California proposes to enact zero-emission mandate for commercial vehicles

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has released the final draft of the Advanced Clean Trucks standard. The latest proposal, which is stronger than previous drafts, is the first in the nation that would create a zero-emission mandate for trucks.

The proposed rule would require automakers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission trucks each year. It would require some 4,000 electric trucks to be sold in 2024 (out of an estimated 75,000 total sales). CARB estimates that at least 20% of the trucks on the road would be electric by 2035.

The rule imposes different quotas for different classes of vehicles. For semi tractors, 40% of units sold in California would have to be zero-emission by 2035. For smaller trucks such as the Ford F-250, the quota is 55%, and for delivery trucks and vans, it is 75%.

The policy applies to companies that sell more than 500 trucks per year in the state. Manufacturers currently meeting that threshold are: Daimler (Freightliner, Western Star), Paccar (Kenworth, Peterbilt), Navistar (International, IC Bus), Ford, GM (Chevrolet, GMC), Fiat Chrysler (Dodge), Nissan, Isuzu, Toyota (Hino), and the Volvo Group.

According to Electrek, there are now more than 70 electric trucks and buses available from 27 manufacturers.

The Union of Concerned Scientists hailed the new rule, but said it doesn’t go far enough: “The new proposal is a big step in the right direction and perhaps the most significant policy for electric trucks to-date anywhere. Even colleagues in China, a country with the largest deployment of electric trucks and buses, are watching what CARB does next. But the numbers show that this policy alone won’t transition the heavy-duty vehicle sector from one fueled by diesel to one powered by batteries and hydrogen.”

UCS notes that trucks and buses contribute disproportionately to air pollution. A 2019 report found that America’s 28 million trucks and buses represent 10% of all vehicles, but contribute 28% of carbon emissions from the transportation sector, and 45% of nitrous oxides and 57% of particulate matter pollution.

On the other hand, this mandate, limited though it is, could be an incentive for manufacturers to eventually electrify their entire fleets. “This will be transformative,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort. “At some point, these manufacturers are going to realize it doesn’t make sense to be making zero-emission trucks and combustion trucks to serve the same market.”

The California Trucking Association takes another view. “It’s disheartening to see regulations get stricter when the economy is in freefall and businesses are in survival mode,” said VP Chris Shimoda. “In the face of a generational recession, we’d urge the Air Board to exercise caution.”

CARB will consider public comments on the new rule for the next 30 days, and the board is expected to take a final vote in June.

Sources: Manufacturing.net, Electrek