Why Washington State Residents Could Lose Out On Electric Cars

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2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

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The ease of buying an electric car has long depended on where in the U.S. you live.

Carmakers carefully consider demand and local incentives and regulations before offering their products in some states--often resulting in California and Oregon getting the latest vehicles before anyone else.

Washington State should be among those, having adopted California's CARB emissions rules.

But unfortunately for Washington electric car fans, the state hasn't adoped the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) regulations found in California and Oregon, among others--making the choice of available electric cars lower than it could be.

As Edmunds reports, other states set to adopt the ZEV mandate include Connecticut, D.C., Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Washington is unusual in having accepted California's clean air vehicle requirements, but not the ZEV mandate.

It's the compliance cars that WA residents will most miss out on.

These cars, designed mainly to meet CARB ZEV regulations and therefore sold in numbers only great enough to meet the requirements, are only sold in CARB-adopting states.

Californians and Oregonians get to enjoy such vehicles as the Honda Fit EV, Fiat 500E, and Toyota RAV4 EV. Chevrolet insists that its recently-unveiled Spark EV isn't a compliance car, but initially it will only be available in a select few states. Ford's Focus EV is another available in a select few states, but that's set to expand in 2013.

These cars can be sold in any ZEV-compliant zone, while contributing to California's requirements.

And states that don't accept these requirements give the carmakers no incentive to sell compliant cars there. Fiat has already said it will lose money on every 500e sold--so it has no intention to sell more than the bare minimum, and certainly not to states that don't require the car through legislation.

Washington has proven itself as quite EV-friendly, with an all-electric taxi firm, and even a scenic route with charging stations, encouraging electric car drivers to explore.

But when it comes to cars, the state's EV fans will have to make do with a smaller selection than their counterparts to the south.

(Hat tip: Brian Henderson)


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Comments (8)
  1. As part of the West Coast Green Highway Project. WA has an vested interest in cars using CHAdeMO which only the LEAF and MiEV have. I agree that Compliance Cars like the RAV 4 EV would probably sell very well here (probably more than Toyota is willing to build)

    I do feel that the ZEV mandate will come eventually.

  2. Are there any fast charge standards (other than Tesla & CHAdeMO) that actually have cars on the road? Are there any that will have non-compliance cars in the road in the next 5-10 years?

  3. If you were a Washington State resident, which would you rather have... The ability to buy a RAV4 EV or a $100,000 Tesla Model S and pay no sales tax? From my viewpoint in California, I would say that Washington State is very EV friendly, in spite of not adopting the CA CARB rules.

  4. There is no reason why we can't have both - no sales tax + ZEV. Adopting ZEV costs WA nothing.

  5. I sell Ford at Ford of Kirkland, and we have three Focus EV's on the lot available for sale, with C-Max and Fusion Energy incoming from Ford. Get your story straight.

  6. @Samuel: As we've noted several times--including in the story above--Ford has said that sales of the Focus Electric are being expanded beyond the initial regions to a broader array of states.

    The article doesn't say that the Focus Electric is purely a compliance car that's being sold only to meet California ZEV requirements. It does say that any zero-emission vehicles sold in Washington don't help carmakers to meet those requirements.

    So I'm not entirely sure what story it is that we need to set straight. Feel free to contact me at greater length if you want to discuss this further: john (at) highgearmedia (dot) com.

  7. How do you charge any of them when your charging station out front is completely blocked by gas guzzlers?

  8. Are you sure that being a ZEV mandate state will impact availability of EVs being sold there? It was my understanding that due to banking & travel provisions, carmakers can comply with ZEV mandates nationwide with cars sold only in CA.

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