Editorial: The switch to electric cars is making more and more sense

By the editorial board of the Herald

Admit it: While watching the gas pump numbers flash, then fade – faster and faster lately – you wondered what it would be like to plug in an electric car at home and drive past it. gas stations, glancing at the price per gallon only to marvel at your financial savvy.

Then the pump handle clicks, the reverie is over, and you’re $45 to $90 poorer.

For many, the case for switching from a gas-powered vehicle to a plug-in electric vehicle – or at least a hybrid – only becomes stronger by hearing the latest information from environmental organizations, such as the Group of United Nations intergovernmental experts on climate change. . The IPCC’s recent updated assessment says the window for action – drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions – is closing if the world is to meet its goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, avoiding the worst effects of climate change that increase with every tenth of a degree above the Paris agreement target.

The IPCC concluded in its latest assessment, published earlier this month, that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases must fall by 43% by 2030, compared to emission levels. by 2019. And by 2050, the decline in fossil fuel emissions must reach even higher levels: 95% for coal, 60% for oil and 45% for natural gas.

While reductions are needed from the wide range of greenhouse gas sources – power generation, buildings, agriculture and industry – the electrification of transport offers one of the greatest opportunities for reducing carbon emissions, especially in Washington State. Nationally, approximately 29% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated by transportation; for Washington State, the percentage is even higher, 45%.

The bright note from the IPCC report: Costs of clean energy technologies have fallen steadily since 2010. Solar power generation costs have fallen by 85%, wind power by 55%, and lithium-ion batteries – used to power electric vehicles – by 85%.

Admittedly, cheaper for electric vehicles still does not mean cheap. Still.

But advances in battery and other technologies are driving down the prices of electric vehicles. While prices for market-leading Teslas range from $45,000 to $132,000, much more affordable EVs are already available from Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai and Mini Cooper, for example, ranging from $21,000 to $27. $000, taking into account a federal tax credit of $7,500 available for most electric vehicles. .

And this affordability trend is set to continue. By 2027, most electric vehicles are expected to be cheaper to produce than gasoline and diesel cars, SUVs and light trucks, according to a forecast by BloombergNEF, and are expected to be in higher demand than gasoline and diesel vehicles. Automakers are already preparing for this shift in demand. General Motors announced more than a year ago that it would only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

The cost of electric vehicles could have been even cheaper if state lawmakers had fully acted on Governor Jay Inslee’s request earlier this year to use $100 million from the state budget for a state $7,500 reimbursement program. The Legislature, in its supplementary budget, however, earmarked $25 million for electric vehicle incentives, but did not specify the eligibility requirements for the rebates, leaving the details to the state’s Commerce Department.

The Legislature, however, has invested in the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, earmarking $207 million to add to the charging station network, as well as $95 million for next year’s legislative session. for further incentives and investments in electric vehicles.

These investments are part of the state’s historic transportation program that called for spending $16.8 billion over the next 16 years. Funded in part by $5.4 billion from the state’s Carbon Cap and Investment Climate Pledge Act, the state is making significant investments in public transit, bicycle projects and of pedestrians, the electrification of transport and the electrification of ferries.

Also included in the transport package, lawmakers revived a provision that sets a target that all new vehicle sales by 2030 will be electric vehicles only, essentially ruling out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles. The legislation began last year as a mandate, was changed to a goal when the state attorney general’s office pointed out it was likely to face legal challenges, then vetoed it. Inslee because it was tied to a transition to a road user charge instead of the state gasoline tax.

This year, freed from the debate over road user charges — which lawmakers and state officials will still have to address as soon as gas tax revenues continue to fall — the goal of electric vehicles has been enacted. .

Even as a goal, rather than a mandate, the 2030 deadline has drawn complaints from Republicans – a minority in both houses – who have been largely left out of negotiations over the transportation package, s opposed to the state imposing its choices on what people can buy.

“They want to force everybody to get into an electric vehicle for whatever reason they think is appropriate,” Senator Curtis King, R-Yakima, a senior member of the Senate Transportation Committee, told The Seattle Times.

Let’s review the reasons: electric vehicles are cheaper to operate and maintain, and getting cheaper. Their purchase price should be comparable to or lower than that of conventional vehicles over the next few years. And the electrification of transportation — especially in Washington state where utilities are increasingly phasing out coal-generated electricity, including Snohomish PUD, which now has 95% carbon-free electricity — offers an unparalleled opportunity to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s a fair argument to make that – all of the above being true – requiring all new cars sold in the state by 2030 to be electric may not be necessary, that market demand should support the transition to electric vehicles. But there is a need for the state government and elected officials to show their commitment to this zero-carbon shift, a commitment that seems supported by state residents.

A 2020 poll of 1,000 Washington residents found nearly 6 in 10 strongly or somewhat supportive of an EV mandate for new cars by 2030; 29% strongly and 30% somewhat; and 42% in the same poll said they thought the state government was not doing enough to address climate change.

It’s a safe bet that now, two years later, support for the transition to electric vehicles is growing with every flicker of the numbers at the pump.

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