California Becomes First Government to Require Zero-Emission Trucks by 2035
California has been granted the authority by the Biden administration to require that half of all heavy trucks sold in the state be fully electric by 2035, making it the world's first government to require zero-emission trucks. The move is part of California's efforts to drastically cut planet-warming emissions and improve air quality in heavy-traffic areas such as ports along the coast. The state's plan, which exceeds Environmental Protection Agency requirements, required approval from the White House. The transportation sector accounts for almost 40% of California's greenhouse gas emissions, and Governor Gavin Newsom has already moved to ban the sale of new cars that run entirely on gasoline by 2035.
Although the EPA usually establishes regulations for the emissions released from the tailpipes of cars, trucks, and other vehicles, California has been given permission to enforce its own more rigorous guidelines. Other states can then follow suit, and eight other states plan to adopt California's truck standards. Due to its history of severe air pollution, California has the ability to establish emissions requirements that are more stringent than those of other states under the Clean Air Act. However, since federal law typically supersedes state regulations, California must obtain waivers from the EPA to do so. Given its economic might, its emission standards, which have also been adopted by other states, have become the de facto standard for car manufacturers, leading to a standoff in 2019 with the Trump administration.
The recently introduced truck regulations target both truck manufacturing companies and those who possess a significant number of them. If a company possesses 50 or more trucks, they must submit details to the state regarding the utilization of these trucks for transporting merchandise and offering shuttle services. Starting in 2024, manufacturers will be required to increase the percentage of zero-emission vehicles they sell. By 2035, sales of zero-emission trucks will need to constitute between 40% to 75% based on the truck's classification. California's Advanced Clean Truck rule sets new sales requirements for truck manufacturers, and beginning in 2024, companies will have to sell increasing percentages of zero-emission trucks, buses, and vans, eventually reaching a target of all-electric or hydrogen fuel-cell truck sales by 2045.
The U.S. EPA has approved two Clean Air Act waivers for California's heavy-duty truck regulations, including the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule. By 2035, the ACT mandate stipulates that truck manufacturers must boost new truck sales to 55% for Class 2b-3, 75% for Class 4-8, and ensure that 40% of semi-tractor sales are for zero-emissions vehicles. Eight states have moved to adopt or are working to adopt ACT and follow California's lead, while a 27-country coalition California is part of is working towards 100% ZEV new truck sales by 2040. New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, and Vermont have agreed to adopt the sales mandate for clean trucks. It's a slower transition to electric than California has set for passenger car manufacturers, which have to switch to selling zero-emission vehicles by 2035.
While some have praised California's efforts, not everyone is on board. The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) has expressed concerns that limiting manufacturers' lead time to produce compliant vehicles will present significant challenges. EMA President Jed Mandel said that while he and his agency's member companies support the nationwide implementation of more stringent emission standards and are committed to transitioning the commercial trucking industry to zero-emission technologies, “adequate lead time, regulatory stability, and the necessary zero-emission recharging and refueling infrastructure are imperative for manufacturers to develop, build, and sell the customer-acceptable, effective products capable of meeting CARB's zero-emission vehicle sales mandates.” Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) believes that industry groups working closely with the EPA and allowing more time for requisite new technologies to develop is a better way to reach zero emissions. CEO Chris Spear said that such collaboration has already produced a 98% reduction in truck emissions over the past 35 years.
California's new truck standards are expected to have a significant impact, with eight other states planning to adopt them and together with California representing 22% of the national truck market. The state is also part of a 27-nation coalition working towards 100% ZEV new truck sales by 2040. The transportation sector generates most of the country's greenhouse gases, making it crucial in mitigating climate change, and California's efforts to lead the way in reducing emissions from this sector are being closely watched.
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