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Green Vehicle Laws and Regulations in Washington

Washington has numerous green vehicle laws aimed at protecting the planet and improving the state's air quality. These include mandatory emissions tests, placard requirements for alternative fuel vehicles, charging regulations for electric vehicles, operating restrictions for medium-speed EVs and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), annual license fees for natural gas and propane, and more.

Washington recognizes the importance of investing in alternative energies. In fact, it has plans in place to install EV charging stations at State-run highway rest stops and enhance the EV charging infrastructure throughout the state. As regulations and related green driver incentives continue to evolve, you should also consider checking in with your local Washington Department of Licensing branch and the government's Alternative Fuels Data Center in addition to referencing this page.

Washington Emissions Test Requirements

Washington requires emissions testing in the following counties every 2 years:*

  • Clark County.
  • King County.
  • Pierce County.
  • Snohomish County.
  • Spokane County.

*However, not all ZIP codes within certain counties require emissions tests. See the full list of ZIP codes requiring emissions checks.

Emissions Test Exemptions

Regardless of your ZIP code, you never have to take the following in for an emissions test. Fuel-efficient vehicles exempt from emissions testing include:

  • Hybrid motor vehicles (powered by a propulsion unit that runs both by electricity and gas) with an Environmental Protection Agency miles per gallon (mpg) rating of 50 mpg or more during city driving.
  • Alternative fuel vehicles powered exclusively by:
    • Electricity.
    • Liquid petroleum gas (propane).
    • Compressed natural gas (CNG).
  • Diesel vehicles older than 2007 (weighing 6,000 lbs. or fewer).
  • Diesel vehicles model-year 2007 and newer (no weight limit).
  • Motorcycles.
  • Vehicles model-year 2009 and newer.
  • Vehicles over 25 years old.

The Department of Ecology states that the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are exempt from emissions testing. However, don't assume all hybrid electric vehicles are exempt.

Also note that we've only mentioned exemptions for eco-friendly vehicles. Refer to the Revised Code of Washington 46.16A.060 for a full list of exemptions.

For info on emissions test requirements, fees, tips for passing, retests, and more, consult the Washington Vehicle Emission Check Program and our page on WA smog checks.

You can also contact the Department of Ecology in Washington's emissions-testing areas:

WA Electric Vehicle (EV) Registration Renewal Fee

When renewing vehicle registration for an electric vehicle, you must pay $100 in addition to any other fees and taxes required by the State. This fee only applies to EVs designed to go faster than 35 MPH. For more on this, refer to the Revised Code of Washington (46.17.323) or contact your local DOL agent.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Placard Requirement

If your automobile, truck, motorcycle, motor home, or off-road vehicle runs on an alternative fuel source (listed below), you must obtain a reflective placard from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)*. These include:

  • Propane.
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG).
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
  • Any chemically similar gas that isn't gasoline or diesel fuel.

*You may also obtain a placard from the chief of the Washington state patrol if the NFPA doesn't issue you one.

These reflective placards warn firefighters of vehicles using alternative fuel sources, which often require a different extinguishing technique should they catch fire. Therefore, if you fail to obtain and display a placard, you could face a traffic infraction. Refer to the Washington Administrative Code (Chapter 212-50-070) for specifics on placement.

Refer to the Revised Code of Washington (46.37.467) for further details.

Natural Gas and Propane Annual Fee

If your vehicle runs on natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (propane), you must pay an annual license fee in lieu of the special fuel tax Washington otherwise applies. WA bases the fee amount—for the use of natural gas or propane in a motor vehicle—on each vehicle's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR):

  • Fewer than 6,000 lbs.: $45.
  • 6,001 to 10,000 lbs.: $45.
  • 10,001 to;18,000 lbs.: $80.
  • 18,001 to 28,000 lbs.: $110
  • 28,001 to 36,000 lbs.: $150.
  • 36,001 lbs. or more: $250.

Calculate the actual license fee for the registration year by multiplying the appropriate amount from the above schedule by the motor fuel tax rate (cents per gallon), then dividing the total by 12 cents.

Additionally, you must also pay a $5 handling fee to the WA Department of Licensing per license issued. You'll receive a decal (or some other proof of payment) that you must display on your vehicle in order to buy natural gas or propane.

For more info, refer to the Revised Code of Washington (82.38.075), the State's list of vehicle fees, or contact your Washington DOL branch.

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Parking Rules

Washington only allows parking at a public or private EV charging station* while connected to charging equipment. Otherwise, you could get a ticket for $124.

When it comes to this Washington parking requirement, an electric vehicle charging station refers to a public or private parking space with charging equipment used primarily to transfer electricity to a battery or some other energy storage device in an EV.

For more on electric vehicle charging stations, including signage and penalties, refer to the Revised Code of Washington (46.08.185).

Washington EV Charging at State Office Locations

Washington permits privately and publicly owned plug-in electric vehicles to recharge at state office locations under a few conditions. Such vehicle charging is permitted when the vehicles meet one of the following:

  • Are used for state business.
  • Are commute vehicles.
  • Are conducting business with the state at that location.

For full details, consult the Revised Code of Washington (43.01.250).

Driving Restrictions for Medium-Speed and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs)

To legally drive a medium-speed or neighborhood electric vehicle, you must be hold a valid driver's license, have adequate auto insurance coverage, and your vehicle must be properly registered.

If you meet the above conditions, you may operate a medium-speed or neighborhood electric vehicle on highways with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less. In counties with islands that are only connected to the mainland by way of ferry routes, you may operate your medium-speed electric vehicle or NEV on highways with a speed limit of 45 MPH or less.

Certain state routes are off limits for both types of vehicles. However, there are certain exceptions when crossing an intersecting road with a speed limit greater than the maximums posted above. Refer to the regulations detailed in the Revised Code of Washington for more on medium-speed electric vehicles (RCW 46.61.723) and NEVs (RCW 46.61.725).

Medium-speed electric vehicles and neighborhood electric vehicles defined

For the purposes of these road restrictions, Washington defines a medium-speed electrical vehicle and a neighborhood electric vehicle as:

Medium-speed electric vehicle�Any self-propelled, electrically powered motor vehicle with 4 wheels that:

Neighborhood electric vehicle�Any self-propelled, electrically powered motor vehicle with 4 wheels that:

Find a Nearby Washington Emissions Testing Station

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