California Adds Trucks to Its Electric-Vehicle Mandate, a US First

(AP Photo/David Tulis, File)

(CN) — California air quality regulators approved the nation’s first electric truck standards Thursday, requiring over half the trucks sold by manufacturers in the state be zero-emission vehicles by 2035 — a rule that will impact air quality and greenhouse gas emissions beyond the Golden State’s borders.

The Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) regulation was first introduced by the California Air Resources Board at its meeting this past December. The rule will require truck and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers to gradually increase the number of zero-emission trucks they sell to individuals and commercial fleets starting in 2024.

The regulation will also require large employers and truck fleet owners to complete a one-time reporting in 2021 about their operations to inform future state guidelines on zero-emission truck requirements.

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said at the outset of Thursday’s meeting the regulation will pressure the truck market to develop the zero-emissions truck supply chain to comply with California’s standard.

There are currently 70 models of zero-emissions vans, trucks and buses already manufactured, though California’s new regulation is expected to be an impetus to electrify production of the zero-emissions truck market.

An independent report on the proposed regulation by Energy Innovation and the Environmental Defense Fund found it would create $7 to $12 billion in savings for truck fleet operators in addition to at least $9 billion in public health benefits across the state.

While zero-emissions trucks have higher upfront costs, CARB noted the trucks have lower operating costs and could be in use years longer than diesel trucks. The electricity costs associated with charging the trucks could also be offset by low carbon fuel standard credits, according to CARB.

Under the rule, by 2035, zero-emissions sales in California would need to account for 55% of Class 2b-3 pickup truck sales; 75% of class 4-8 truck sales including RVs, work trucks, buses and big rigs; and 40% of tractor sales.

Transportation accounts for 50% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and more than 95% of toxic diesel particulate matter emissions, according to CARB.

The ACT regulation will aid California in meeting its goal — signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown — to align regional transportation plans with state goals to reduce its greenhouse emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Tyson Eckerle, deputy director of Zero Emission Vehicle Market Development for Governor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Business and Economic Development said Thursday the governor was also taking complementary actions to support CARB’s regulation including working with utilities to meet increasing electricity demands and “greening” the state’s own vehicle fleet.

The regulation is expected to improve not only California’s air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state, but those impacts will be felt beyond state lines.

Paul Miller, executive director of Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit consortium of northeast state air quality agencies, said he expected California’s regulation to improve the “northeast smog problem” as zero-emissions trucks sold in California engage in commercial travel across the United States.

Kathy Taylor, air quality program manager of Washington state’s Department of Ecology, also offered her support for California’s new regulation. She noted California has led the way in requiring electric vehicles in the state’s own fleet, a program Washington emulated this year.

“We have used tens of millions from the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement to help local governments, transit agencies and school districts purchase electric transit buses and electric school buses. We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest in these grant programs and the enthusiasm our local partners have for pursuing zero emission transportation options,” Taylor said.

“The state of Washington supports the steps you are considering today to advance electrification and zero-emission options for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. They represent a tremendous opportunity for California and our nation,” Taylor added.

More than 100 public speakers were signed up to comment on the item prior to CARB’s vote Thursday.

Following public comment by dozens of transportation and climate change advocates, board member Diane Takvorian connected the regulation to the country’s present struggle for racial justice.

“Make no mistake: This rule advances racial justice.  We need to recognize these types of heavy-duty vehicles disproportionately impact communities of color and this gives some relief,” Takvorian said.

In a statement, Newsom applauded CARB’s action.

“California is once again leading the nation in the fight to make our air cleaner, becoming the first place in the world to mandate zero emission trucks by 2045,” he said in a statment. “Even in the midst of a global pandemic, climate change is still an existential threat — both to our way of life and our children’s health. Communities and children of color are often forced to breathe our most polluted air, and today’s vote moves us closer toward a healthier future for all of our kids.”

The California Trucking Association said meeting the mandate will take a lot of work — and financial help from the state.

“In order to ensure the nation’s first electric truck standard can succeed there is a lot of work that needs to be done on infrastructure, incentives and other important issues,” Chris Shimoda, vice president of government affairs for the California Trucking Association said in a statement.  “In the midst of a coming recession, having the state’s support to incentivize the purchase of these vehicles has never been more important.”

Nichols said CARB will vote on creating a companion regulation regulating NOx emissions later this year.

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