifetime to either muck it up or be stewards of the environment.

      2. Per Wikipedia:
        Long-term projections indicate that the growth rate of the human population of this planet will continue to slow and that before the end of the 21st century, it will reach zero. Examples of this emerging trend are Japan, whose population is currently (2022–2026) declining at the rate of 0.5% per year, and China, whose population has peaked and is currently (2022 – 2026) declining at the rate of about 0.04%. By 2050, Europe’s population is projected to be declining at the rate of 0.3% per year.

  5. Nick, Comment Please. I have 3 types of travel.
    1. Short distance, 10 mile RT. 2 passenger, biggest item beyond people, not larger than golf clubs or grocery bags.
    2. Middle distance 37 mile RT. maybe 3-4 people and space needed no more than the space for 4 golf bags.
    3. Greater than 2 above and up to 500-600 miles a day for multi days. Space needs: golf clubs, cooler and food box, and clothes.
    1 is about 90% of total use, 2 is about 9% of use and 3 is about 1% of use. Trying to accommodate all 3 into a single vehicle is both costly and not the best use of dollars and not the best for environment. 1 could be handled by a golf cart size weatherized for Edmonds. Could even be limited to 20 mph and get the job done an NEVER get a ticket in a school zone.
    2 can be done will with a plug-in hybrid, just in case we decide to go further then 37 miles and want to do it without plugging in enroute.
    3 can be done with a plug-in hybrid but is not as good for the environment.

    If we created a zone Downtown in which only the golf cart type were allowed, we could help with parking issues as well.

    1. What can I say?
      I bow before your wisdom, Darrol.
      And it’s not the first time.
      I’m very pleased you are on the blue ribbon panel.
      What you say here is very good thinking.

      On the other hand. I know some commenters don’t notice this in my columns, but I lean on the side of freedom. If most people tooling around downtown were driving golf carts or neighborhood electric vehicles, would it really matter much if a gasoline car joined in? Many gasoline cars would avoid the area, knowing that the maximum speeds would be between 10 and 20 MPH.
      I would prefer encouraging more freedom and allowing different kinds of vehicles on the street. I applaud the folks I see riding electric wheelchairs in the street. My mother-in-law drives an electric scooter — one of those 3-wheeled things that goes 5 MPH. With our sidewalk situation, she has to drive in the street. (Don’t get me started on our sidewalks.) I think that’s fine. I got her a flag to stick up six feet and flop around.

      RIght! Parking would be better and remember the two women hit up in Perrinville last year. It’s MUCH better to get hit by a car going 20 MPH than one going 35, and they are less likely to hit you.

  6. Nick, As a lifelong hunter and fisherman, IMHO, there is nothing “blighting” the natural environment more than forests of windmills and and hundreds of acres of solar panels ( neither windmill blades or solar panels are recyclable at this time ) . I realize city dwellers do not have to live around any of this ruination of the natural landscape, it is a desecration nonetheless . The only rational source of safe , reliable constant electrical generation for an “all electric” future is Nuclear power. My main issue with climate cultists is the staunch refusal to discuss Nuclear power in any debate.

    1. Frank, I’m fascinated by the difference between people who get to the countryside now and then and the farmers who actually work there. If you look down on America from an airplane, you see 100’s of miles of rectangular fields with crops. To a farmer, the countryside is a working resource. Yellowstone National Park is wilderness. The wheat fields of the Palouse are working land. There have been conflicts between farmers who need to add windmills to their fields, and non-farmers who put up legal battles to stop them from “corrupting the natural vistas.” The farmers are amazed: “Wait. That’s not a natural vista. I just plowed it.” Iowa and Texas are two of the states with the fastest adoption of windmills, because adding the revenues of electricity generation is now often the difference between making it and going under for family farms.
      America is a big place and needs a lot of electricity. Altogether, there are 2.4 billion acres in the U.S. Even if we used only 1% of that land for solar, that would be 24 million acres. We don’t need that much, but it’s reassuring that we have more than enough land. For more about that, see
      Things have changed. People now recycle solar panels:
      And recycle windmill blades:

    1. For talking about nuclear power, join the nuclear engineers of the Citizens Climate Lobby Snohomish Chapter.

      If we go nuclear, we still need electric vehicles and electric heating for our homes and water. Nuclear power generates electricity, not gas.

      I once thought that a nuclear power plant created infinite energy from the uranium you put in at the start. Nope. You have to mine, deliver, and fission a constant flow of uranium.

      Currently, we deal with the fissioned uranium by storing it in concrete and metal barrels somewhere on the power plant grounds. For a while, we were storing the barrels at WIPP in New Mexico, but WIPP is full now. So we’re back to onsite.

      Nuclear engineers came up with a solution: sink the barrels into underground salt deposits. The barrels would sink for miles through the salt and no human could ever retrieve or bump into them. The Defense Department vetoed that.

      At Zaporizhzhia, Putin showed us the efficiency of nuclear power plants. Rather than having Russian missiles carry the uranium to us, we provide the uranium here and all they send is the detonator.

      Finally: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Church Rock, Windscale, Kyshtym, Fermi Unit 1, SL-1, etc…

      That’s what I see about nuclear.

      1. Nick I would ask if Clintons purchase of a new gas furnace for the reasons he listed a good decision? I get the idea that those that don’t switch for their own reasons should be shamed what say you?

        1. Shame does not seem called for. The Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee has been discussing how to better support residents when their furnaces have to be replaced. I have reached out to Edmonds college to train more installers. We’re working on better support, but we are behind Whidbey and their Kicking Gas program. Is it the fault of an Edmonds family whose furnace has worn out that Whidbey provides support and Edmonds is behind? I don’t think so. That’s on the Edmonds community, not the specific Edmonds families who cope with a gas furnace that is leaking carbon monoxide.

  7. The amount of illness and number of deaths, which have occurred as a result of nuclear meltdowns, is dramatically less than normally functioning coal and oil power plants over the decades. Hey, have you seen the videos of the surprising flourishing fauna and flora at the old people-free Chernobyl plant location. Not bad for global warming. It’s rather absurd, undemocratic, and silly to make huge energy decisions based on our military wishes, …right? Who is in charge? Chernobyl did not have the “containment structure”, which we now have on our nuclear power plants to prevent spread of nuclear meltdown. And with renovation, these will only get better. The Fukushima plant was not built at a safe location, and, by the way, no one died as a result of that tsunami. The Russian argument too is rather silly and unnecessary. The waste from this nuclear fission remains active yes but the quantity is dramatically lower than fossil fuels. The safe underground placement of nuclear waste makes all the sense in the world whether in underground salt deposits or not as long as it remains clear of groundwater and is in a low seismic zoned area. The transport of waste across the country is a challenge, but certainly we have tackled challenges successfully before. We just need to use federal authority over state authority to get this

    1. Mr. Hafford, your “by the way” is incorrect re the tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. Official figures released in 2021 reported 19,759 deaths, 6,242 injured, and 2,553 people missing as a result of the tsunami, which generated waves over 100 feet high. This was a subduction zone earthquake, not unlike what awaits WA under the waters off our Olympic peninsula.

  8. Where does one acquire/procure/earn a certificate to be a certified climate action planner? UW, WSU, UBC, Cal, other? Its a pretty broad brief.

    1. Mine is from Gonzaga. I don’t think that UW has a cert program yet. When I was looking for one, I saw only two other programs.

  9. So many diverse and varied responses to this column. I think you have struck a nerve or two Nick. I would like to comment on just a few of the threads that have been raised:

    Electric vehicle weight. Yes – it is true that EV’s generally weigh more than a comparable gas powered vehicle. However, those comparable gas powered vehicles are largely disappearing from manufacturers portfolios as more people opt for SUVs and trucks. According to the EPA, the average curb weight of passenger vehicles in 2022 was 4094 Lbs ( A Tesla Model 3, which I drive, ranges from 1777-1840 KG (3917-4056 Lbs) which puts it just below the EPA’s average number. (

    Cold weather performance. I lived for 3 years in Chicago with my Model 3 and never had any issues even when temperatures were below zero Fahrenheit.

    Source of electricity. I have owned my Tesla for more than 5 years and I have never installed a high performance charger in my home. I use a standard 110 V outlet to charge the vehicle and it draws the same power as a toaster oven or small electric heater. This, along with occasional stops at a supercharger during long road trips has been sufficient for my needs.

    1. Then why were many in Chicago left stranded at charging stations during the cold because their batteries wouldn’t take a charge?

      1. Those were new Tesla owners. In cold weather, you need to set your Tesla to warm up before you drive it to a charging station. There were a bunch of posts from Canadians about that. You can warm up your car with a remote on your key fob from your kitchen while you have a coffee, then there’s no problem charging. But if this is your first winter with a Tesla, you might not know that yet.

        1. Nick what probably happened was people waited till they were already very low same as a gas car there just wasn’t enough energy to warm their batteries.

  10. The bottom line of all this for me is that it is good to be mindful of trying to be kind to our environment as much as is reasonable to make life worth living. Making climate protection some sort of crusade with government mandates for all electric and no fossil fuel use benchmarks is both a mistake in terms of the type of government we claim to have and in the chance that this will really do much good to stop whatever is really going on. As long as there continues to be just too many of us and we keep over using the resources we need to live the complex, comfortable and complicated lives for some of us and abject poverty, never ending war and famine for others of us the world will continue to get warmer and more people will get tossed into the suffering group of humans. In the end mother nature always rules and has her way.

  11. Nick,

    I appreciate the discussion your column generates. Here is an important article on increasing vehicle costs to consumers, increasing profits to the auto industry:
    Excerpt about David King, an associate professor of urban planning at the Arizona State University:

    “King says it’s just as important in the short run to make cars more affordable for people who need them – a proposal he calls “universal auto access”. The planner envisions government subsidies for lower-income people to buy or maintain cars, paired with new incentives and regulations to steer manufacturers back toward smaller, more affordable electric vehicles. This car-positive proposal doesn’t make him popular among planning circles, King concedes. But “it’s a realist approach: this is the world that we have, and we can still work for a better world while not leaving some people out of it.”

    Please state your thoughts on King’s proposal to:
    “steer manufacturers back toward smaller, more affordable electric vehicles”


  12. Nick, the next time you publish a time series graph on the consumption of natural gas in our area, please also publish the weather temp for the same period. Then the reader can get one insight into ‘why’ consumption was less. Another request- when ever you use regression analysis to report a trend, please report the r- squared factor of that regression. Lastly- I appreciate the humor in your comment above about the difficulty of making predictions. Did many readers ‘get it’?

    1. First I have to say, I think this is one of Nick’s best columns yet, and I really respect that he is responding to reader comments. I wasn’t going to go here, but since Therese brought it up, there are more questions than r-value about the figures. What regression technique was used? What other assumptions does the regression technique use? Does it assume the data are normally distributed? If not, an r-value is a misleading and invalid measure of significance. It is more conventional now to use sampling techniques to estimate an envelope of uncertainty around the regression.
      The EV projection graph sets off so many alarms in my head it’s like lithium battery factory fire. I know of no statistical method that would provide the inflection points that take the small amount of data on the lower left and take it from curving upward, to curving downward. That has to have some other assumptions and information behind it.
      As a research meteorologist, Therese and Nick, I absolutely appreciated the last comment! Overconfidence in forecasts is a huge problem, and it’s getting bigger rapidly. The problem historically was statistical methods, like what I fear is showing here, but now everyone is using machine learning to make projections and “models” and they don’t understand the input data. Garbage in, garbage out has never been more true.

  13. Glaciers disappearing, mountain snow-pack way below normal, wild fire smoke pollution much of the summer, sea level rise, vast numbers of people starving, more and more refugees (that’s what most of our illegal immigrants are), wars and violent death over religious views and who has a God given right to the good land are all mother nature’s way of saying, “hey all you crazy humans, you are just making more babies than my earth can support.” EV’s and not burning fossil fuels is the magic answer to our climate woes and the current human condition? Dream on folks and just be glad you are here and not Gaza or Ukraine. We are really good at dreaming; but not so hot at just facing reality and making the best of it, which is really our only choice in the end.

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