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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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With new law, Spokane City Council makes electric vehicles a top priority

UPDATED: Mon., April 19, 2021

New Hyundai Konas are seen on the lot at Hyundai of Spokane on April 12 in Spokane Valley.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
New Hyundai Konas are seen on the lot at Hyundai of Spokane on April 12 in Spokane Valley. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane City Council approved a law Monday that will require city government to purchase electric vehicles when they’re available and cheaper than the gas-powered alternative.

The law largely mirrors existing requirements under state law, but its passage is the latest step in what has become a deliberate push by the City Council to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and embrace electric vehicles.

A 2007 state law requires that, as of June 2018, vehicles purchased by cities like Spokane be electric “to the extent practicable.”

But in recent months, the council and administration officials have diverged on exactly what is “practicable” in 2021.

The council has balked when confronted with routine purchases of new vehicles, urging the administration to buy electric instead of the proposed gas-powered models.

The new city law would essentially serve as a push for the city to comply with Washington law, which requires cities to buy electric if the estimated life-cycle cost of an electric vehicle is less than that of a gasoline-powered model.

The sponsor, Council President Breean Beggs, floated a similar proposal two years ago but the administration asked for time “to catch up and adapt to it, which they seem to be doing more recently,” Beggs said.

The law would require that the administration justify any non-electric vehicle purchases to the council’s Public Infrastructure and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

The administration has cautioned the council that the infrastructure necessary to maintain an electric vehicle fleet doesn’t yet exist in Spokane. To operate electric vehicles, the city will need more charging stations.

Councilman Michael Cathcart, the only vote against the proposal on Monday, said he was fine with the city requiring an electric vehicle be purchased if it’s cheaper, but argued the cost of building charging stations should be included in that calculation.

The council hopes the city can capitalize on Avista and the Spokane Regional Transportation Council’s efforts to install charging infrastructure in the area, which Beggs noted will be free to the city.

The legislative and executive branches of government have begun to forge compromises.

Last week, the administration agreed to pilot the use of five electric Hyundai Kona vehicles for use by parking enforcement officers.

“I’m really happy the Fleet Services Department has been working so hard to catch up with us and give us options,” Beggs said.

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