Snohomish County plays a huge part in going green
BY BRYAN CORLISS
In the 21st century, we take for granted our ability to eat fresh tropical produce in mid-winter, thanks to air freight. Our morning commutes can cover distances that our ancestors would have considered overnight trips on horseback. The West wasn’t truly settled until steam trains burning coal and wood cut the travel time across the plains from six months to 10 days.
But this revolution has come with a price.
Today, transportation accounts for 28 percent of the greenhouse gases Americans pump into the atmosphere each year — and the absolute amount of it has doubled over the past three decades.
If we’re going to slow and eventually reverse the effects of climate change on our planet, we need to start by changing the ways we move people and goods across it.
Snohomish County companies, agencies, and businesses are all playing a part in this transition.
In the 20th century, Snohomish County became the home of Boeing’s 747 — the jet that opened air travel to the masses.
In the 21st century, two closely intertwined start-up companies are leading a new aerospace revolution: zero-emission, battery-powered flight.
Earlier this year, mechanics at Eviation in Arlington began assembling the first production model of Alice, a nine-passenger commuter plane. Down the road in Everett, a different team of workers assembled the three 375-horsepower electric motors that will spin the propellers that will push Alice through the sky.
Their goal is to have the first Alices ready to start flight-testing this summer, says Roei Ganzarski, who is chairman of Eviation and CEO of magniX. What an exciting year 2021 is going to be.
Eviation and magniX are two of the newest members of the Snohomish County aerospace cluster.
Eviation was founded in 2015 in Israel, while magniX got its start in 2009 in Australia. The companies share a majority owner in the Clermont Group, a Singapore- based industrial conglomerate.
Despite their global roots, when it came time to establish a permanent home, Ganzarski says the companies needed to be in a place where aircraft manufacturing is a way of life: here in Puget Sound.
It’s the ecosystem that Boeing has created around it — all the suppliers and the academics and the technical colleges, he says.
“We really wanted to choose a location that was akin to and supportive of a start-up in aviation.”
Ganzarski says the company settled on Arlington largely because it was far enough away from Seattle’s metro core to be affordable, yet close enough to the city that Eviation could recruit from the already-considerable central Puget Sound labor force.
Having close access to Paine Field and its scheduled air service is a big plus for customers flying in to do business with both companies. And having the two companies close to each other means that airlines shopping for electric planes can visit an engine supplier and an aircraft assembler in the same morning.
With Alice, the Eviation-magniX partnership is aiming to create an all-electric commuter aircraft to fly what the industry calls “the middle mile” — trips of 500 nautical miles (or 575 statute miles) or less. Think of flights from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta, or Portland to San Francisco or Paris to London – round trip.
Alice will be cheaper to operate than similarly sized carbon-powered planes, Ganzarski says. It’s powered by electricity, which is cheaper than the kerosene most aircraft burn in flight. And since electric motors have fewer moving parts, Alice will have lower maintenance costs.
While electric planes are certainly capable of flying these kinds of trips, it will be decades before we see 737-sized electric planes rolling out of Boeing-sized factories, industry analysts predict.
It could certainly have a role in smaller aircraft. Certainly in commuter aircraft,”says Kevin Michaels, with AeroDynamic Advisory in Michigan.
And if electric aircraft manufacturing is going to succeed anywhere, it will probably be here in the Northwest, according to oft-quoted Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia.
“It does seem that that combination of entrepreneurialism and engineering and background in aviation is there,” he says. “There will be opportunities for the Pacific Northwest to lead the way.”
Before automobiles and highways linked our communities together, trains efficiently carried people and goods between the towns that line Puget Sound. Sound Transit is working to bring some of that back.
By 2024, commuters will be able to take a train from Lynnwood to Seattle, says John Gallagher, a spokesman for the agency.
Sound Transit broke ground on the Lynnwood extension in September 2019, and by the end of 2020, work was already more than 25 percent complete, he says. “It’s moving along at a pretty amazing pace.”
Earlier this year, work was completed to move the rail line over I-5 near Mountlake Terrace. Construction is also underway on three new parking garages — one in Lynnwood, two in Shoreline — that will allow 1,500 commuters to park their cars and ride the train in.
Industry experts say that 2021 is going to be the year that electric cars move into the fast lane.
Washington state was the No. 3 U.S. market for sales of battery-powered and hybrid- electric vehicles in 2018 (the most-recent year for which data is available).
Hybrid and electric vehicles remain a small fraction of new car sales; they’ll account for about 3 percent of all cars and trucks sold this year, according to industry analysts.
But the sales numbers are poised to surge: In 2021, auto sales in general are expected to recover, as the overall economy improves, post- Covid. In addition, automakers have released new hybrids and fully-electric models that have expanded available vehicle types beyond Teslas and Priuses to a full range of luxury sports cars, off-road vehicles, pickup trucks, and family SUVs.
There’s a pent-up demand for electric vehicles, Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors, told CNBC.
“The European automakers and Tesla are all adding capacity and that will really have an impact.”
Jaffe and other analysts project between 1.3 million and 1.5 million electric and hybrid vehicles will be sold this year worldwide, about a third of them in the U.S. But a lot depends on the post-Covid recovery. “Consumer confidence is key,” he says.
Some of the top new hybrid and fully electric cars for 2021:
BMW i3 – The i3 is a German car whose lightweight, carbon-fiber body panels come from a plant in Moses Lake. The compact four-seater has been on the market for four years, and got a design refresh for 2021, along with a sportier trim model, the i3S, which got BMW’s Dynamic Traction Control system for better handling.
The i3 and i3S are fully electric, but both come with an optional “range extender” — a gas-powered, two-stroke generator that provides additional battery charge while you drive.
Starting price for the i3 is about $44,000 and about $48,000 for the i3S before tax credits.
FORD F-150 HYBRID – Ford this year is out with a hybrid version of North America’s best-selling pickup, the F-150, and it’s getting rave reviews.
It’s the first hybrid pickup I’d buy with my own money, says CNET’s Chris Paukert.
The hybrid actually has more horsepower and torque than any of Ford’s carbon-powered F-150s, and at 24 mpg (city and highway), the four-wheel-drive version outperforms similarly-sized rear-wheel Chevys, Rams, and Toyotas for gas mileage.
Given the fuel savings and the sheer volume of F-150s sold (900,000 in 2019), the hybrid F-150 could do more to reduce carbon emissions than any other vehicle, including Tesla, Pauket says.
It has a recommended sticker price around $33,000, not including potential tax breaks.
GMC HUMMER EV – It won’t be out until 2022, but already demand is so high that the initial production run sold out in 10 minutes, according to CNET.
The Hummer EV will be a 1,000-horsepower all-electric “super truck” that will sell from $80,000 to $113,000, depending on trim level and options. For that money, owners will get an off-road-capable vehicle that will do zero-to-60 in three seconds, with up to 350 miles of range on a single charge.
HYUNDAI – OK, so maybe you don’t need a 1,000-horsepower rig for your daily driver. Hyundai may have you covered. The Korean automaker is in the market with a full range of alternative-fuel vehicles, with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric, and even a hydrogen fuel cell offering:
- The Ioniq hybrid is a four-door sedan that boasts up to 59 mpg on the highway. The Ioniq also comes in a plug-in hybrid version that allows you to charge the car in your garage overnight and drive 29 miles before you use any gasoline. And Hyundai offers an all-electric Ioniq with a range of 170 miles. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price ranges from $23,000 for the hybrid to $33,000 for the all-electric version.
- The Sonata hybrid — a new take on Hyundai’s flagship sedan — comes with a rooftop solar panel that will help recharge the batteries. It boasts 54 mpg on the highway and retails for about $28,000.
- The Kona electric SUV has enough horsepower (201) to get you up a Forest Service road and a range of 258 miles. It sells for about $37,000.
- And the 2021 Nexo fuel cell, which runs on hydrogen, claims the best range of any available hydrogen-powered vehicle on the market today at 380 miles. The crossover has an MSRP around $59,000, potential tax breaks not included.
TOYOTA RAV4 PRIME – What’s the best-selling plug-in hybrid car in America? If you said the Rav4, take an e-powered victory lap. Car enthusiasts are even more excited about the newest offering, the Rav4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid. Car and Driver reports that it compares to Toyota’s Supra and Camry for performance, with a 302-horsepower motor and a range of 42 miles on electric power. Plus, “masculine curb appeal,” if you’re looking for a family car that dad looks cool driving.
MSRP, about $39,000.
QIANTO DRAGONFLY K50 – The Dragonfly K50 is a Chinese-designed two-seater, luxury sports car that Mullen Technologies of California proposes to assemble in the U.S., potentially at a proposed 1.3-million-sq.-ft. factory near Spokane.
Officials in Spokane say they remain in talks with Mullen, which is raising capital to build the proposed plant, which has created some buzz East of the Mountains.
The K50 itself caused a lot of buzz when Mullen brought it to the 2019 New York Auto Show. It’s fully electric, with a range of between 150 and 200 miles, and rated to go from zero-to-60 in 4.2 seconds, with top speeds of 125 mph.
As of January 2021, Mullen was taking $1,000 deposits on a limited number of K50s, which carry a $125,000 sticker price. ✦