California’s air regulators have set first-in-the-nation sales goals for zero-emission delivery vehicles, pickup trucks, tractor-trailers, and other medium- and heavy-duty haulers.
The California Air Resources Board approved the rule after a public hearing Thursday on the regulations, which would apply to trucks weighing more than 8,500 pounds.
The state has some of the worst air quality in the nation, and the transportation sector accounts for 41% of emissions.
Air regulators say converting dirty diesel trucks to clean vehicles is a crucial part of their strategy to meet federal air quality standards, state climate goals, and reduce pollution near freight corridors, ports, and warehouses. New regulations also would push manufacturers to develop greener technologies.
“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,” California Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement. “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.”
Other States to Follow
Representatives from New York, New Jersey, and New England states said they would follow California’s lead.
“Transportation electrification is a key strategy in our region, and across the world, to meeting our climate action goals,” said Paul Miller, executive director of the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, an association of air quality agencies in the Northeast.
The goals vary by weight of the vehicle, from 5% to 9% of sales in 2024, and reach 40% to 75% of sales by 2035.
Manufacturers can also earn credits that can be banked and traded, allowing for flexibility if one model class sells more than another, according to a final environmental analysis of the rule.
The resolution passing the rule also directs agency staff to determine how to make the medium- and heavy-duty fleet 100% zero emission by 2045.
The goals were increased after environmental groups said they didn’t go far enough to protect communities living along transit routes, near logistics facilities, and by ports.
“California will be better off with this rule in place,” said Lauren Navarro, senior manager of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund. “This rule benefits public health, the environment, and the economy.”
Air Resources Engineer Paul Arneja said the rule would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17.8 million metric tons by through 2040, lead to cost savings of $5.9 billion, and create 7,500 green jobs.
A report from the nonpartisan policy firm Energy Innovation and the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund had a similar finding. It said the rule would cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 17 million metric tons, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 58,000 tons, through 2040.
Diesel ‘The Technology of Choice’
Industry groups, including the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), have called the rule flawed because it forces sales goals on manufacturers when customer demand may not be there.
EMA asked Thursday for the sales goals to start in 2026 or for CARB to mandate sales and purchase requirements at the same time. It has previously sought to have sales goals be grouped by segment types, such as airport shuttle vans.
Arneja said the segment proposal from EMA would not substantially increase the number of zero-emission trucks on the road and that specific fleet requirements would be addressed in a future regulation.
Dawn Fenton, director of sustainability and public affairs at Volvo Group, said the automaker supported the goals and could meet the mandates but doubted the market capacity overall given charging infrastructure needs and production issues related to work stoppages and furloughs brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Diesel Technology Forum Executive Director Allen Schaeffer said despite the rule, diesel would continue to play an important role as new technology has reduced emissions, improved energy efficiency, and added capability to low-carbon renewable biodiesels.
“Diesel is the technology of choice for America’s trucking industry because of its unique combination of features” Schaeffer wrote in an email. “the most energy efficient internal combustion engine, power density, driving range, reliability, durability and widely available fueling, servicing and parts networks.”