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Electric street sweeper on display in Everett

A tour of western Washington is designed to help people better accept electric vehicle technology.

EVERETT, Wash. — A traveling roadshow, of sorts, swept into Everett on Friday. It was the latest stop in a tour promoting an all electric street sweeper.

"We have the largest gutter broom in the business at 47-inches in diameter," boasted Jim Budde, a representative for the manufacturer, Global Environmental Products.

Budde drove the electric sweeper through a parking lot at Everett's Paine Field.

The unit being shown off can stay charged for seven to nine hours and hit a top speed of 52 miles per hour.

When asked if it was the "Tesla of street sweepers," Budde responded, "Yes! We've been doing it longer than anybody."

The tour of western Washington is designed to help people grow more comfortable with, and to better accept electric vehicle technology.

"It's a matter of getting the machine in front of people to help them understand the benefits of it versus diesel," said Tim Colvin of Western Systems, which sells the vehicles.

"You can look at the fuel cost savings. You've got no fuel costs. You've got no diesel engine to maintain. No oil changes. Pretty much trouble free drive system," added Budde.

One thing that may scare cities away from buying the vehicles is sticker shock. The sweeper on display cost $725,000. That's double the price of an old school diesel. It takes eight to 10 hours from zero to a full charge. A faster charging upgrade will cost you at least $100,000.

The battery is guaranteed for five years, though Budde concedes he isn't exactly sure how long they last.

"There is a degradation of five to ten percent over five years," he said.

A replacement will cost $100,000.

"I wouldn't say it's a particularly easy sell," concedes Colvin.

Perhaps not easy, but increasingly compulsory.

More and more cities and states are mandating electric vehicles.

Starting in 2035, all passenger vehicles sold in Washington must have zero emissions, plus 75% of new street sweepers.

Just this week the Bellevue Fire Department announced it is buying an electric engine in accordance with that city's "sustainability plan." That engine was funded, in part, by a $649,000 state grant.

"I think anybody who has stood behind a diesel vehicle knows it's not very pleasant to breathe that stuff in," said Leah Missik of the environmental group Climate Solutions. 

The organization is asking Olympia to designate $250 million over the next two years for electric vehicle voucher and grant programs, funded partially by Washington's Climate Commitment Act, which charges businesses a fee for stepping outside their allotted carbon footprint.

"We have a lot of revenue coming into the state that needs to be spent on climate pollution reducing projects, and we think this is a great example of one," said Missik.

For now, the road show rolls on.

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