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Is the goal of moving to all-electric vehicles by 2035 actually achievable?

An image of Affordable Auto Services in Moses Lake, Washington. (KOMO)
An image of Affordable Auto Services in Moses Lake, Washington. (KOMO)
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Brandon Burgess is a bit of a throwback.

“We’re one of the last full, service gas stations around,” he said in between pumps at his vintage station on Highway 171 in Moses Lake, Washington. “We’re family-owned, family-operated. My wife works here. I got my son that works in during the summer. That’s kind of what they know.”

His business called Affordable Auto Services, has actually been around since the 1940s as the old "McBrides" service station in this small Central Washington town.

Burgess is now part of an old guard, while simultaneously having a front porch to the new frontier.

You see, Moses Lake may be key to unlocking a plan now set in motion by the governors of seven states, to ban the sale of new gas vehicles by 2035.

It seems like a daunting plan on the surface considering electric vehicle sales are lagging and infrastructure is lacking.

Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is one of the state leaders pushing for the deadline. “The problem of electric cars is not that people won’t buy them, we can’t produce enough of them right now.”

But the Alliance for Automotive Innovation says there are multiple challenges are the horizon. AAI President and CEO John Bozzella, in a statement to Spotlight on America, said, “Even with the major down payment in the infrastructure legislation, we’re just not adding public charging in this country nearly fast enough to keep up with EV sales projections.”

Bozzella’s group claims There are currently about 100,000 non-proprietary public charging outlets across the country. Even with more than 930,000 new EVs added to the roads in 2022, there were only 24,622 new chargers.

He continued, “We did the math. That means there are 38 new EVs for every new public port. That’s not enough. Reliable and ubiquitous public charging is essential. Not just to overcoming range anxiety, but to convincing many more drivers, those who might be on the fence about an EV, that going electric is right for them.”

Everybody wants more range. Everybody wants to lower costs. People especially want faster charging. Charge anxiety is one of the biggest constraints to electric vehicle adoption,” said Rick Luebbe, CEO of Woodinville Washington-based Group14 Technologies, and when asked point blank about meeting the goals, he said, “It is not going to be easy. But I think it is possible.”

Luebbe’s company was specifically cited by Inslee as one of the causes for optimism. Group14 was recently awarded a $100 million federal grant to plant some seeds, in that field not too far away from Burgess’ long-standing gas station. It broke ground this month.

It plans on building a commercial scale factory to produce powder for silicon batteries, which he said can power 200,000 EVs a year, and faster than current models.

“It enables a completely different level of performance in the battery. 50% more energy density, which means 50% more range. You know if you can charge your car in 5 to 10 minutes, maybe you don’t even need that much range, so you get a smaller battery pack.”

Luebbe added, “Think about the smartphone. Can you imagine not owning a smartphone? The first iPhone just came out 15 years ago. I think that's the kind of transformation and that kind of acceleration of adoption, that we can see with EVs, as we improve the performance, as we alleviate charge anxiety."

Back on Highway 171, Brandon may be at the literal crossroads, with a view of the future and a connection to the past. He also said he wonders if the electrical grid can be built out enough to handle such a change in mindset.

“It'll affect a lot of people,” he said, or “If 2035 rolls around, they say, no more gas, you know, it's going to be hard.”

A driver pulls in, looking to schedule a tune-up. Brandon continues.

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“We’ve got to adapt into figuring out a way to service both,” he admitted, “I think there is a lot of options out there for us. But to say 2035, no more gas vehicles or no more gas vehicles to be sold. We've got a long way to go.”

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