North Carolina’s governor proposes Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) program to electrify trucks and buses

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has taken an important step towards accelerating the electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state.

Executive Order 271 directs the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to work with stakeholders to propose an Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) program that would “ensure zero-emission trucks and buses are available for purchase in the state,” and “require manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of [zero-emission vehicles] over time while providing flexibility, through credits, trading and other features, as segments of the market grow at different speeds.”

The executive order “outlines a comprehensive strategy for the state to support automakers, fleet owners, and other partners to grow the medium- and heavy-duty ZEV market through investment in charging infrastructure, purchase incentives, workforce development, demonstration projects, technical assistance, and other strategies identified through development of the North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan and supported by unprecedented federal funding through [the] Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”

“North Carolina has demonstrated that by leading the transition to clean energy we can grow our economy and create good-paying jobs while reducing local pollution and confronting the climate crisis,” said Governor Cooper. “North Carolina is already a national hub for truck and bus manufacturing and supply chain development, and we should not miss the opportunity to lead the market-driven transition already underway to cleaner and increasingly cheaper zero-emission technologies that benefit our economy and our communities.”

The executive order includes a number of pro-electrification measures—it directs state agencies to “prioritize ZEVs in the purchase or lease of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds.” It also aims to enhance public-private partnerships aimed at electrifying private fleets, to drive investment in clean transportation R&D, and to address health and environmental justice concerns associated with transportation emissions.

EV advocates hailed the measure as an important step forward. “Accelerating the transition to electric vehicles will deliver significant public health, climate, and economic benefits to North Carolina and its citizens,” said Stan Cross of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Governor Cooper’s commitment to electrify medium- and heavy-duty vehicles comes on the heels of the existing commitment from Executive Order 246 to get 1.25 million EVs registered and on the state’s roads by 2030, and both commitments have massive economic implications for the state.”

However, contrary to some gushing headlines you may have seen, the executive order does not establish a California-style Advanced Clean Trucks rule—it just puts the process of creating one into motion. The DEQ must design a policy “requiring manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of [medium- and heavy-duty] ZEV s over time,” and “propose that rule for consideration by the Environmental Management Commission no later than May 15, 2023.”

Crafting a complex set of rules like this takes time, and the DEQ’s task is to come up with something that major stakeholders (including the state’s Republican legislature) can live with. Stay tuned.

Sources: North Carolina Office of the Governor, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

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