Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Edmonds and are getting serious about electric vehicles.
In the third quarter of 2023 (July-September) 25% of purchases of new cars and trucks registered in Mountlake Terrace were purchases of electric vehicles. In Lynnwood, the electric vehicle purchase rate was 20%, up 201% over third quarter 2022. Edmonds’ new vehicle purchases were 16% electric.
Electric vehicles are an important part of local efforts to live up to the United States’ 2015 promise to stop all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Some progress towards zero emissions in 2050 will come from people driving less. The rest will come from electric vehicles for public transportation and for families’ cars and trucks.
Washington State has required that 100% of new car sales be electric by 2035. If Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace continue their current trends, they will have no trouble getting to 100% electric by 2035. Edmonds’s 11% growth will not get Edmonds to 100% by 2035. Perhaps Edmonds will speed up.
One way to get to 100% electric vehicles by 2050 is to stop buying gas-powered vehicles now. If your next car is electric, you will be all set by 2050. Even if you bought a gas-powered car yesterday, it will wear out before 2050, and Washington State has committed to get all fossil fuels out of electricity generation by 2045. That means that your electric vehicle will run on electricity that was generated without burning coal or gas, and without releasing carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the primary air pollutant behind global overheating.
Buying only electric isn’t easy if there are few electric options. For cars, that is an issue in the used market. The used cars you can find come from all of the last 20 model years. Electric vehicles did not take off until recently, so electric vehicles are a smaller part of what is available in used cars. In the used market, electric vehicles are 1-2% of sales.
Most of the cars and trucks you see on the roads are not new. They are mostly the kinds of vehicles people bought five or ten years ago. That was before electric vehicles were as common as they are now. Registered cars and trucks include fewer electric vehicles than new car sales.
In September, 2.8% of Edmonds’s registered vehicles were electric, up 25% since last September. Mountlake Terrace registrations were 1.9% electric vehicles, up 56% over last year. Lynnwood had the largest growth in electric-vehicle registrations: up 85% from 2022 to 2023.
The most important aspect of car ownership for stopping global overheating is how many gas cars there are. It is not essential that people buy electric vehicles. What is important is that they stop burning gasoline. For that, it would work just as well or better to get rid of your gas car and walk, bike and telecommute.
In all three cities, people owned fewer gasoline cars and trucks in 2023 than they did in 2022. In Lynnwood, the number of registered gasoline vehicles increased by 11 cars from September 2022 to September 2023. This tiny increase in spite of Lynnwood’s population growth. The Federal Census Bureau estimates that Lynnwood population has been growing about 6% each year.
The Census Bureau estimates that Mountlake Terrace has been growing by 0.6% each year. In Mountlake Terrace, the number of gasoline cars dropped 0.9% from September 2022 to September 2023.
Edmonds had the largest drop in gasoline cars and trucks: 2.0% from 2022 to 2023. This drop in gasoline-burning vehicles is partly due to Edmonds’s reduction in the number of people. The Census Bureau estimates that Edmonds has been shrinking by 0.3% each year.
Most of the greenhouse gases that are released by residents in Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and Edmonds are from burning gasoline in vehicles and from burning natural gas in homes.
I can report on how natural gas is progressing in Edmonds. Data on Edmonds natural gas burning is available online. So far, I have not found natural gas burning data for Mountlake Terrace or Lynnwood.
There is some promising improvement in natural gas burning in Edmonds. In September 2021 through August 2022, Edmonds burned 1.03 billion cubic feet of natural gas. In the following 12 months – September 2022 through August 2023 – Edmonds residents and businesses burned 5% less: 0.98 billion cubic feet.
This 5% improvement is promising. And at the same time, it is not yet progress over recent natural gas burning. From 2017 through 2021, Edmonds burned between 0.95 and 0.98 billion cubic feet of natural gas every 12 months.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Before accounting for the greenhouse gas emissions of the equipment used to extract and deliver the natural gas, last year’s Edmonds natural gas burning added the equivalent of about 83,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
To learn more
For more about electric vehicle adoption and details behind these figures, see reporting at Climate Protection Northwest. For explanation of the geographies reported on here, see the last report on the adoption of electric vehicles and natural gas usage.
— Nick Maxwell is a Climate Reality seminar leader in Edmonds, a Rewiring America local leader, and a climate protection educator at Climate Protection Northwest.