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California Wants to Clean Up, Electrify Heavy-Duty Vehicles

The Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project will provide $44 million in funding to transition heavy-duty off-road equipment to electric. The plan could help prompt innovations and lower vehicle costs.

An electric truck
An electric truck is parked outside the offices of the California Air Resources Board in downtown Sacramento as members and the public discuss new regulations requiring new truck purchases in the state to gradually become zero-emissions.
Skip Descant/ Government Technology
California has put forward incentives to electrify heavy-duty transportation vehicles in a move to clean up the air around ports and other areas focused on the logistics and movement of goods.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) launched the Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project (CORE) by providing $44 million in funding to electrify port, railyard, airport and warehouse vehicles. These can include container movers, forklifts, air cargo loaders and other similar vehicles.

“The project will have immediate air-quality improvements for local communities and overall greenhouse gas reductions. But that is only part of the story,” said Niki Okuk, a spokesperson for CALSTART, a national nonprofit charged with accelerating the move to clean transportation.

The incentive funds will help to scale up the purchase of zero-emission vehicles, ultimately helping manufacturers to bring down the cost of these vehicles, making them more attractive, Okuk added.

“Projects like CORE are intended to accelerate this process, stimulating demand and supply to faster transform these markets to zero-emission technologies,” said Okuk.

The steps taken by CARB compliment other breakthroughs taken in the heavy-duty trucking sector. Greenlots, a subsidiary of the Shell Group, announced plans to partner with Volvo Trucks to install high-speed charging infrastructure, starting in Fontana, a city at the center of the logistics industry in Southern California. The company plans to soon increase charging operations at three other California locations: La Mirada, Chino and Ontario.

“The project focuses on high capacity charging, as it applies to heavy duty applications,” explained Harmeet Singh, chief technology officer for Greenlots.

“Rapid charging of fleet vehicles will enable greater utilization of fleets,” he added, noting the system is designed to deliver heavy loads of electricity without negatively affecting the overall grid.

For its part, Volvo has launched a pilot project known as Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions (LIGHTS), which is a collaboration with more than a dozen public and private partners to demonstrate the efficacy of all-electric freight hauling.

Meanwhile, transit agencies in Orange County, Sacramento, and other California locations have either already purchased electric buses or plan to. The Orange County Transportation Authority will introduce 10 new hydrogen fuel cell buses in the coming months.

Trucks and buses only make up 5 percent of the vehicles on the roads, however, they are responsible for 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Even though most transit agencies generally build out their own bus charging infrastructure, the high-speed charging stations provided by Greenlots could support these as well, Singh pointed out.

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 Yreka, Calif.