Washington Wants to Become First State to Ban Gasoline Powered Cars

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Washington has elected to become the first slice of America to ban the internal combustion motor, and we don’t just mean new sales. The Pacific state passed a bill on Thursday that would make the registration of gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles from the 2030 model year onwards illegal — leaving residents with the option to purchase a new electric vehicle, buy a secondhand gas burner, or throw up their hands and move elsewhere.

It’s an interesting concept, especially considering there’s very little evidence to suggest the industry will be at a point where total EV adoption will be remotely plausible by 2030. Even California, which is famous for its heavy-handed environmental regulations didn’t think it could start mandating the death of the internal combustion engine until at least 2035. Though Washington is reportedly not making this a concrete rule and it hinges on the adoption of another bill that would tax vehicles based on the number of miles driven. Think of it like a fuel tax that follows you around, even if you’re not using any.

Since Washington doesn’t want to find itself missing any revenue, the bill’s text (HB 1287) explains that the vehicle ban isn’t supposed to take off until at least three-quarters of the state’s registered vehicles are subject to the proposed road usage charges. Reuters also noted that Democratic Governor Jay Inslee also has also yet to sign the bill into law. But he has previously expressed support to his party for putting the plan forward.

Not everyone has been as enthusiastic, however. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he was having serious doubts about the viability of the plan way back in January. The rules are also likely to encourage courtrooms dramas where people will accuse the state of exceeded its authority under the federal Clean Air Act. California is technically the only state granted special exemptions from the rule. But it encountered a multi-year fight for having pressed for rules many argued would have forcibly influenced the rest of the United States. Washington’s rule will undoubtedly come under the same scrutiny with fewer legal protections at its disposal.

The bills’ original language is also a little vague. Neither said anything about lower emissions and instead focus on building up the Washington economy by swapping the populace to EVs that will use locally sourced electricity. It also talks quite a bit about jobs, specifically from the construction of battery hubs designed to help support the grid and the addition of charging points that will feed the potentially mandatory EVs. But it does mention how the regulatory changes might help mitigate water pollution. Our guess is so that it can stay away from using any language that might allow opponents to easily rope in the Clean Air Act during legal challenges.

HB 1204 and SB 5256 are still in committee while HB 1287 applies to all privately and publicly owned light-duty vehicles with a weight of under 10,000 pounds, though motorcycles will be left alone. Your author frequently comes out against vehicle bans and this one is no different. But it should be said that Washington is at least in a position that gives the suggested rules some amount of creditability. The majority of the state’s electricity currently comes from hydroelectric power and it has a good mix of renewables and nuclear. If you’re going to force EVs down the public gullet, that’s the kind of energy breakdown you’d want. However, the situation could easily change as more electric vehicles take the stage and we’ve seen countries like Germany and China falling back on dirtier sources of energy (often coal) to feed an overtaxed grid, sending their air quality in the wrong direction.

[Image: Working Title Productions/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Apr 19, 2021

    I'm a longtime liberal but finding myself hoping that the Republicans can come up with someone other than the orange Moperah to run in 2024 and balance this back out again. Unchecked, this could get out of hand in a hurry!

    • See 4 previous
    • Slavuta Slavuta on Apr 19, 2021

      @Superdessucke Orange... I am longing for Pinochet.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 22, 2021

    Since I don't live in Washington or California I am not as concerned about outlawing the sale of ICE vehicles. As for Government both the so called liberals and extremist so called conservatives have one thing in common which is gaining power and taking control of others lives. I am not an extremist and I do not care for extremists. Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts absolutely.

  • RobbyG $100k+...for a Jeep. Are they selling these in fantasy land?Twin turbo V-6 paired to an 8-speed transmission. Yet still only gets 14mpg.Whatever money you think you would save over a V-8 will be spent 2-3x amount fixing these things when they blow up.
  • Alan Well the manufacturers are catching up with stocks. This means shortages of parts is reducing. Stocks are building around the world even Australia and last year had the most vehicles ever sold here.
  • Larry You neglected to mention that the 2024 Atlas has a US Government 5-Star Safety Rating.
  • Alan Why is it that Toyota and Nissan beat their large SUVs (Patrol/300 Series) with an ugly stick and say they are upmarket? Whilst they are beating the vehicles with an ugly stick they reduce the off road ability rather than improve it.As I've stated in previous comments you are far better off waiting for the Patrol to arrive than buy an overpriced vehicle.
  • Alan How many people do you see with a 4x4 running mud tyres? How many people do you see with a 4x4 running massive rims and low profile tyres? How many people have oversize mirrors for towing once in a blue moon? How many 4x4s do you see lifted? How many people care what tyres they run to save fuel? The most comfortable tyres are more or less the most economical.