Washington Laws and Incentives for Electricity

The list below contains summaries of all Washington laws and incentives related to Electricity.

State Incentives

Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure and Battery Tax Exemptions

Public lands used for installing, maintaining, and operating EV infrastructure are exempt from leasehold excise taxes until January 1, 2020. Additionally, the state sales and use taxes do not apply to plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) batteries; labor and services for installing, repairing, altering, or improving PEV batteries and EV infrastructure; and the sale of property used for EV infrastructure. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 82.29A.125, 82.08.816, and 82.12.816)

Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Regulation Exemption

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission) may not regulate the rates, services, facilities, or practices of an entity that offers battery charging facilities to the public for hire. The exemption does not apply if the entity is otherwise subject to Commission jurisdiction as an electrical company, or if an entity's battery charging facilities and services are subsidized by any regulated service. A utility may offer battery charging facilities as a regulated service, subject to Commission approval. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 80.28.320)

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Infrastructure Funding Pilot Program

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has developed a pilot funding program to strengthen and expand the West Coast Electric Highway network by deploying direct current (DC) fast charging infrastructure along highway corridors in Washington. The WSDOT will implement the first phase of the pilot program July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019. The program is not currently accepting applications (verified May 2017). For more information, see the WSDOT's Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure website. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 47.04.350)

Alternative Fuel Commercial Vehicle Tax Credit

Businesses are eligible to receive tax credits for purchasing new alternative fuel commercial vehicles. Qualified commercial vehicles must be powered primarily by natural gas, propane, hydrogen, dimethyl ether, or electricity. Tax credit amounts vary based on gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and are up to 50% of the incremental cost, with maximum credit values as follows:

GVWRJanuary 1, 2016 to December 31, 2017January 1, 2018 to January 1, 2021
Up to 14,000 pounds (lbs.)$5,000$25,000
14,001 to 26,500 lbs.$10,000$50,000
Over 26,500 lbs.$20,000$100,000

This exemption also applies to qualified used vehicles modified with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified aftermarket conversion, as long as the vehicle is being sold for the first time after modification. Modified vehicles are eligible for credits equal to 30% of the commercial vehicle conversion cost, up to $25,000. The converted vehicle must be less than two years old and have an odometer reading of fewer than 30,000 miles. Beginning January 1, 2018, eligible converted vehicles must be less than ten years old and have an odometer reading of fewer than 450,000 miles.

Each entity may claim up to $250,000 or credits for 25 vehicles per year. Credits may be earned between January 1, 2016, and January 1, 2021. All credits earned must be used in that calendar year or the subsequent year. Tax credits are available on a first-in-time basis and are subject to annual limits of $2 million per weight class.

(Reference House Bill 1809, 2017, and Revised Code of Washington 82.16.0497)

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Emissions Inspection Exemption

Dedicated electric, natural gas, and propane vehicles are exempt from state emissions control inspections. HEVs that obtain a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy rating of at least 50 miles per gallon during city driving are also exempt from these inspections. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 46.16A.060)

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Tax Exemption

New passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles that are dedicated AFVs are exempt from state motor vehicle sales and use taxes. Qualified vehicles include vehicles capable of operating exclusively on natural gas, propane, hydrogen, or electricity, and plug-in electric vehicles that are capable of being charged by an external power source and can travel at least 30 miles using only electricity. Qualified vehicles must meet the California motor vehicle emissions standards and comply with the rules of the Washington Department of Ecology. The sales tax exemption applies to up to $32,000 of a vehicle's selling price or the total amount of lease payments made. If the original lessee purchased the leased vehicle before the exemptions expire, the exemption applies the total lease payments made plus the selling price of the leased vehicle, up to $32,000. The sales tax exemption expires July 1, 2019. A vehicle purchased or leased before July 1, 2019, is exempt from the use tax until it is retired or changes hands. For more information, see the Green Incentives section of Washington Department of Revenue's Incentives Programs website. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 82.08.809 and 82.12.809)

Utility Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Return on Investment Incentive

Utilities may petition the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) for a rate of return on EVSE installed for the benefit of ratepayers. The UTC may approve an additional 2% to the standard rate of return if the utility installs EVSE on a fully regulated basis similar to other capital investments behind a customer's meter, and the expenditures do not increase ratepayer costs more than 0.25%. To be eligible for the incentive, utilities must install EVSE in locations where vehicles are likely to park longer than two hours. EVSE must be installed after July 1, 2015, and all claims are subject to an EVSE depreciation schedule. After the equipment has fully depreciated, the utility may gift the EVSE to the owner of the property. The UTC must report to the legislature on the use and impacts of the incentive by December 31, 2017. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 80.28.360)

Laws and Regulations

Local Government Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Infrastructure Requirements

Jurisdictions must develop regulations to allow the use of PEV infrastructure and battery charging stations in all areas except critical areas or areas zoned for residential or resource use. The Washington Department of Commerce included a model ordinance, development regulations, and guidance for local governments for site assessment and installing PEV infrastructure in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure: A Guide for Local Governments in Washington State. This requirement applies to jurisdictions that meet specific location criteria and is contingent upon federal funding. Additionally, cities or municipalities may adopt incentive programs to encourage retrofitting of existing structures capable of charging PEVs. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 35.63.126, 35.63.127, 35A.63.107, 36.70.695, 36.70A.695, and 43.31.970)

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Road User Assessment System Pilot

The Washington Transportation Commission (Commission) established a steering committee to determine the feasibility of transitioning from a fuel tax to a road user assessment system in the state. In 2012, the Commission conducted a limited scope pilot project to test the feasibility of this new system as it applies to PEVs. For the results of this evaluation, see the Washington State Department of Transportation Report. In 2016, the Commission was tasked with completing an implementation plan for a road usage charge pilot project, and the Commission will begin a year-long pilot project in fall 2017. For more information, see the Commission's Road Usage Charge Assessment website.

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Signage and Parking Regulations

A PEV charging station must be indicated by vertical signage that properly identifies the station and indicates that it is only for PEV charging. The signage must be consistent with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and the station must be indicated by green pavement markings. A PEV charging station is defined as a public or private parking space that is served by charging equipment with the primary purpose of transferring electric energy to a battery or other energy storage device in a PEV. Any person who parks a vehicle in a PEV charging station parking space and does not connect to the equipment is subject to a fine of $124. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 46.08.185)

Low Carbon Fuel and Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Acquisition Requirement

Washington state agencies must consider purchasing low carbon fuel vehicles or converting conventional vehicles to use low carbon fuels when financially comparable over the vehicle's useful life. Low carbon fuels include hydrogen, biomethane, electricity, or natural gas blends of at least 90%. State agencies must achieve an average fuel economy of 36 miles per gallon for passenger vehicle fleets in motor pools and leased conventional vehicles. State agencies must also purchase low carbon fuel vehicles or, when purchasing new conventional vehicles, achieve an average fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon (mpg) for light-duty passenger vehicles and 27 mpg for light-duty vans and sport utility vehicles. When calculating average fuel economy, emergency response vehicles, passenger vans with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or greater, off-road vehicles, low carbon fuel vehicles, and vehicles driven less than 2,000 miles per year are excluded. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 43.19.622)

Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Definitions

EV infrastructure is defined as structures, machinery, and equipment necessary and integral to support a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV), including battery charging stations, rapid charging stations, and battery exchange stations. A battery charging station is defined as an electrical component assembly or cluster of component assemblies designed specifically to charge batteries within a PEV. A rapid charging station is defined as an industrial grade electrical outlet that allows for faster recharging of PEV batteries through higher power levels. A battery exchange station is defined as a fully automated facility that will enable a PEV with a swappable battery to enter a drive lane and exchange the depleted battery with a fully charged battery through a fully automated process. Infrastructure must meet or exceed any applicable state building standards, codes, and regulations. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 19.27.540, 19.28.281, and 47.80.090)

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Promotion and Infrastructure Development

Any regional transportation planning organization containing a county with a population greater than one million must collaborate with state and local governments to promote PEV use, invest in PEV charging infrastructure, and seek federal or private funding for these efforts. Collaborative planning efforts may include: 1) developing short- and long-term plans outlining how state, regional, and local governments may construct electric vehicle supply equipment locations and ensure that the infrastructure can be electrically supported; 2) supporting public education and training programs on PEVs; 3) developing an implementation plan for counties with a population greater than 500,000 to have 10% of public and private parking spaces ready for PEV charging by December 31, 2018; and 4) developing model ordinances and guidance for local governments for site assessment and installing PEV infrastructure. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 47.80.090)

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) and Battery Exchange Station Regulations

State and local governments may lease land for installing, maintaining, and operating EVSE or electric vehicle battery exchange stations for up to 50 years for at least $1 per year. Additionally, the installation of battery charging and exchange stations is categorically exempt from the Washington Environmental Policy Act. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 79.13.100 and 43.21C.410)

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Fee

PEV owners must pay an annual vehicle registration renewal fee of $150. This fee expires if the legislature imposes a vehicle miles traveled fee or tax in the state. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with an all-electric range of at least 30 miles are subject to the registration renewal fee. PEV registration fees will contribute to the state's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Bank to deploy charging stations through public-private partnerships. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 46.17.323)

Provision for Alternative Fuels Corridor Pilot Projects

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) may enter into partnership agreements with other public and private entities to use land for alternative fuel corridor pilot projects. In particular, WSDOT should continue to build out the electric vehicle charging network along state highways and at key destinations. Minimum requirements apply and these agreements are subject to funding availability. (Reference Executive Order 14-04, 2014, and Revised Code of Washington 47.38.070)

State Agency Coordination to Address Climate Change

Washington state agencies are charged with a number of clean transportation initiatives to address climate change concerns, including:

  • The Washington State Department of Transportation must work with federal, state, regional, and local partners to develop an action plan to advance electric vehicle use, including recommendations on targeted incentives for consumers and businesses, infrastructure funding mechanisms, signage, and building codes.
  • The Washington Office of Financial Management must work with other state agencies, subject matter experts, affected industries, and the public to evaluate the technical feasibility, costs and benefits, and job implications of requiring the use of cleaner transportation fuels through a low carbon fuel standard.
  • The Washington Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Ecology must work with the regional transportation planning organizations, counties, and cities to develop a new program to provide financial and technical assistance for local governments to implement transportation efficiency improvement measures, and to update their comprehensive plans to maximize efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
Agencies must report to the governor annually on progress made towards these and other climate change goals.

(Reference Executive Order 14-04, 2014)

Alternative Fuel Use Requirement

All state agencies must, to the extent practicable, use 100% biofuels or electricity to operate all publicly owned vehicles. Agencies may substitute natural gas or propane for electricity or biofuel if the Washington State Department of Commerce (Department) determines that electricity and biofuel are not reasonably available. Practicability and measures of compliance are defined in rules adopted by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

In addition, effective June 1, 2018, all local government agencies must, to the extent practicable, use 100% biofuels or electricity to operate all publicly owned vehicles. The Department must define practicability and measures of compliance for local governments through a rulemaking. Transit agencies using compressed natural gas (CNG) and engine retrofits that would void vehicle warranties are exempt from this requirement. To allow the motor vehicle fuel needs of state and local government to be satisfied by Washington-produced biofuels, the Washington Department of Enterprise Services and local governments may contract in advance and execute contracts with public or private producers and suppliers for the purchase of appropriate biofuels. Agencies may substitute natural gas or propane in vehicles if the Department determines that biofuels and electricity are not reasonably available.

(Reference Washington Administrative Code 194-28 and Revised Code of Washington 43.19.647 and 43.19.648)

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Infrastructure Availability

Publicly and privately owned PEVs may charge at state office locations if the vehicles are used for state business, conducting business with the state, or as commuter vehicles. Additionally, contingent upon funding, the state must install electrical outlets suitable for charging PEVs in each of the state's fleet parking and maintenance facilities as well as every state-operated highway rest stop. The Washington Department of Enterprise Services may report to the governor and the legislature on the amount of electricity consumed and the number of PEVs using state-owned charging equipment if it represents a significant cost to the state. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 43.01.250, 43.19.648, and 47.38.075)

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Study

The Washington Joint Transportation Committee (Committee), in coordination with the Washington Department of Transportation, local governments, and industry stakeholders, evaluated the current status of EVSE in Washington and made recommendations for potential business models for financially-sustainable EVSE deployment. For more information, including a copy of the interim and final report, see the Committee website.


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