Zero emission vehicles

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Motor Vehicle Emission Standards – Zero Emission Vehicles bill (RCW 70A.30.010) on March 25, 2020. This bill directs us to adopt California’s vehicle emission standards, including new requirements to increase the number of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) sold in Washington.

Zero emission vehicles help us reduce greenhouse gases

Transportation in Washington is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and also a major contributor to other types of air pollution.

Under a 2020 law, Washington is required to reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, 70% by 2040, and 95% by 2050. Since almost 45% of Washington's annual greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, cleaner cars and trucks are essential to meeting these limits. 

Increasing the number of zero emission vehicles on our roads will reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2030.

Rulemaking about low emission vehicles

Ecology adopted new ZEV and LEV standards on November 29, 2021. The requirements will take effect in 2024, with the release of model year 2025 vehicles.

In January 2022, Ecology announced the start of rulemaking to adopt new vehicle emission standards. This rule would increase zero emission vehicle sales of passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles to 100 percent starting in 2035. It would also require cleaner, less polluting heavy-duty engines.

Zero emission vehicles (ZEV)

ZEV vehicles include battery-powered electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. Washington proposes to add these new requirements:

  • Passenger cars, light-duty trucks, medium-duty vehicles
    • Manufacturers must meet a ZEV credit requirement starting with model year 2025.
    • About 8% of new vehicle sales in Washington must be zero emission (equivalent to 22% ZEV credits, since automakers can earn more than one credit per vehicle).
  • Medium and heavy-duty trucks (vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds)
    • Manufacturers must meet a ZEV credit requirement starting with model year 2025.
    • By 2035, deliveries to Washington must be:
      • 55% Classes 2b–3 trucks – vans, medium pickup trucks
      • 75% Classes 4–8 trucks – delivery trucks, delivery/service vans, lighter truck tractors, bucket trucks
      • 40% Class 8 truck tractors – cement trucks, dump trucks, sleeper cab trucks
      • Percent of annual deliveries increases each year

Low emission vehicles (LEV)

  • Passenger cars, light-duty trucks, medium-duty passenger vehicles
    • Expands Washington’s program to include medium-duty vehicles (trucks, vans, SUVs) from its current program that covers:
      • Passenger cars – vehicles designed to transport up to 12 people
      • Light-duty trucks – vehicles weighing less than 8,500 pounds
      • Medium-duty passenger vehicles – vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds
  • California Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation
    • We plan to adopt California’s rule for cleaner, heavy-duty engines when it is final.

Zero emission vehicle basics

A zero emission vehicle is a vehicle that releases almost no air pollution. (Brake pad and tire wear from all vehicles can be a source of air pollution.) A zero emission vehicle runs clean throughout its life, unlike a standard vehicle which typically pollutes more as it ages.

There are two types of zero emission vehicles:

Although not zero emission vehicles, these hybrids are a bridge between gas-only and fully electric:

  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles combine a gasoline-powered engine with a battery that can be recharged with electricity.
  • Hybrid electric vehicles combine a gasoline-powered engine with a battery that the engine recharges. These vehicles don't plug in.