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CARB Updates Proposal to Speed California’s Transition to Zero-Emission Vehicles

CARB

The zero-emission Nikola Two on display at an industry show.

California environmental regulators have issued an accelerated plan to mandate that truck manufacturers transition a portion of their sales from heavy diesel trucks to electric zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2024.

In an updated proposal made public on April 28, the California Air Resources Board staff quietly released its plan to require that 5% of all Class 7 and Class 8 heavy trucks sold in 2024 be electric — an increase from 3% initially proposed in December.

The new proposal also calls for the percentage of heavy trucks sold in the state to gradually increase each year with a goal that 100% of the trucks be zero-emission electric vehicles by 2045.

The updated requirement for Class 4 through Class 8 straight truck sales would begin at 9% in 2024.

“The modified proposal strengthens the zero-emission vehicle sales requirements and now provides a clear market signal on the pathway to reach carbon neutrality by 2045 in California,” CARB spokeswoman Karen Caesar told Transport Topics. “The changes are also supported by recent market announcements showing that more zero-emission truck models will be commercially available before the regulation begins in 2024.”

The updated proposal ensures an all zero-emission drayage fleet in California ports and railyards by 2035, and last-mile delivery fleet by 2040, which would directly benefit local and disadvantaged communities, Caesar said.

Because CARB is allowing 30 days for public comment, Caesar said the board would not hold a public hearing on the proposal until its June 25-26 meeting.

The updated plan, generally lauded by environmentalists, was not well received by some trucking industry stakeholders.

“I think there is a lot of interest in electric,” said Mike Tunnell, California-based director of environmental affairs and research for American Trucking Associations. “But it’s hard to gauge right now how this planning fits in with reality.”

Tunnell added, “There are a lot of manufacturers working on electric trucks. But how they roll out and how they perform in the field is still a question that needs to be answered.”

If the technology is in fact as good as the claims, then it will probably move quickly, he said. “If it’s not as good as the claims, it will never reach these goals. We’ll see.”

In a statement to TT, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association said it is reviewing the proposed modifications, but noted its member companies already are investing billions in developing zero-emission technologies and support expanding the market for heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.

“Our initial reaction is that the structure of the rule has not changed and remains fundamentally flawed,” EMA said. “The Advanced Clean Trucks rule still only consists of a naked sales mandate that would require traditional manufacturers to sell a certain amount of zero-emission trucks. It fails to include a corresponding mandate for the purchase of zero-emission trucks.”

Allen Genetti, chief financial officer for California Truck Lines Inc., one of the first commenters on the updated proposal, wrote the stricter version of the electric truck standard could put a lot of small transportation companies out of business without state grants to help purchase electric trucks. “I would hope the board consults with the truck manufacturers and the companies that need to set up the electric infrastructure to handle the transition to electric trucks and see what kind of timeline they need to be ready to handle this major change in industry standards.”

But environmentalists generally were happy with the board toughening up its proposed ZEV rule.

“CARB’s decision to nearly double the proposed rule is a big step in the right direction,” Jimmy O’Dea, senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “If passed, it would be the most significant policy to-date for electric trucks in the United States, if not the world.”

The updated proposal shows CARB is listening to the experts instead of special interests, Patricio Portillo, transportation analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. “California continues to double-down on essential environmental regulations that grow jobs and safeguard public health, while protecting our climate and the air we breathe.”

CARB said that as the agency is in the process of finalizing the standard, truck manufacturers simultaneously continue to demonstrate and prepare product launches for zero-emission tractor trailers.

“Major manufacturers including Freightliner, Peterbilt, and Volvo have committed to launching ZE tractors prior to 2024 model year, and ZE manufacturers including Tesla, Nikola, and XOS are planning to enter the tractor-trailer market,” according to a CARB document. “While there are still a lack of commercially available tractors today, these announcements indicate there will be several models available prior to the initial sales requirement.”

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