Washington’s Transportation Electrification Strategy tackles the state’s largest source of emissions 

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. This includes Washington, where transportation makes up around 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For the region to achieve its ambitious climate goals, it’s crucial to develop well-planned pathways to decarbonize all sectors of our economy, especially the biggest piece of the emissions puzzle. 

Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 

The new Transportation Electrification Strategy (TES), presented to the Washington State Legislature on February 1st, is a big step in the right direction to do just that. Building off Washington’s suite of clean transportation policies and historic levels of federal support for reducing emissions in the transportation sector, the TES offers a first-of-its-kind roadmap to strategically support widespread adoption of electric vehicles across the state. 

The TES provides the roadmap for Washington to achieve its transportation electrification goals 

Washington has been making strides in recent years in its pursuit of its transportation electrification (TE) goals and is one of only a handful of states (including Oregon) to have adopted both Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) and Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT). ACC II sets progressively higher sales targets for new light-duty, zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), culminating in a 100 percent sales requirement by 2035. ACT, on the other hand, focuses on medium- to heavy-duty vehicles, requiring 40 – 75 percent of sales to be ZEV by 2035 depending on weight class. As modeling in the figure below illustrates, these policies are critical to driving the adoption of ZEVs in the state. 

PHEV: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, ICE: Internal combustion engine
Source: Page 25, Transportation Electrification Strategy

In March 2022, the Washington State Legislature passed Move Ahead Washington, a comprehensive 16-year, $17 billion transportation package designed to further accelerate the transition to an electrified transportation system. One key element of the legislation was creating the Electric Vehicle Coordinating Council (EV Council) to coordinate existing TE efforts by various state agencies. The EV Council set out to guide the implementation of all these policies in an equitable and inclusive way with the Transportation Electrification Strategy (TES). 

Six policy areas and 86 policy recommendations provide a comprehensive strategy 

The TES was developed throughout 2023 by the Electric Vehicle Coordinating Council (EV Council) co-led by the Washington State Departments of Commerce and Transportation, with support from the NW Energy Coalition, alongside project lead RMI, and partners Front and Centered, Strategic Research Associates, and Cascadia Consulting Group. After extensive data analysis, stakeholder engagement, and guidance from the Advisory Committee, a representative group of community members and industry experts, the final TES includes modeling to explore how on-road EV adoption and charging needs in Washington state may progress over time and policy recommendations to meet our greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.  

The policy recommendations are categorized into six policy areas: 

  1. Capacity Building and Consumer Education 
  1. Charging and Utility Infrastructure 
  1. Light-Duty Passenger Vehicles 
  1. Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles 
  1. Electrifying Micromobility 
  1. Workforce Development 

These six policy areas include 86 policies intended to keep on track to meet with the state’s 2030 GHG emissions limit, and increase equitable outcomes in the transition to an electrified transportation system. Some specific policies include: 

  • Creating a state-supported low-cost leasing program to make EVs accessible to low- and medium-income communities 
  • Adequately funding bike infrastructure and access to electric-bikes (e-bikes) 
  • Ensuring community partnerships are in place for charging infrastructure in overburdened communities to ensure projects align with local input and needs 
  • Electrifying truck parking at ports 
  • Establishing reliability standards for EV chargers to improve customer’s experiences 
  • Establishing clear objectives for participation by overburdened and vulnerable communities in the electrification workforce 

With so many policies, it is critical to prioritize strategies that help redress the effects of past inequities in our transportation system. As the TES reports, our current transportation system “..disproportionately exposes low-income and BIPOC communities to air and noise pollution, car accidents, and the physical barriers created by roads, train tracks, and airports.” Additionally, charging an EV with public chargers often costs 3x to 4x as much for renters and those in multi-family housing who lack access to lower-cost residential charging.  

The TES helps chart a path towards ensuring all communities in Washington State are healthy and thriving; reducing environmental and health disparities and remedying the effects of past injustices; and ensuring the transportation electrification strategy benefits low-income and BIPOC communities. It is essential to center equity considerations in any electrification strategy. 

Contextualizing Washington’s TES with other state’s efforts 

Most states have submitted EV infrastructure plans in recent years, a requirement to access funding from the National Electric Vehicle Formula Program (NEVI Formula) passed in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The TES, however, goes a step further and provides a comprehensive analysis into impacted communities and relevant sectors, attempting to align the state’s actions with its electrification and emissions targets.  

Another factor that sets the TES apart is the extensive scenario modeling to explore potential paths for transportation electrification. The report compares five unique scenarios to a baseline of status-quo policy and cost assumptions. It also analyzes five sensitivities (i.e. high/low fuel prices, effects of removing key policies) that reveal additional nuances in Washington’s TE goals. This provides legislators and state agencies with a thorough analysis to guide future policy decisions and program development. 

The recommended “Strong Electrification Policy” finds additional policy solutions necessary to achieve Washington’s emissions and EV adoption targets. This includes policies like higher incentives for zero-emission vehicles, adopting the Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) Rule (which has more stringent adoption requirements for medium- to heavy-duty vehicles compared to ACT), and bolstering consumer education and outreach.   

Oregon is also a leader in TE efforts 

Oregon is another consistent leader in the transportation electrification transition. In 2013, the state completed an Oregon Statewide Transportation Strategy that includes both short- and long-term strategies to reduce GHG emissions in its transportation system, with a goal to lower transportation emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. The latest report shows that Oregon is making progress towards its goal, but still has more work ahead. 

Oregon is also proactively engaging utilities in the transition. Every three years, its electric utilities must submit comprehensive TE plans to support the transition to a clean, electric, and equitable transportation system. A key requirement of these plans is a focus on serving low- and moderate-income communities. The NW Energy Coalition is active in ensuring utilities’ plans follow these requirements. Check out Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board’s (CUB’s) post on Oregon utilities’ electric transportation planning for more details. 

What’s next in WA? 

With the TES in place, we look forward to following the plan through the critical next step of implementation. As the TES is comprehensive in its recommendations to the transportation system – local government, state agencies, and community-based organizations all have a role to play to ensure an equitable transition to a more-electrified system. We’ll be sure to keep you updated along the way, as this marks the start of the journey to actualizing the Transportation Electrification Strategy’s potential benefits.