California Adopts First Nationwide Requirement for Trucks to Go Electric

Electric cars are ubiquitous on California freeways, but not so much electric trucks. That is about to change.

On Thursday, California became the first state in the nation to require trucks to be emission-free, an important step to combat dirty air, especially in poorer communities surrounded by highways and warehouses, and to tackle the thorny problem. of climate change.

Resisting opposition from the trucking industry and oil companies, the California Air Resources Control Board passed a rule that requires automakers to sell a minimum number of large platforms, delivery vans, and large zero-emission vans, from 2024. Quotas will be gradually incorporated. and by 2035, most new trucks in the state are required to produce no pollution at all.

The ambitious movement is expected to reverberate far beyond California, as far-flung states as Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York have expressed interest in imitating the rule, and vehicle manufacturers internationally are seeing a growing market for electric and hydrogen trucks. .

“The rest of the world is watching,” said Dan Sperling, a member of the state air board. “This is a revolution that is on the side of history.”

Trucks are everywhere on California’s highways, transporting cargo from ports, fruits and vegetables from San Joaquin Valley farms, and consumer goods from warehouses along Interstate 5. While still generating much less traffic. Than cars, trucks often have large diesel engines and travel many more miles, making their exhaust more meaningful.

Despite the state’s already aggressive air quality rules, seven of the country’s 10 wettest cities are in California, according to the American Lung Association. Pollution is known to cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, often disproportionately in low-income neighborhoods.

“We need regulations that move us towards a healthy and equitable future,” said Taylor Thomas, who spoke via video at the virtual meeting of the air board on Thursday. She lives in Long Beach and developed asthma after growing up in a disadvantaged area near a highway. “We live with these trucks every day. … Our communities suffer loads of pollution. “

According to the air board’s analysis, the new regulation, known as the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, will reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxide by 59,000 tons by 2040, producing $ 9 billion in health benefits.

California already requires automakers to sell a minimum number of electric cars, and the state is currently fighting with the Trump administration to maintain stricter standards for exhaust vehicles.

The Advanced Clean Trucks rule also breaks new ground in California’s climate fight. The transport sector has been one of the most difficult areas to achieve the reduction of greenhouse gases. It represents approximately 40% of the state’s heat-trapping gases. The new regulation is expected to reduce the equivalent of 17 tons of carbon dioxide by 2040.

The agency’s analysis also found that while zero-emission trucks are more expensive to manufacture than their gasoline counterparts, the fuel savings would outweigh the higher upfront costs. About $ 6 billion will be saved until 2040, according to the air board.

Many in the trucking industry said the transition would not be as easy and beneficial as the air board suggests. They cited the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy as a financial hurdle to making new, cleaner trucks, and said that if they build them, companies won’t like the price.

“Commercial vehicle customers are simply not going to buy ZEVS (zero emission vehicles),” said Jed Mandel, president of the Association of Truck and Engine Manufacturers.

Critics also questioned whether infrastructure and technology, including charging stations and batteries, were adequate for the deployment of so many zero-emission vehicles.

However, a Tesla representative at the Thursday meeting said the bases for clean trucks will soon be in place. The Palo Alto-based automaker plans to produce an electric van and truck in 2021.

The Advanced Clean Trucks rule applies to trucks weighing more than 8,500 pounds, from heavy-duty trucks and full-size trucks to box trucks and tractor trailers. The sales requirements and their start dates vary depending on the type of vehicle. By 2045, the goal is for all new trucks being sold to be emission-free.

The regulation was widely supported by environmentalists, clean energy advocates and justice groups, as well as by a number of environmental regulators from other states who took advantage of the air board’s online meeting to express their enthusiasm.

“There is clearly a national interest in the Advanced Clean Trucks rule,” said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Governor Gavin Newsom released a statement Thursday night applauding the state’s progressive action during the agony of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, climate change remains an existential threat, both to our lifestyle and to the health of our children,” he said. “Communities and children of color are often forced to breathe our most polluted air, and today’s vote brings us closer to a healthier future for all of our children.”

Kurtis Alexander is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kurtisalexander