A few weeks ago, Kathleen Petrich wrote on this blog about the emergence of a new great Northwest economy: the transportation economy based upon the development of new alternative fuel vehicles (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Specifically, electric vehicles are commonly viewed as providing the greatest potential for weaning Washingtonians from their dependence on oil and meeting the greenhouse gas emission standards set by government. [For instance, in Resolution 31312 the Seattle City Council in October, 2011 set a goal for the City of reducing Seattle’s net greenhouse gas emissions level to zero by 2050.] Clearly the more that car-happy Washingtonians reduce their use of fossil fuels by using alternatives such as electricity the more likely we will achieve our greener goals. Hence, enter the new transportation economy.
If government can regulate our goals, then government must take steps to find a way to achieve them. Broad deployment of electric vehicles involves a lot of moving parts ranging from zoning issues to environmental issues to parking issues that need government’s involvement. Luckily for us, the Washington State legislature dealt with a lot of these issues with some comprehensive legislation in 2009 in Chapter 459, laws of 2009. This new law was intended to identify roadblocks to the development of a functioning electrical vehicle infrastructure in the state and the means to remove them. While a lot more needs to be done legislatively I thought I’d highlight what Chapter 459, laws of 2009, did enact as background for future efforts. This new law:
- Requires regional transportation planning organizations to develop regulations concerning electrical vehicle infrastructure that include:
- plans for available off-street parking for electric vehicles.
- standards that ensure that appropriate electric circuitry is installed to support electric vehicle infrastructure.
- work towards appropriate educational and training opportunities for citizens to help transition from combustion to electric vehicles.
- plans for large counties to provide public and private parking spaces for electric vehicles with a goal of 10% electric vehicle ready by 12/31/18.
- development of model ordinances and guidance for local governments for citing and installing electric vehicle infrastructure (see RCW 47.80.090; RCW 19.27.540; RCW 19.28.281).
Requires the state to purchase electric vehicles and power for the purposes of recharging privately and publicly owned plug-in electrical vehicles at state office locations. RCW 43.01.250; RCW 43.19.648.
- Requires the state to install electrical charging stations and battery exchange stations in state operated highway rest stop by 12/31/15. RCW 47.38.075.
- Requires local jurisdictions to allow electric vehicle infrastructure as a “use” for zoning purposes in all areas except those zoned for residential, resource use or critical areas. RCW 35.63.126; .127; RCW 35A.63.107; RCW 36.70.695; RCW 36.70A.695.
- Exempts battery charging and exchange station installations from certain environmental requirements. RCW 43.21(c).410.
- Authorizes the state to lease land owned by state or local government to persons for the purposes of installing, maintaining or operating a battery charging station with a lease term of less than 50 years. RCW 79.13.100.
- Authorizes an alternative fuels court or pilot project capable of supporting electric vehicle charging in battery exchange technologies. RCW 47.38.070.
Since adoption of the new law, the Washington Department of Commerce and Puget Sound Regional Council developed a guide for local government with a model ordinance, model development regulations and guidance related to electric vehicle infrastructure and batteries. Electric charging stations are gradually being installed with ten installed between Oregon and the Canadian border on major highways.
The Washington Legislation recognizes that the success of the electric car in Washington will depend significantly on the availability of sufficient charging infrastructure. All of the efforts instigated by Chapter 459 remain in play but it is useful to know what’s in place as you assess your participation in the new transportation economy.