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Washington State Department of Corrections to Begin Replacing Gas-Powered Vehicles with Electric

September 21, 2022

By Brendan Baptiste Department of Corrections
a chevyrolet bolt electric vehicle driving in a parking lot

A Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle. (Lukas D'Ambrosio, Communications Office)

On November 3, 2021, Governor Jay Inslee signed Executive order 21-04 (pdf) to help combat climate change, Washington State agencies will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing local and state fleets with electric or biofuel powered vehicles. The state already requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, 70 percent by 2040, and 95 percent by 2050. The largest contributor to greenhouse emissions is from vehicles. This initiative will require 50 percent of new state passenger vehicles to be electric vehicles.

Internal combustion engines produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants. These pollutants negatively impact our environment and can be harmful to public health. Fossil fuels have been the main source of energy for many years and investments are now being made to lower our dependence on this energy source.

With Washington making the commitment to electric vehicles, the Department of Corrections held a test drive event at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) in Aberdeen, WA. This event was designed to introduce DOC Staff to electric vehicles and to answer any questions they may have about them. Participants got to take a spin in vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf which has a range of up to 212 miles on a charge.

Staff were surprised to find out how many electric vehicles are now on the market. Just a few years ago there were only a few options. Now almost every major manufacturer has an electric option. What also impressed was how much power the vehicles had. Traditional gas power engines have a bit of a delay to get power to the wheels. In an EV the torque is instant which made the car feel zippy and powerful. EV also bring a lot of styling and tech options that make the vehicles feel ultra-modern.

Purchasing a new electric powered vehicle comes does come with tax incentives. The federal EV tax credit is up to $7,500 for new vehicles. Some states offer their own incentives too making the switch. Washington State has an exemption of up to $13,000. Washington sales and use taxes also do not apply to the labor and services for purchasing and installing electric vehicle infrastructure, including home charging stations. These credits can really help lower the price of a new vehicle.

With rising cost at the pump due to various world events, the change to electric will see additional savings at the pump as an added benefit. A 2018 study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that the average cost to fuel an electric vehicle was around $485 a year. This is approximately 60% less than the average gas-powered car. With today's rising fuel costs, consumers are spending even more at the pump as the average cost per gallon of gas has reached $5.

The test drive event was not planned with the intention to sell vehicles to staff. As the swap to electric vehicles is now a state requirement, this event gave staff an opportunity to become more familiar with them and to have any questions answered about them. Many claimed to have a much different view of electric vehicles after taking a quick test drive.

“I was always told that they were gutless, and I hopped in there and found it has more power than my wife’s V6” says a Correctional Officer at Stafford Creek. “My wife drives an hour back and forth to work, and that’s a lot of gas especially at these prices. So, the 300-mile range on the Leaf would work perfect for her.”