The first ban on non-electric cars in the United States went into effect last week in Washington state. Gas-powered cars after the 2030 model year will not be allowed in the state.
Amid a wave of signatures that began on March 25, Washington Governor Jay Inslee made the state the first in the United States to ban gasoline-powered cars.
The measure, called HB 1204 or “Clean Cars 2030”, prohibits the sale, purchase or registration of any non-electric vehicle of model year 2030 or later. So, this even applies to cars purchased out of state and brought to Washington for registration.
In an important distinction, the state will allow more than just battery-electric vehicles. Any electrically powered vehicle will be eligible. For example, fuel cell vehicleswhich draw their energy from an electric motor connected to a fuel cell rather than a battery, will be allowed.
Previously, Massachusetts and California had planned the first bans on gasoline-powered cars in the United States. Now Washington is leaving the two states’ 2035 goals in the rearview mirror.
The measure was part of a $17 billion package of transportation and climate initiatives called go ahead washington.
Legislative challenges and timetable
Washington is also the first state to pass a ban on gasoline-powered cars without an executive order. But HB 1204’s path to becoming Evergreen state law was not straightforward.
Washington Rep. Nicole Macri first introduced the clean car bill in 2020. The state legislature approved it in April 2021. However, the margins were tight. The Senate passed it 25-23. Then the House of Representatives split 54-43.
A month later, Governor Inslee vetoed it. But, according to him, it wasn’t because he didn’t think it should become law.
While writing Move Ahead Washington, lawmakers added an amendment that tied the Clean Cars 2030 goal to a road user fee in Washington. The amendment stated that the EV guidelines would only take effect when user fees apply to 75% of all cars in the state.
Inslee decided that banning gas-powered cars primarily replaced user fees, not the other way around.
“Transportation is our state’s biggest carbon emitter, and we can’t afford to tie an important goal like getting 100 percent zero-emission vehicles to a separate policy that will take time to design and to implement”, the governor said.
He then added that he was “committed to achieving zero-emission transport as quickly as possible”.
He was not the only one to have this conviction. A study commissioned by Coltura and conducted by Yale University, George Mason University and Climate Nexus found that 55% of voters in the United States support a complete elimination of gas-powered cars from 2030.
Macri spoke about the benefits such an elimination would bring to his constituents in a prepared statement.
“Clean Cars 2030 puts Washington on a path to powering its vehicles with cheap, clean, renewable in-state electricity and reducing the threat that oil and gasoline pose to our air, water , our health and our economy”, she says.
‘Clean Cars 2030’ focuses on the economy
It was probably no accident that Macri anchored his statement with economic benefits. The bill itself focuses on the economic – rather than environmental – utility of EV infrastructure. Electrek reported that the drafters of the bill “took steps to avoid a possible future legal challenge” by diverting attention from the shows. Instead, it highlights other benefits of electric vehicles such as lower ownership costs, local job creation through charging infrastructure, and more.
The proof of concept will come down to a collaboration between public and private entities in Washington. With the same stroke of the pen that ratified the Clean Cars Act 2030, Inslee created an interagency council. And he tasked him with generating a plan to achieve the target date.
State lawmakers hope the bill will “spur public and private investment” in electric vehicles and ultimately kill two birds with one stone. The plan, they say, is intended to help Washingtonians save money on car expenses like fuel and maintenance while enjoying cleaner air and water.
Following Washington’s example, the Rhode Island Legislature introduced legislation in March to advance electric vehicle infrastructure to meet its greenhouse gas targets by 2030.
Elsewhere, Canada’s federal government has said it will ban sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035. And the Biden Administration has set a goal of reaching 50% market share of electric vehicles in the United States by 2030.