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1 in 6 new Washington cars are electric. The state aims for more

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One in six new cars on the road in Washington state is an electric vehicle. That’s double the rate from two years ago, yet is still less than halfway toward the state’s mandate for electric vehicle sales. That deadline is two years from now.

The numbers come from the state Department of Ecology, where Joel Creswell works.

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“Sales rate in Washington is already really, really high, even without a lot of policies to back it up," Creswell said. "And so there's clearly an appetite here in state, but the state government is investing a lot of energy and effort into figuring out what else we can do to transition away from fossil fuel powered transportation.”

The state currently offers a sales tax break on electric vehicles. It is also deciding how to spend $50 million on rebates and other measures to get more people into electric vehicles, especially lower-income drivers. That funding should be available sometime next year.

An unrelated national effort could help boost EV sales over coming years. That's what a coalition of seven major automakers — including BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis — hopes will happen. They are joining forces to add 30,000 fast chargers to North America. As NPR reports, another automaker partnership in Europe has only been able to build 2,600 chargers since 2017. A similar effort in the United States has been able to add 3,600 over the past five years.

Washington's Department of Ecology also has its EV sites set on local governments, ports, and tribes. The department is putting another $16.3 million in grants toward an effort to convert local governments, ports, and tribes' diesel-powered fleets to EVs. This could be vehicles such as forklifts, street sweepers, garbage trucks, and more. The grants can also be used for charging and fueling stations.

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The grant money is coming from a federal settlement in a case against Volkswagen. Ecology's Molly Spiller manages that settlement funding which totals $140 million. More grants are in the works, such as money for Level 2 EV charging stations and DC fast-charging stations for personal EVs. Those grants will become available in the fall.

“We’re delighted to offer these grants and encourage applicants to take advantage of this opportunity,” Spiller said in a statement. “Cities, counties, public utilities, school districts, universities — really, any public or Tribal entity in Washington that owns eligible diesel equipment or vehicles — can use these funds to support their local communities and help accelerate the transition to a clean transportation future.”

RELATED: A lot more electric buses are coming to Western Washington roads

Applications to receive the EV money are open until Oct. 26.

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