Car dealers protest proposal allowing direct EV sales in Washington state
(The Center Square) – The state Transportation Electrification Strategy is intended to help guide Washington along the path away from the use of fossil fuels in vehicles, with a 2035 ban on the sale of new gas cars. However, recent public testimony offered on the draft TES indicates that many of its recommendations or goals have numerous logistical and political hurdles ahead.
Currently, Washington state is second only behind California in EV sales, with one out of five new cars a hybrid. Yet, the state estimates that only 27% of vehicles on the road will be electric in 2040, and that it will take more than 20 years for a full transition to occur.
One of the challenges the state faces to get more EVs on the road are the relatively high prices for those vehicles compared to gas cars, as well as a limited number of charging ports around the state. According to the draft TES, “Charging infrastructure is generally decentralized, can be unreliable, lacks interoperability, and can result in queues for open chargers due to slow speeds.”
The TES draft offers numerous recommendations on how to resolve the price issue, including direct sales from EV automakers to consumers and a “cash for clunkers” type program to incentive medium and heavy-duty vehicle owners to turn them in for credit on a new EV.
The proposal to allow direct sale of EVs drew protest from several car dealerships during the EV Council’s Wednesday meeting. Among them was Shayne Goff, whose family owns Wendell Motors in Spokane and is the president of Washington State Auto Dealers Association. He told the council that the direct sale of EVs “will hurt consumers and our employees across the state in ways the recommendations simply ignored. This would ultimately put me out of business and my employees and customers would suffer. The vast majority of dealerships are family-owned small businesses.”
Also speaking in opposition was Jen Moran, executive manager of Carter Motors. She told the council that “the recommendation is shortsighted and ignores the significant negative impact this action would have on our small local businesses, employees, and communities. Many franchise new car dealerships, step up to help meet the needs in our communities that would otherwise go unmet. That's not something you see from corporate manufacturers based in California or Texas. Allowing manufacturers to cut local dealers out of the sale and service of new cars would make it hard for those local businesses to survive. If these EVs are sold directly, we would lose a long-standing relationships we have built with the customers and the community.”
Others testifying stressed to the council the importance of timely permitting for charging station ports. Cory Bullis with FLO EV Charging told the council that “streamlining local permitting processes is actually really, really important to just expediting getting EV chargers. We can sometimes often run into very inconsistent requirements across local jurisdictions and just increasing the transparency and standardizing the process to permit EV charging can really help simplify the process for us.
Expediting that process will be vital if Washington is to have 3 million EV charging ports the EV Council says the state will need by 2035. Currently there are just 4,600, which would require 250,000 built every single year starting in 2023.
However, Tesla lobbyist Jeff Gombosky told the council that “simplicity, flexibility and removing barriers are key” to achieving the TES’ goals. “There is no way we can meet Washington's decarbonization goals if charging station permitting takes six to 18 months…or if the estimated utility timelines for energizing new charging stations are over five years. These timeline challenges are not unique to Washington, and many other states and countries have adopted effective policies to reduce timelines.”
The EV Council is accepting public comment on the draft TES until Oct. 31.