Los Angeles, California – In another international first, California would mandate that all new trucks be emission-free by 2040. Large corporations would change their fleets gradually. Truckers are concerned about the affordability and viability of electric trucks.
New large rigs and other trucks would be required to be zero-emissions by 2040, ending their decades-long reliance on highly polluting diesel, according to a California Air Resources Board proposal.
Under the idea, manufacturers could not sell new medium- and heavy-duty trucks that operate in California that are powered by diesel or gasoline, instead opting for electric vehicles. In addition, large trucking businesses would be required to gradually convert their existing fleets to zero-emission trucks by 2042, purchasing more as time progresses.
California plans to intensify its efforts to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by establishing standards for clean-burning big rigs, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large trucks. Transportation is the leading source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, pollution, and other air pollutants in California.
Chris Shimoda, senior vice president of the California Trucking Association, which represents truck drivers, stated that zero-emission truck technology has great potential, but truckers are concerned about “practical unknowns” such as the high price of the trucks, the lack of charging stations, and the limited range of the vehicles.
Shimoda remarked, “We’re flying blind when it comes to the practicality of really applying this rule.”
In its proposal, the air board did not give cost estimates for trucking businesses and truck drivers, merely stating that their initial expenditures would be significant but that they would save money over time.
The legislation will affect around 1,8 million heavy-duty trucks on California’s roadways, according to the article.
According to the air board, the proposed regulation could place approximately 510,000 carbon-free medium- and heavy-duty cars on California’s roads in 2035, rising to 1.2 million in 2045 and over 1.6 million in 2050. Currently, there are only 1,943 medium and heavy-duty vehicles with zero emissions on the highways of the state, and practically all of them are buses.
According to Patricio Portillo, an advocate for sustainable mobility at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the new truck rule is a “crucial piece” of the state’s climate and clean air goals. “A familiar sight on California’s highways are trucks obstructing lanes, emitting dense smoke into the sky, and resting on the side of the road because they are overheated. It’s so common that we don’t even think about it, but the pollution that permeates the air is harmful to our lungs and bodies.”
The air board will hold a public hearing on the plan on October 27, following a 45-day period for public comment. It comes just a few weeks after the air board enacted another sweeping regulation prohibiting the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035.
For decades, California has reduced emissions from diesel-powered trucks and buses in an effort to reduce the state’s severe air pollution. The new proposal expands on a clean trucks law established in 2020, which requires manufacturers to sell an increasing number of zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2024.
The clauses mandating the replacement of existing fleets would only apply to federal agencies and so-called “high-priority fleets,” which are owned or controlled by enterprises with at least 50 vehicles or $50 million in yearly revenue. Included are trucks weighing at least 10,001 pounds and package delivery vehicles weighing at least 8,500 pounds, including fleets from the United States Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, and Amazon.
Large corporations and federal agencies would have the option of purchasing entirely zero-emission cars beginning in 2024 and retiring diesel trucks at the end of their service life. Alternately, they might implement zero-emission trucks as a percentage of their fleet, beginning with 10% of delivery trucks and other types that are easiest to electrify in 2025, and increasing to 100% between 2035 and 2042.
The criteria for transforming fleets would not apply to smaller businesses unless they used the trucks of a larger business. According to Tony Brasil, chief of the air board’s transportation and technology section, new acquisitions would have to be zero-emission by 2040, but they may keep their existing trucks for as long as they wish.
“We also expect that certain market circumstances may force fleets to replace their trucks sooner,” Brasil stated. As new zero-emission trucks become available, operating costs will decrease significantly.
In addition to the 2040 ban on the sale of new diesel and gas-powered vehicles, the proposal includes other, truck-specific timetables for phasing out new sales.
The most stringent deadline would apply to drayage trucks, which are used to convey cargo from ports and trains. New models would be zero-emission by 2024, but diesel and gas-powered drayage trucks would have to be retired after 18 years in order to achieve the zero-emission standard by 2035.
In addition, fifty percent of all new trucks purchased by state and municipal governments in 2024 would be zero-emission, escalating to one hundred percent in 2027. Exceptions are permitted if there are insufficient models available. Until 2027, counties with minor populations such as Inyo, Butte, Mendocino, and Tuolumne would be exempt.
The proposed law prohibiting the sale of diesel-powered automobiles would not apply to emergency vehicles like ambulances.
Several manufacturers have already declared their intention to increase sales of electric truck fleets. Tesla aims to release electric semi trucks with a range of 500 miles later this year, although Volvo Trucks and Nikola Inc. have introduced electric large rigs and other vehicles with ranges of up to 350 miles. Volvo Trucks has established a global aim that by 2030, half of its truck sales will be electric.
Roger Alm, president of Volvo Trucks, stated in a statement, “We are determined to lead the change of the transport business.” “Customer interest is considerable, and it is gradually becoming a competitive advantage for carriers to be able to offer electric, environmentally-friendly vehicles.”
However, difficulties with the changeover persist.
Many electric heavy-duty trucks now available on the market lack the necessary range to transport cargo across state lines and across the country. Some vehicles, such as drayage trucks, are better suited for electrification because they may require a shorter range, according to Shimoda of the California Trucking Association. However, the mandate could offer significant challenges for long-haul truckers, he warned.
Long-haul diesel vehicles can travel up to 1,000 miles before refueling, which takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes. However, electric vehicles must be recharged frequently because to their “much reduced range” and lengthy charging time.
“The charging infrastructure required to sustain these trucks is essentially nonexistent at this time.” Even with the fastest chargers currently available, it will take three to four hours to charge a full state, according to Shimoda, who represents California truckers.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s president and chief executive officer, Todd Spencer, stated that charging times exceeding two hours might “completely destabilize” the sector.
In the foreseeable future, neither the technology nor the interstate infrastructure will be available to support a zero-emission requirement for long-haul interstate trucks, he stated.
However, new technology has already emerged that drastically reduces the charging time. In just 90 minutes, the newest model of the Volvo eVNR tractor-trailer can be charged to 80% capacity.
The mandate would also raise the state’s already shaky power grid’s demand.
“These charging stations would require an enormous amount of electricity,” Shimoda remarked. “Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara consumes around 300 to 350 kilowatts of energy on game days. A charging station for a huge truck will be around 30 times larger.”
Stanley Young, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board, stated that the state’s proposed scoping plan, which is its climate change blueprint, already addresses a number of concerns with the charging infrastructure.
Electric trucks would have significantly cheaper maintenance expenses over time compared to fossil-fueled engines, and they would cost less to recharge with electricity than diesel.
Shane Levy of Proterra, a technology business for electric vehicles, stated that the company has significantly grown up its battery technology over the past few years. It is now collaborating with over a dozen manufacturers to electrify medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and it has supplied battery systems for over a thousand commercial vehicles.
He stated that the new regulation could stimulate the market.
“Electrification of commercial vehicles would enhance not only how we move people around cities and towns, but also how we provide goods and services to our communities,” he continued.
Some state and federal subsidy schemes may also provide assistance to businesses and truck drivers.
Although the board did not release cost information, staff anticipates that the long-term economic net benefits will save corporations approximately $22 billion over the life of the regulation and will save more than 5,000 lives in California between 2024 and 2050.
The deadline for all new zero-emission trucks should be expedited by four years, from 2040 to 2036, according to environmental groups.
Portillo of the Natural Resources Defense Council stated that accelerating the change will assist the health of low-income, disadvantaged areas located near roads, railyards, and ports, where trucks spew harmful diesel exhaust and smog-causing pollutants.
Diesel exhaust is one of the most dangerous pollutants that risk the health of Californians, as it contains over 40 carcinogens and particles that contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.