Westneat: the trendy EV gas kitchen

“When will the last gas station in Seattle turn off its lights? »

Matthieu Metz takes the lead. That’s kind of his thing – talking about crazy fringe dreamer stuff that sometimes suddenly comes true.

So it was only recently that California, then Governor Jay Inslee here in Washington, decided to get rid of gas-powered cars, with the intention of banning the sale of all new cars by 2035.

The step is monumental, an attempt at no less than phasing out the internal combustion engine. When Metz, a Seattle tort attorney turned environmental activist, began promoting this idea of ​​making America gasless, it was called “radical” and “moonbatty.”

“I would say the reaction is about 99.9% negative,” Metz told me after the introduction of the first bill to phase out gas-powered cars.

It was just five years ago. There is now a wholesale policy shift towards electric cars and other zero-emission cars, which seem to be getting a full hug from the auto industry.

“I think ultimately what happened was the environmentalists and the automakers got on the same side,” says Metz, who founded the Seattle-based Coltura Group to make pressure for gas end. “It changed everything.”

You could see it in hearings at the State Capitol in Olympia when serious lawmakers and environmentalists began to propose phasing out gas-powered cars. The heavyweights of industry would line up to crush it: automakers, car dealerships, the Western States Petroleum Association.

But automakers and dealers, while still wary of mandates, have recently softened their opposition. That’s because major automakers, such as Ford, are going electric themselves, in part to meet the need of the European market and the US West Coast, both of which are determined to s away from the gas.

“We support the goal of all-electric vehicle sales by 2030 … and remain committed to investing to achieve that goal, as well as California’s potential 2035 goals,” the Washington State Auto Dealers Association said in a statement. email when I asked for their reaction.

Automakers said meeting a specific date of 2035 would be “extremely difficult”, but called the transition to electric transport a “game changer”.

Recently in Congress, a strange group of bedfellows from major automakers, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, unions and electric utilities, formed an alliance to push for an electric car charging network and other incentives for electric cars.

“I think for automakers, they see the writing on the wall,” Metz said. “They don’t want to design two versions of every vehicle, they just prefer to choose a path. Also, Tesla ate his lunch – it might have something to do with it.

The obstacles to replacing entire car fleets in a dozen years are gargantuan. It might be technically impossible – building the charging networks, the battery supply chain, the energy network.

“Will the mining and processing of critical minerals take place in the United States? Can customers afford the vehicles? Do all communities have the same access to Level 2 home charging as single-family homeowners? pressed the Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

All good questions, says Metz. Everything can be solved, however, by a combination of market forces and government assistance, and all of this is offered in phases. People will be driving gasoline-powered cars for decades as society adapts.

Washington has 8 million registered vehicles, mostly cars, light trucks and motorcycles. Only about 100,000 of them are electric, or 1.2%. California, far ahead of us, passed one million “zero-emission vehicles” this year. This represents approximately 3% of its fleet of combustion engines.

I challenged Metz with these statistics. He replied that some cities in California have already begun banning new gas stations. Last week, Santa Rosa, a population of 180,000, larger than Bellevue, became the largest city in the country to do so.

“Change comes in big waves,” Metz said. “I admit that I’m surprised at the pace of this one. But it’s starting to happen. It’s happening with enough forces lined up behind it that you can now legitimately wonder: when will Seattle’s last gas station turn off its lights? »

Are we ahead of ourselves? The first gas station hasn’t turned off its lights yet, let alone the last one.

But no one would have predicted that two sworn enemies of the past 50 years, environmentalists and Detroit, would somehow find themselves rallying to the same side. So in front of us or not, here we go.

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