More than half of trucks sold in the state must be zero-emissions by 2035, and all of them by 2045.
Rebuffing strong opposition from industry, California on Thursday adopted a landmark rule requiring more than half of all trucks sold in the state to be zero-emissions by 2035, a move that is expected to improve local air quality, rein in greenhouse gas emissions and sharply curtail the state’s dependence on oil.
The rule, the first in the United States, represents a victory for communities that have long suffered from truck emissions — particularly pollution from the diesel trucks that feed the sprawling hubs that serve the state’s booming e-commerce industry.
On one freeway in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, near the nation’s largest concentration of Amazon warehouses, a community group recently counted almost 1,200 delivery trucks passing in one hour.
Oil companies, together with farming and other industries, opposed the measure, calling it unrealistic, expensive and an example of regulatory overreach.
Truck and engine manufacturers also opposed the rule, and began a last-ditch effort in March to delay it, saying companies were already suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
The state’s clean air regulator, the California Air Resources Board, voted unanimously in favor of the rule at a meeting on Thursday.
The California Air Resources Board is set to approve the proposal to make zero-emission trucks a reality. The rule would require that auto manufacturers increase the proportion of zero-emission trucks in their sales to California from 2024 to 2035. By 2035, the state wants 55 percent of the sales from light- and medium-duty trucks to be electric.
As for heavier trucks, manufacturers need to clean up 75 percent of their sales by 2035. The state first began efforts to pass the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation in 2016 under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
“California has always been a leader in advancing clean transportation technology,” Costa Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, told Earther. “It’s a huge deal.”
Most of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation of which heavy-duty vehicles make up more than 8 percent of those emissions. Passenger vehicles are the largest contributor, but these vehicles also include light- and medium-duty trucks, which are regulated under the new rule.
Common light-duty trucks are pick-ups such as the Chevrolet Silverado. Medium-duty trucks include vehicles used to transport goods, such as delivery trucks or school buses.
Removing diesel trucks from the roads would eliminate 60,000 tons of hazardous nitrogen oxides, preventing more than 900 premature deaths and delivering at least $9 billion in public health benefits, California estimates.
It also estimates that the rule would lower the state’s carbon dioxide emissions by 17 million metric tons, roughly the same amount as pollution from burning almost 100,000 rail cars’ worth of coal, and save truck operators $6 billion in fuel costs.
Supporters also hope California will become a hub for what they expect will be a thriving electric truck manufacturing industry. Amazon said last year that it had ordered 100,000 electric trucks from Rivian, a manufacturing start-up. Other major truck makers, including Daimler, Volvo, Tesla and China’s BYD, are developing electric heavy trucks of their own.
Critics argue requiring the industry to sell more electric trucks won’t succeed without first requiring companies to buy more of them. Staff for the board said work on such rules is ongoing and added that demand already exists for bulk orders of electric trucks.
Nichols said the board plans to adopt rules next year requiring fleets to have a certain percentage of electric trucks.
“First you have to make sure the engines and the trucks are going to be available, then you have to ensure there is a market for them,” she said. “We’re proceeding methodically to make that happen.”