In an effort to make the Emerald City carbon neutral by 2050, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a wide-ranging emissions-reduction plan focused exclusively on the transportation industry. The initiative, dubbed Drive Clean Seattle, will bring thousands of new electric vehicles onto city streets, replace diesel fuels with renewable sources, and utilize the clean energy sources powering the city to make cars run on zero emissions.
Mayor Murray’s office released a summary of the Drive Clean Seattle offensive on March 10 with the specific goal of cutting into the transportation sector that accounts for 65% of emissions city-wide. To start, city vehicles will be the first to get a green makeover. Replacing gas-powered sedans is on the agenda, but an even bigger reduction in pollution will come from replacing the petrol diesel trucks use with renewable diesel and biodiesel.
These efforts would slash the emissions of city vehicles in half by 2025. Switching out city cars running on gas for EVs will take a much bigger charging network, and the mayor’s office intends to make all of Seattle a convenient place for EV drivers with 400 more stations coming online by 2023. Murray said he wants 15,000 EVs on the road — five times the current amount — by 2025.
The electrification of mass transit is on the agenda as well, though specifics on that front were not detailed at the announcement. Seattle has welcomed Car2Go and ZipCar car-sharing services to town, and the mayor’s office hinted that future targets could include public buses as the technology becomes available.
Of course, an electric vehicle plan is only as good as the grid supporting it. In this case, Seattle City Light provides a carbon-neutral source of hydroelectric power for Mayor Murray’s team to run with. As far as emissions are concerned, the outline is unassailable by critics. Drive Clean Seattle will also commit to informing residents about when to charge EVs and how to maximize energy when traveling on electric power.
The Seattle plan is at least as ambitious as the New York City electric vehicle plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in December. Both cities intend to transform municipal fleets with a huge influx of EVs, but Seattle’s initiative takes it a step further by bringing charging stations for the public into the picture.
This empowerment of city residents deserves top marks. Governments can show people how to be smarter about transportation, but without infrastructure open to the public, the effort is thin. Seattle looks ready to lead by example and give drivers the means to plug in for a cleaner city. That’s the total package.