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Surge of new EV charging stations coming to Washington state

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Washing's goal of getting more electric vehicles on the road got a surge of support Thursday with the announcement of 560 new charging sites across the state. The sites add up to the installation of nearly 5,000 charging stations.

"We are making such huge progress building a clean transportation system in the state of Washington, one that gets people clean, reliable, reasonably priced transportation and fights climate change, and we are rocking it," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said at an announcement event Thursday, hyping the crowd for the new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations coming to Washington.

RELATED: Road trip! Kicking the tires on electric travel in the Northwest

Inslee said that Washington had a goal of getting 50,000 EVs on the road by 2020, and that the state currently has about 125,000 EVs. All those electric cars will need places to plug in.

The new EV charging stations are the latest round of projects for Washington's Electric Vehicle Charing Program. They're funded by $84 million from the Climate Commitment Act's carbon auctions. (Read more about the Climate Commitment Act below.)

Breaking down the EV stations:

  • The charging stations will be installed at 560 sites across the state
  • 4,710 will be Level 2 chargers (with 5,362 plugs between them)
  • 271 direct current, fast chargers (with 420 plugs between them)

Stations will be located at:

  • 213 multifamily sites
  • 211 workplaces, government agencies, and school districts
  • 141 public locations (libraries, grocery stores, community centers)

The Department of Commerce says that the chargers could add 10-20 miles per hour of charging; they can fully charge a 300-mile battery in 6-8 hours. The fast chargers can fill a 300-mile battery up to 80% in 20 minutes. Funding for the projects is going to electric utilities, nonprofits, public agencies, and tribes.

“And those chargers are going to be available to everybody — butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers," Inslee said. "So you can charge your car while you’re shopping, you can charge your car while at the library, you can charge your car while your kid is playing soccer. It’s a universal-access plan for electrical charging in the state of Washington.”

New EV charging stations for Washington state

A map of the state's charging station projects shows most are slated along I-5 in Western Washington, roughly between Tacoma and Everett. Other clusters are around Spokane, Yakima, and Vancouver. According to Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong, half of the EV projects are funded for low-income communities, and areas that face greater environmental health risks.

caption: A map from Washington's Department of Commerce shows where new EV charging station projects are slated for across the state.
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A map from Washington's Department of Commerce shows where new EV charging station projects are slated for across the state.
Washington State Department of Commerce

"And this will help accelerate EV adoption in those communities, but also address challenges we face with across-the-board accessibility to EV chargers," Fong said.

The press event Thursday wasn't just about announcing the new EV stations, it was also an opportunity for the governor and others to hype the Climate Commitment Act. The law went into effect at the start of January 2023 and created a carbon auction. The auction charges industry for the ability to pollute carbon into the air. The revenue is put toward climate initiatives. The auctions were expected to generate between $500 million and $1 billion annually. Instead, it produced more than $2 billion in its first year.

RELATED: Debate over Washington's carbon auction revs up in 2024

The Climate Commitment Act has stirred controversy, even before it was enacted. Critics have argued that it would result in higher fuel costs for Washingtonians, among other steeper price tags. That appears to have happened to some degree. State Republicans have set their sights on tearing down the carbon auction. A separate initiative effort aims to put the issue in front of voters on the November ballot for the final say.

“The Climate Commitment Act is providing the money necessary to continue to keep this ball rolling, to create jobs, to give people electric charging stations, and fight climate change," Inslee said. "It is working big time. And we are not going to go backwards and allow polluters to have infinite pollution at zero cost.”

Another angle into the argument over Climate Commitment Act funds comes from a corner of the trades, where electricians are eager for new work that the auction funds.

“It couldn’t come at a more timely manner," said Matthew Hepner, executive director of the Certified Electricians of Washington.

Hepner's trade group represents more than 12,000 members. He said they have long called for greater EV infrastructure in the state. For these electricians, Thursday's announcement adds up to job security.

“Our industry, especially in the Puget Sound region, has been disrupted by the hybrid work environment and high federal interest rates," Hepner said. "So work is slow in the industry right now. These jobs are a lifeline, both for our members and the environment. It’s a good day when you can pay the rent and fight climate change … this is how we feed our families and how we train apprentices and the next generation of skilled tradespeople.”

Gov. Inslee said that the new EV stations will require more than 7,000-person days of work that will also include masons.

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