Washington is well on its way to a carbon-neutral future. With significant investments in clean energy production, a commitment to an electrified transportation grid and sustainable aviation, the state is closing in on its aggressive and meaningful climate goals.

This is particularly true with its goal of moving away from vehicles powered by fossil fuels to electric cars and trucks. Washington ranks third in the nation in the number of electric cars per capita (14.5/1,000 people), right behind California and Hawaii.

History shows that we’ve had a way of leading the pack when it comes to discovering new ways to wean the consuming public off of gas and diesel. Perhaps it all started with Ralph Hopkins, a Seattle resident so anxious to impress the ladies in town, that he bought the first car in the city.

It wasn’t just the first car, but an electric one to boot. You read right. Powered by a three-horsepower electric motor, the 1900 Woods Electric car was ahead of its time. At the time, there were only 4,000 cars in all of the U.S. – electric or gas – and Ralph had the first in the Northwest. He paid $500 for his new-fangled electric car, which is $18,161.25 in today’s dollars.

Equally impressive, Ralph drove the car back from the Chicago factory, going south to San Francisco, then up through Oregon to Seattle’s less-than-welcoming streets. Only about a mile of the city had been paved; the rest of the streets, if you could call them that, were still dirt or brick. Safety bicycles and trolleys were the main conveyances, and neither one was ready to give up the right of way to Ralph’s odd contraption.

Today, Washington is on a mission to electrify itself on many fronts, all in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. The Washington State ferry system has embarked on a program to electrify its fleet of ferries, and several companies are developing new sustainable aviation fuel production depots. Major utilities are partnering with private enterprises to improve battery storage technologies, and two new production facilities are in the works in Eastern Washington to produce materials for advanced silicon batteries. Kenworth has been testing a new generation of electric semis to reduce carbon emissions further.

Regardless of his reasons for bringing the first car (and electric car) to Washington, it seems Ralph started something besides his electric car back in 1900.

Oh, and if you are wondering what happened to the car, it’s in storage at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.

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