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Alternative Fuels -- State Regulations for Washington

This page contains selected data from the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) at the U. S. Department of Energy. Additional details and the latest updates may be found at the AFDC summary page for Washington.

Vehicle Acquisition

All vehicles (emissions standards mandate)

Washington adopted the California motor vehicle emission standards in Title 13 of the California Code of Regulations, with the exception of California's zero emission vehicle program. The Washington Department of Ecology adopted rules to implement these emissions standards for passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles, known as the Clean Car Law. Each manufacturer's fleet of passenger cars and light-duty trucks delivered for sale in the state of Washington must proportionately conform to the zero emission vehicle requirements of California motor vehicle emissions standards, including credit banking provisions using Washington specific vehicle numbers. Model Year 2009 and later vehicles are exempt from state emissions inspections. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 70.120A.010 and 70.120A.020, and Washington Administrative Code 173-423)

State agency vehicles

Washington state agencies must consider purchasing ultra low carbon fuel vehicles or converting conventional vehicles to use ultra low carbon fuels when financially comparable over the vehicle's useful life. Ultra low carbon fuels include hydrogen, biomethane, electricity, or at least 90% natural gas. State agencies must phase in fuel economy standards for motor pools and leased conventional vehicles to achieve an average fuel economy of 36 miles per gallon for passenger vehicle fleets by 2015. State agencies must purchase ultra 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, ultra low carbon fuel vehicles, and vehicles driven less than 2,000 miles per year are excluded. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 43.41.130)

Fuel Use

All vehicles (biodiesel blend mandate)

At least 2% of all diesel fuel sold in Washington must be biodiesel or renewable diesel. This requirement will increase to 5%, 180 days after the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) determines that in-state feedstocks and oil-seed crushing capacity can meet a 3% requirement. Renewable diesel is defined as a diesel fuel substitute produced from non-petroleum renewable sources, including vegetable oils and animal fats, meets the federal registration requirements for fuels and fuel additives and ASTM specification D975.Additionally, at least 2% of the total gasoline sold in the state must be denatured ethanol. The ethanol requirement may be increased if the Washington Department of Ecology determines that this increase would not jeopardize continued attainment of federal Clean Air Act standards and WSDA determines that the state can economically support the production of higher ethanol blends.All state agencies with jurisdiction over renewable fuel infrastructure, specifically storage, blending, and dispensing equipment, are required to expedite related application and permitting processes. The governor may suspend these requirements by Executive Order if the standard is temporarily technically or economically infeasible, or poses a significant risk to public safety.(Reference Revised Code of Washington 19.112.010 and 19.112.110 through 19.112.180)

All vehicles (greenhouse gas emissions standards, planned)

Washington must limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve the following reductions:By 2020, reduce overall GHG emissions in the state to 1990 levels;By 2035, reduce overall GHG emissions in the state to 25% below 1990 levels; andBy 2050, reducing overall emissions to 50% below 1990 levels, or 70% below the state's expected emissions that year.To reach these goals, the state will ensure that vehicles sold in the state meet stringent emissions standards; work with farmers, entrepreneurs, fuel distributors, and retailers to ensure that biofuel feedstocks are grown in Washington; ensure that refiners, blenders, and distributors of biofuels create jobs in the state; and strive to make it possible for the public to purchase fuel blends that reduce dependence on imported oil. The Washington Department of Ecology developed a comprehensive plan to reduce the state's GHG emissions.(Reference Revised Code of Washington 70.235.020 and Executive Order 07-02, 2007)

County vehicles (King County)

As directed by local Executive Orders and the King County Acting Locally Initiative, King County departments must increase their use of "green" power and biodiesel. At least 50% of King County's total energy use must be generated from renewable energy sources by 2012 for non-transit uses and 2020 for transit uses. Additionally, biodiesel blends used in the county's vehicles must increase from 5% biodiesel (B5) to 20% biodiesel (B20) such that the county uses 2.5 million gallons of biofuels annually. For more information, see the King County Executive Press Release and the 2010 King County Energy Plan (PDF).

State agency vehicles

At least 20% of all diesel fuel used to fuel state agency vehicles, vessels, and construction equipment must be biodiesel. The Washington Department of Enterprise Development must assist state agencies by coordinating the purchase and delivery of biodiesel if requested, using long-term contracts if necessary, to secure a sufficient and stable supply of biodiesel. For state agencies complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) mandate, at least 2% biodiesel (B2) must be used as an additive to ULSD for lubricity, provided that the use of a lubricity additive is appropriate and that performance and cost are comparable with other available lubricity additives. (Reference House Bill 2190, 2012, and Revised Code of Washington 43.19.642 and 43.19.646)

State agency vehicles (2015)

Effective June 1, 2015, all state agencies must use 100% biofuels or electricity to operate all publicly owned vehicles. To phase in this requirement, all state agencies must achieve 40% biofuel or electricity use by June 1, 2013. In addition, effective June 1, 2018, all local government agencies must use 100% biofuels or electricity to operate all publically owned vehicles. Transit agencies using compressed natural gas (CNG) 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. Government agencies may substitute CNG, liquefied natural gas, or propane in vehicles if the Washington Department of Commerce determines that biofuels and electricity are not reasonably available. (Reference House Bill 2545, 2012, and Revised Code of Washington 43.19.647 through 43.19.648)


Definition (biodiesel)

Biodiesel fuel is defined as a mono alkyl ester of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats for use in compression-ignition engines and meets the requirements of the ASTM specification D6751 in effect as of January 1, 2003. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 19.112.010 and 82.04.4334)

Definition (E85)

E85 motor fuel is defined as an alternative fuel that is a blend of ethanol and hydrocarbon, of which the ethanol portion is 75-85% denatured fuel ethanol by volume and complies with the most current ASTM specification D5798. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 19.112.010 and 82.04.4334)

Inspection Exemption (emissions)

Dedicated electric, compressed 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)

Labeling Requirement (pumps)

All motor fuel pumps dispensing alcohol blended gasoline must be labeled with the alcohol product name (e.g., ethyl alcohol) and the alcohol content. The statement must be posted in letters measuring at least half an inch high. Pumps dispensing ethanol or biodiesel blends must have a label that specifies the percentage of ethanol or biodiesel present in the fuel. Pumps dispensing biodiesel blends of 5% (B5) or less must include a label stating that the fuel "may contain up to five percent biodiesel." (Reference Revised Code of Washington 19.112.020, and Washington Administrative Code 16-657-040)

Labeling Requirement (alternative fuel vehicles)

Every alternative fuel automobile, truck, motorcycle, motor home, or off-road vehicle must bear a reflective placard from the National Fire Protection Association indicating that the vehicle is powered by an alternative fuel. Alternative fuels include propane and compressed natural gas. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 46.37.467)

Storage Regulations

Underground storage tank regulations apply to all biodiesel blends with the exception of 100% biodiesel (B100). An owner changing the use of an underground storage tank from storage of diesel to B100 must communicate the change to the Washington Department of Ecology and must first have a site assessment performed by a certified site assessor. (Reference Washington Administrative Code 173-360)

Tax (natural gas, propane powered vehicles)

Owners of compressed natural gas and propane powered vehicles are required to pay an annual license fee, based on gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), instead of motor fuel excise taxes. The fee is calculated as follows:GVWR FeeLess than 10,000 pounds (lbs.) $4510,001 - 18,000 lbs. $8018,001 - 28,000 lbs. $11028,001 - 36,000 lbs. $150More than 36,000 lbs. $250To determine the actual annual license fee imposed per registration year, multiply the appropriate dollar amount given in the above schedule by the motor vehicle fuel tax rate in cents per gallon effective on July 1 of the preceding calendar year, and divide the resulting amount by $0.12. In addition, there is a $5 handling fee for each license issued.(Reference Revised Code of Washington 82.36.025 and 82.38.075)

Tax Deduction (auxiliary power)

Tax incentives are available for the infrastructure and services that support the use of auxiliary power for vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings of more than 14,000 pounds through on-board or stand-alone electrification systems. These incentives include a business and occupation tax deduction and a sales and tax exemption for machinery and equipment used to provide auxiliary power at truck stops. Sales and use tax exemptions are also available for any parts and labor necessary to enable heavy-duty diesel trucks to accept power for onboard electrification systems. These exemptions expire July 1, 2015. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 82.04.4338, 82.08.815, 82.08.825, 82.15.815, and 82.12.825)

Tax Exemption (fuel delivery vehicles)

Fuel delivery vehicles, machinery, equipment, and related services that are used for the retail sale or distribution of biodiesel blends of 20% biodiesel (B20) or greater or E85 motor fuel are exempt from state retail fuel sales and use taxes until July 1, 2015. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 82.08.955 and 82.12.955)

Tax Exemption (alternative fuel vehicles)

New passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles that are dedicated AFVs are exempt from the state motor vehicle sales and use taxes. Qualified vehicles must operate exclusively on natural gas, propane, hydrogen, or electricity; meet the California motor vehicle emissions standards; and comply with the rules of the Washington Department of Ecology. This exemption also applies to qualified used vehicles that are 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. The converted vehicle must be part of a fleet of at least five vehicles owned by the same person and have an odometer reading of less than 30,000 miles. This tax exemption expires July 1, 2015. (Reference Revised Code of Washington 82.08.809 and 82.12.809)

Weight Limit Exemption (idle reduction)

A motor vehicle equipped with a fully functional idle reduction system designed to reduce fuel use and emissions from engine idling may exceed the state maximum weight limitations by up to 400 pounds to compensate for the added weight of the idle reduction technology. (Reference Washington Administrative Code 468-38-073)