California Adopts Unprecedented Electric Truck Rule

The California Air Resources Board approved an aggressive regulation to spur the adoption of electric semi-trucks and similar vehicles. Under the rules, all trucks sold in the state must be zero-emission by 2045.

by / June 26, 2020
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Thursday unanimously approved sweeping new regulation to transition heavy-duty trucks and buses to zero-emission versions starting in 2024.

The transition toward electric technology will initially be gradual, but by 2045, all trucks sold in the state are set to be zero-emission, coinciding with the state's goal of reaching carbon neutrality.

“This proposal puts us squarely on that path,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols during Thursday’s board meeting.

“It would also send a clear market signal for widescale electrification for trucks and buses in California,” she added. “This will drive investments in manufacturing and infrastructure that will accelerate the market for zero-emission trucks. The growth of the zero-emissions market will result in new, green, high-quality jobs.”

The move, years in the making, was roundly endorsed by other states.

“CARB’s proposed rule will drive industry and the market,” said Peg Hanna, manager at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, in comments during the online meeting, echoing the sentiment from other state leaders from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and others.

The clean truck rule includes two key provisions: a requirement for medium and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers to sell zero-emission vehicles as a portion of their annual sales; and a one-time fleet-reporting requirement that will be used to inform future zero-emission vehicle adoption strategies.

Aside from curbing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector — responsible for some 40 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California — transitioning trucks away from gas and diesel engines will greatly improve air quality, particularly around ports and freeways, areas often near disadvantaged communities. The regulation is expected to remove seven tons of nitrous oxide (NOX) by 2031, according to CARB officials.

“We should make no mistake. This rule advances racial justice,” said Diane Takvorian, a member of CARB.

It should be noted however, that the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation is not a wholesale transition to electric trucks, but sets up a framework for truck manufacturers to confidently move forward with electric vehicle technologies to begin the process of phasing out fossil fuel-burning vehicles.

It’s anticipated that 300,000 trucks and buses will be electric-powered by 2035, making up 15 percent of the total trucks and buses on roadways, said Jimmy O’Dea, a senior vehicles analyst in the Clean Vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This standard will be the biggest step to date on electric trucks,” O’Dea told the board in comments during the online meeting, which received some 130 requests to comment from members of the public.

The clean trucks regulation approved Thursday was a revised proposal from the one CARB discussed in December 2019, which received criticism from many corners of the public, asking the state air-quality regulator to go further. In response, CARB increased the percentage of trucks needing to be sold in California by set benchmark dates. 

“This is really a bold step that we’re taking today,” said Judy Mitchell, a member of CARB. “And it seems appropriate that California is doing it.”

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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