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Published on July 10th, 2009 | by Greg Nickels

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Seattle will be the Leader in Clean Energy and Electric Vehicles

Greg Nickels

Editor’s Note: This is the first contribution to gas2.org by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Mayor Nickels is President of the US Conference of Mayors and was awarded the E-Visionary Award  by the World Electric Vehicle Association. For more, see electriccarrace.org.

When it comes to electric transportation, Seattle has a significant advantage.

Our city-owned utility, Seattle City Light, was the first large electric utility in the country to become carbon-neutral using hydropower, innovative energy efficiency solutions, and carbon offsets. When you are driving on City Light electricity, you are truly driving a zero emission vehicle.

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As a new generation of electric vehicles prepare to enter the market, cities along the West Coast from Vancouver B.C. to San Diego are taking steps to get plug-in ready. Because of Seattle’s partnership with Nissan, we will be leading the way and expect to be one of the first markets in the country to see Nissan’s highway-capable EV for sale in fall 2010.

To make this transition from internal combustion to electric engines, we must end the era of the filling station and usher in the era of the charging station. The first will be located in residences. In Seattle, our online permit system makes it possible for someone buying a new all-electric car to receive a quick permit for a 220 volt home charging station. I have also added code provisions requiring additional built-in capacity for electric vehicle charging in new residential construction. Right from the start, prospective customers know they’ll have a place a place to plug in.

But we’re not stopping there. We are working with Nissan and others to promote the development of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. And we are very hopeful that we will secure federal funding to establish 1,000-plus charging stations at public and private locations in the Seattle-area, including a network of fast charging stations every 3 to 5 miles throughout the region. This will be in conjunction with Washington State’s plan to establish charging stations at rest stops along Interstate-5.

With the opening of electric light rail in Seattle this July 18 (something I’ve worked 21 years to make a reality), development of a streetcar network, expansion of King County Metro’s electric bus trolleys, and introduction of electric cars, millions of trips every year will be made on carbon- free electricity. This will put us on the way to meet my goal of reducing carbon emissions by 648,000 metric tons by 2012.

By using clean electricity to power our transportation system we’ll protect our climate, and kick the foreign oil habit.

Without a doubt, Seattle will be the leader in clean energy and electric vehicles.

I extend an invitation to my fellow mayors to join us. I congratulate Portland and San Francisco for taking major steps to green up their grid while preparing for the electric car revolution. This is an exciting time, and the coming clean energy economy will open up plenty of opportunities for all of our cities to win jobs and investment.


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About the Author

Greg Nickels became the 51st Mayor of the City of Seattle on January 1, 2002. He has focused his administration on four priorities aimed at making a difference in the lives of Seattle residents: Getting Seattle moving, keeping our neighborhoods safe, creating jobs and opportunities for all, and building strong families and healthy communities. Rolling Stone called Nickels the "Pied Piper" of mayors for his work to protect our climate. Mayor Nickels challenged mayors across the U.S. to join Seattle in advancing the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. To date, more than 950 mayors representing 81 million Americans have accepted the challenge to reduce global warming pollution by taking local action.



  • Constantin

    “To make this transition from internal combustion to electric engines, we must end the era of the filling station and usher in the era of the charging station. ” This are the words for all the WORLD ! EV RULES !

  • Constantin

    “To make this transition from internal combustion to electric engines, we must end the era of the filling station and usher in the era of the charging station. ” This are the words for all the WORLD ! EV RULES !

  • Constantin

    “To make this transition from internal combustion to electric engines, we must end the era of the filling station and usher in the era of the charging station. ” This are the words for all the WORLD ! EV RULES !

  • Constantin

    “To make this transition from internal combustion to electric engines, we must end the era of the filling station and usher in the era of the charging station. ” This are the words for all the WORLD ! EV RULES !

  • Constantin

    “To make this transition from internal combustion to electric engines, we must end the era of the filling station and usher in the era of the charging station. ” This are the words for all the WORLD ! EV RULES !

  • David

    Not a bad list of best practices for other Mayors to emulate.

  • David

    Not a bad list of best practices for other Mayors to emulate.

  • http://tatetech.com lee tate

    Mayor Nickels should realize that one of the leading EV manufacturing companies in the world is in his own state and has had an extraordinarily difficult time obtaining registration in Washington. Mayor Nickels can be a very valuable proponent of creating green manufacturing jobs in Washington in the auto industry by his support for charging stations and municipality use of EVs. See http://www.commutercars.com

  • http://tatetech.com lee tate

    Mayor Nickels should realize that one of the leading EV manufacturing companies in the world is in his own state and has had an extraordinarily difficult time obtaining registration in Washington. Mayor Nickels can be a very valuable proponent of creating green manufacturing jobs in Washington in the auto industry by his support for charging stations and municipality use of EVs. See http://www.commutercars.com

  • http://tatetech.com lee tate

    Mayor Nickels should realize that one of the leading EV manufacturing companies in the world is in his own state and has had an extraordinarily difficult time obtaining registration in Washington. Mayor Nickels can be a very valuable proponent of creating green manufacturing jobs in Washington in the auto industry by his support for charging stations and municipality use of EVs. See http://www.commutercars.com

  • http://tatetech.com lee tate

    Mayor Nickels should realize that one of the leading EV manufacturing companies in the world is in his own state and has had an extraordinarily difficult time obtaining registration in Washington. Mayor Nickels can be a very valuable proponent of creating green manufacturing jobs in Washington in the auto industry by his support for charging stations and municipality use of EVs. See http://www.commutercars.com

  • Brian

    Why would a permit be needed for a 220V charging station? Do Seattle residents need to apply for a permit to connect a new 220V dryer? What about a 220V oven unit with stove top? I really don’t think it matters whether this is a quick online permit or not, it doesn’t make sense that an American citizen would need to apply for the right to use whatever they want on their 220V outlets in their own home.

  • Brian

    Why would a permit be needed for a 220V charging station? Do Seattle residents need to apply for a permit to connect a new 220V dryer? What about a 220V oven unit with stove top? I really don’t think it matters whether this is a quick online permit or not, it doesn’t make sense that an American citizen would need to apply for the right to use whatever they want on their 220V outlets in their own home.

  • http://www.turboaddict.com/ Turbo Civic

    It doesn’t make sense about having the permit to me either for one of those home chargers. How long does it take one of those chargers to charge up an electric car?

  • http://www.turboaddict.com/ Turbo Civic

    It doesn’t make sense about having the permit to me either for one of those home chargers. How long does it take one of those chargers to charge up an electric car?

  • http://home.cogeco.ca/~nvarias/ Nicholas Varias

    The effort of creating an electric vehicle charging infrastructure, at the small (private residences plug-ins) and large scale (charging stations), must be planned and coordinated with the electric power utilities to ensure sufficient capacity exists in the grid and avoid power shortages.

  • http://home.cogeco.ca/~nvarias/ Nicholas Varias

    The effort of creating an electric vehicle charging infrastructure, at the small (private residences plug-ins) and large scale (charging stations), must be planned and coordinated with the electric power utilities to ensure sufficient capacity exists in the grid and avoid power shortages.

  • http://LightRailNetwork.com Ran Loot

    News items like this continue to make me proud to be from the Emerald City. While electric, personal vehicles are very important to our future, the “new” community electric trains provides can’t be discounted. That is probably why I spent 10 years trying to show people how to live, work & play by train with my ‘Train Business Directory.’

  • http://LightRailNetwork.com Ran Loot

    News items like this continue to make me proud to be from the Emerald City. While electric, personal vehicles are very important to our future, the “new” community electric trains provides can’t be discounted. That is probably why I spent 10 years trying to show people how to live, work & play by train with my ‘Train Business Directory.’

  • flyintheointment

    Conservation will be the key for any transition away from fossil fuels. It doesn’t make sense to pay a moments notice to a work Nickels utters, while worry over a permit is infantile.

  • flyintheointment

    Conservation will be the key for any transition away from fossil fuels. It doesn’t make sense to pay a moments notice to a work Nickels utters, while worry over a permit is infantile.

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Russ Finley

    Sometimes I feel sorry for politicians. They don’t usually have an army of qualified researchers to advise them on complex technical issues. They are at the whim of what they read in newspapers and what unqualified advisers whisper in their ears.

    Seattle was one of the first cities to jump on the biodiesel bandwagon and one of the first to jump off:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/06/seattle-drops-crop-based-biodiesel.html

    I’m a big fan of electrification of transportation and couldn’t be happier with my EV:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/hybrid-electric-bike-with-afterburners.html

    I suspect that some EV enthusiasts have convinced Mayor Nickels that we need charging stations in order to make electric cars more popular–the chicken or the egg analogy. But I suspect this is more a case of putting the cart before the horse. It’s an attempt to predict the future. The end result may be a lot of wasted money, as was the biodiesel boondoggle, which I suppose is the hallmark of government.

    I’m also with the other commenters above. It’s not difficult to have an electrician install a new 220 volt 50 amp circuit in your home. The permit process is same day service. Many older homes in Seattle, however, don’t have enough electrical power to add a 50-amp circuit. They may find that out after buying an electric car and have to upgrade to a full 200-amp service, which is not cheap.

    There is also no way to predict where to put charging stations or that they will be cost effective. Especially ones on an interstate:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/03/governors-of-west-coast-states.html

    Electric cars will never be able to emulate petroleum cars when it comes to range. Electric cars of the foreseeable future will be primarily for shorter driving missions, around town errands and the like, and won’t need charging stations away from home. I certainly get by without them because I know my vehicle’s limitations.

    There is a big difference between technical feasibility and financial feasibility.

  • http://www.biodiversivist.com Russ Finley

    Sometimes I feel sorry for politicians. They don’t usually have an army of qualified researchers to advise them on complex technical issues. They are at the whim of what they read in newspapers and what unqualified advisers whisper in their ears.

    Seattle was one of the first cities to jump on the biodiesel bandwagon and one of the first to jump off:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/06/seattle-drops-crop-based-biodiesel.html

    I’m a big fan of electrification of transportation and couldn’t be happier with my EV:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/hybrid-electric-bike-with-afterburners.html

    I suspect that some EV enthusiasts have convinced Mayor Nickels that we need charging stations in order to make electric cars more popular–the chicken or the egg analogy. But I suspect this is more a case of putting the cart before the horse. It’s an attempt to predict the future. The end result may be a lot of wasted money, as was the biodiesel boondoggle, which I suppose is the hallmark of government.

    I’m also with the other commenters above. It’s not difficult to have an electrician install a new 220 volt 50 amp circuit in your home. The permit process is same day service. Many older homes in Seattle, however, don’t have enough electrical power to add a 50-amp circuit. They may find that out after buying an electric car and have to upgrade to a full 200-amp service, which is not cheap.

    There is also no way to predict where to put charging stations or that they will be cost effective. Especially ones on an interstate:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2009/03/governors-of-west-coast-states.html

    Electric cars will never be able to emulate petroleum cars when it comes to range. Electric cars of the foreseeable future will be primarily for shorter driving missions, around town errands and the like, and won’t need charging stations away from home. I certainly get by without them because I know my vehicle’s limitations.

    There is a big difference between technical feasibility and financial feasibility.

  • Don

    Good job, Mayor Nickels. Next up in Seattle ought to be to address marine uses of fossil fuels. Seattle requires ships in port to use shore power rather than running diesel generators; that’s a great start. WA and BC should follow California’s example in requiring low-sulfur diesel. Can the City of Seattle impose a similar requirement itself? How about fishing vessels and pleasure boats?

  • Don

    Good job, Mayor Nickels. Next up in Seattle ought to be to address marine uses of fossil fuels. Seattle requires ships in port to use shore power rather than running diesel generators; that’s a great start. WA and BC should follow California’s example in requiring low-sulfur diesel. Can the City of Seattle impose a similar requirement itself? How about fishing vessels and pleasure boats?

  • Rich

    My guess is because dryers don’t have large batteries and wheels (teenager to Mom “I just forgot to unplug the EV when I pulled out from the garage. It was an accident, honest.”) that’s the reason why the National Fire Protection Associations’ National Electrical Code covers appliances under Article 422 and EVs under Article 625 including limitations for cord-and-plug vs hardwired connections.

    Home insurance providers tend to care about this difference.

  • Rich

    My guess is because dryers don’t have large batteries and wheels (teenager to Mom “I just forgot to unplug the EV when I pulled out from the garage. It was an accident, honest.”) that’s the reason why the National Fire Protection Associations’ National Electrical Code covers appliances under Article 422 and EVs under Article 625 including limitations for cord-and-plug vs hardwired connections.

    Home insurance providers tend to care about this difference.

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