Welcome
Environment & Energy Report

California Plans Nation’s First Electric Truck Mandates

Oct. 24, 2019, 10:01 AM

California air regulators want to force a wave of cleaner trucks onto the road by requiring that half of all medium and heavy trucks sales be for zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

If adopted by the California Air Resources Board, the regulation would be the first of its kind in the nation.

It would set graduated goals for certain truck classes weighing more than 8,501 pounds to meet zero-emission goals beginning in 2024. The rule primarily affects stop-and-go, day route trucks—including delivery, bucket, garbage, and single-axle trucks—that head back to home bases at the end of the day.

By 2030, 50% of certain truck and chassis sales of medium and heavy trucks would have to be zero-emission, as would 15% of all other truck sales, according to the proposed regulation.

CARB released the regulation Oct. 22 and a comment period on the proposal opens Oct. 25. The first board hearing on the proposed rule will be held in December, with a final vote expected in mid-2020, CARB spokesman Dave Clegern said.

Latest Step

State officials say the rule is the latest step to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which contributes 41% of greenhouse gas pollutants, the largest source in the state.

In 2017, transportation emissions increased by 1%, according to a state inventory.

The regulation is an attempt to get larger manufacturers with more established supply chains or ability to innovate on board while reducing pollution, said Tony Brasil, chief of CARB’s Transportation and Clean Technology Branch.

“The primary goal is to get the manufacturers to build the trucks,” Brasil said. “This is just the next step in our efforts” to electrify the heavy duty sector.

Several manufacturers and fleet operators have pledged to increase zero-emission truck use in the coming years, and Brasil said new models are in the pipeline.

Needs Tweaking?

Manufacturers and environmental justice groups say the measure needs tweaking.

For manufacturers, it’s about the marketplace.

“The rule does not mandate that anyone purchase these vehicles,” said Tim Blubaugh, executive vice president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, a trade association in Chicago that represents worldwide manufacturers of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. “Zero-electric vehicles are often more expensive, they present operational challenges, and need charging infrastructure in place.”

“It will mandate we sell a product that our customers may not want to buy,” he said.

The regulation could also lead to delays in investment and would put the state between manufacturers and buyers, said Allen Schaeffer, executive director at the Diesel Technology Forum, the nonprofit education arm of diesel engine makers.

“Trucks are vastly different than electric cars in their purpose, design and utilization,” he said in an email. “Mandating the types and fuel choices that manufacturers must offer for sale does not guarantee that truck buyers will buy the trucks, placing manufacturers in a precarious position for investments, and vehicle and technology design.”

Some work will be required, Brasil said, but as more zero-emission vehicles come online, charging ability will increase and prices should decrease.

“The technology exists, but the infrastructure will have to be installed,” Brasil said.

The proposed regulation is expected to save $4.9 billion in truck transportation costs from 2020 to 2040, mostly from fuel savings, the state said.

Pollutant Protection

A coalition of environmental, labor, and advocacy groups also say the plan doesn’t go far enough to protect residents and the environment from harmful pollutants.

Advocates like the Coalition for Clean Air, Earthjustice, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for San Diego and Imperial counties say the state’s goals amount to only 4% of trucks on the road and that CARB should aim higher.

“This rule can create some type of monumental change,” said Andrea Vidaurre, a policy analyst with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice. “We are concerned that they are being incredibly unambitious.”

In some truck and freight corridors, as many as 500 trucks per hour pass by homes.

Those areas, which some call “diesel death zones,” don’t often have the lobbying money or political weight to force change, said Angelo Logan, campaign director for the Moving Forward Network, a national environmental justice group based at Occidental College that focuses on freight issues.

The coalition wants all classes of trucks, including pickups, to have some zero-emission requirements by 2024. Under the proposal, pickups would be excluded until the 2027 model year.

“We’re really disappointed that they’re not using this as an opportunity,” Vidaurre said. “It feels like another marginalization for us.”

CARB’s proposed rule also requires fleet owners with more than 100 trucks to report about their operations.

That information could be used to set more stringent goals in the future, Brasil said. “If we can accelerate, we will.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily C. Dooley at edooley@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com; Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloombergenvironment.com