Electric truck Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner
One of the first all-electric Freightliner eCascadias was presented to Penske earlier this year. It has been put into real-world operations in Southern California.

OEMs closely monitoring California's proposal on electric truck sales

Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, confident state will not 'push a rule that is not technologically achievable.'

Truck manufacturers said they are closely monitoring California’s proposed rule on electric truck sales and will be prepared to meet whatever the state ultimately decides. 

The Advanced Clean Truck Regulation, the first of its kind in the United States, would mandate manufacturers sell a certain percentage of zero-emission trucks beginning with model year 2024. The rule would not force fleets to purchase these vehicles, nor does it require a specific zero-emissions technology be used, such as batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

“Zero-emission technology continues to improve rapidly, and costs continue to come down,” according to a summary of the proposal from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). 

Specifically, the proposal would require 3% of Classes 7-8 tractor sales be zero emissions in 2024, increasing to 15% in 2030. For straight trucks, zero-emission sales would have to be 7% in 2024, rising to 50% in 2030. 

CARB is accepting comments on the proposal until Dec. 9 and has scheduled a Dec. 12 public hearing. A vote on a final rule is expected during 2020. 

“We’re real close with California, both the South Coast Air Quality Management District, as well as with CARB. I trust they will not push a rule that is not technologically achievable. I think they’re sane," said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. 

“They are trying not to pick a winner from the OEM side, so they have to pick a technology path where everybody can compete,” Nielsen said in an interview with Fleet Owner during the recent North American Commercial Vehicle Show. 

Martin Weissburg, president of Mack Trucks, said the company was “following closely” the developments from CARB and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

He added both Mack and Volvo Trucks remain “very focused on battery-electric vehicles.” Mack is developing a fully electric LR model for the refuse sector, while Volvo is planning to begin commercial production of its VNR Electric before the end of 2020. 

MackMack

Mack is developing the electric LR refuse truck.

Kevin Baney, general manager of Kenworth Truck Co., said his company will “be ready” to meet the final version of the CARB regulation. He said the rule will help continue pushing electric truck development across the Paccar brands. Kenworth has been developing hydrogen fuel cell tractors with Toyota, while Peterbilt Motors has been focused on multiple battery-electric models

Baney added he believes it will take more than just a regulation for fleets to get on board with electric trucks. “Our position is that there still will have to be subsidies in order for customers to run battery-electric trucks in California," he said. 

Neil Abt/Fleet OwnerPeterbilt

Peterbilt displayed multiple electric models at NACV.

The state has offered rebates to offset higher sticker prices for these models through the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). However, CARB recently announced the wait list already exceeds the funding available in the fiscal 2019-20 budget. 

In late October, CARB announced changes to the program to better “align eligible technologies with HVIP goals.” California also provides funding assistance for emerging technologies through several other programs.

A fact sheet produced by CARB on the proposed rule stated there are more than 70 models of zero-emission vans, trucks and buses commercially available from manufacturers. 

“As technology advances, zero-emission trucks will become suitable for more applications.  Most major truck manufacturers have announced plans to introduce market ready zero-emission trucks in the near future,” CARB said. 

Even before the draft was released in late October, joint statements from environmental groups were already attempting to build public support for a stronger regulation. These groups have pointed out that the proposal would require only about 4% of the nearly 2 million trucks in the state to be electric by 2030, and the initial targets should be lifted. They also criticized a measure that exempts manufacturers of Class 2B pickups (GVWR 8,500 to 10,000 lbs.) from making zero-emission models until 2027. 

“The new proposal to clean up California’s trucks doesn’t even keep up with the growth in trucking in the state,” said Paul Cort, staff attorney at Earthjustice on the Right to Zero campaign. “Treading water when the current is against you means you are floating down the river. Californians want clean, breathable air. To get there, we need the California Air Resources Board to finalize electric truck mandates that are much stronger than their initial proposal.”

CARB’s draft also would require fleets with 100 or more trucks to report on their existing operations. While the agency said the information would help identify strategies to ensure that fleets purchase available zero-emission trucks, a number of business groups have raised objections to what the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce called “costly and burdensome reporting requirements.”

CARB’s proposal was issued a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 44, known as “Ditching Dirty Diesel.” 

The bill was easily passed by the state Assembly and Senate earlier in 2019, and requires CARB to develop a strategy for deploying heavy- and medium-duty vehicles that will allow California to meet federal ambient air quality standards. It also mandates the agency to establish goals for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and again by 2050.

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