Washington State’s electric vehicle (EV) incentive program should be designed to help transition the biggest users of gasoline.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s 2022 climate package proposes bold investments in the electrification of transportation that will help move Washington away from gasoline, the state’s single largest source of emissions. At the heart of the transportation proposal is $100 million per year in rebates for the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs).
At $7,500 for new EVs and $5,000 for used EVs, these rebates will make EV purchases very attractive for Washington residents, especially if the state rebate is combined with a federal tax incentive of $7,500 to$12,500, up to $20,000 off the price of a new EV.
While we support efforts to increase EV adoption, our elected leaders must also think strategically about this transition. Given that Washington’s EV incentives are likely to be very popular and snapped up very quickly, it is important that the program transition people who use the most gasoline to EVs.
Coltura’s research on gasoline superusers shows that the communities with the most EVs tend to be affluent, close-in urban areas where people drive fewer miles and burn less gasoline than the state average. Conversely, people tend to have long commutes and drive larger vehicles in exurban areas. These drivers use roughly double the gasoline that urban users do and have been slow to convert to EVs.
To achieve the maximum carbon emissions reductions needed to reach our climate goals, Gov. Inslee should consider targeting the EV incentives more directly at the biggest users of gasoline. At $7,500 per vehicle, the proposed $100 million in incentives will cover fewer than 14,000 vehicles, or less than 5% of the 300,000 new vehicles sold every year, and less than 0.25% of the 6 million light duty vehicles now on Washington’s roads.
Overall, Gov. Inslee is making a big step in the right direction. We now need to fine-tune our policies to ensure they have maximum impact.