Washington bill would require state, local fleets to be 100% electric

The Washington state House of Representatives is considering legislation that would require state and local agencies to purchase only electric vehicles by next decade.

Automakers have urged state governments with zero-emission vehicle mandates to do more to support the EV market, including increased purchases of EVs for fleets.

Under H.B. 1832, Washington’s state agencies, public colleges and universities, counties, cities and special-purpose districts could buy only EVs by 2027, with limited exceptions. Existing gas- and diesel-powered vehicles would be grandfathered under the law.

The Government & Tribal Relations Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday about the bill. Supporters say it will save taxpayers millions of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs, boost the economy and create jobs.

The legislation directs the Department of Enterprise Services to develop a plan identifying how governments can achieve fully electric fleets, including a costs and savings estimate, according to the following timetable:

• 2023 model year: All passenger vehicles must be electric.

• 2025 model year: All light-duty vehicles must be electric.

• 2026 model year: All medium-duty vehicles must be electric.

• 2027 model year: All heavy-duty vehicles must be electric.

Despite a 2007 public fleet electrification and biofuel law requiring full compliance by June 2018, less than 1 percent of the more than 30,000 public vehicles in Washington are EVs, according to Coltura, a nonprofit in Seattle working to accelerate the transition to alternative-energy vehicles. The new legislation would eliminate the loophole that allowed agencies to comply “to the extent determined practicable.”

In December 2015, Gov. Jay Inslee announced an initiative to require that at least 20 percent of the state’s new passenger-vehicle purchases be electric by 2017. The first long-range EVs managed by the Department of Enterprise Services began operating in April 2017 and have since saved 34,000 gallons of fuel, the agency says on its website. The Department of Transportation has invested about $2.5 million to install charging locations near interstates.

Last September, Inslee issued an order to increase the state’s EV acquisitions to at least 50 percent of all vehicles by 2020. The legislature allocated $5.5 million for the purchases from the state’s settlement with Volkswagen over diesel emissions violations.

Coltura blames a lack of resources and accountability, along with low awareness about the law among fleet managers and state leaders, for the slow phase-in of EVs. Last year, it criticized the Department of Commerce, which is tasked with enforcing the zero-emission mandate for fleets, with not providing effective oversight or guidance to public entities.

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