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California approves 1st-in-US sales rule for electric trucks

California regulators approved new rules that would force automakers to sell more electric work trucks and delivery vans, a first-of-its-kind rule that aims to help the nation’s most populous state clean up its worst-in-the-nation air quality.

To be zero emission vehicles, the regulations require a certain percentage of work truck sales per year. By the time it was fully implemented in 2035, the board estimates that at least 15% of the 1.2 million trucks on the road would run on electricity, creating thousands of new jobs.

More than 100 people called in the meeting of the California Air Resources Board, many offering their support during public comment over hours. Dozens said their neighborhoods were shocked by diesel fuel air pollution , particularly threatening poor and minority communities’ lung health, which has gained more prominence in the coronavirus pandemic.

“California is once again leading the nation in the fight to make our air cleaner, becoming the first place in the world to mandate zero emission trucks by 2045,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Communities and children of color are often forced to breathe our most polluted air, and today’s vote moves us closer toward a healthier future for all of our kids.”

Supporters included a group representing environmental agencies from eight northeastern states, from New York to Maine, whose officials said they would create a roadmap to reduce emissions on trucking routes and propel the market toward electrification.

“It’s the only way we think we can make significant progress on the most stubborn air pollution problems,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the board. “This will have a really transformational impact not just in our state but around the world when people see that it can be done.”

Regulators said they were determined to quickly address the fears that electric trucks would go unsold, with the aim of laying down rules next year that would require companies to buy zero emission trucks from manufacturers to ensure supply demand.
The Association of Truck and Engine Manufacturers argued that the new regulation would ultimately “collapse,” since there are not enough charging stations.

“They cost more than traditional fuel trucks, because there’s no charging infrastructure and developing one is very expensive,” Jed Mandel, president of the association, said during public testimony. “And there is inadequate incentive funding available.”

Meanwhile, the measure was endorsed by a representative for Tesla who is preparing electric pickup trucks and semitruck models for production in 2021. “Charging infrastructure can and will be built,” said Andy Schwartz, Tesla’s policy adviser.

Work trucks and delivery vans are some of the largest sources of air pollution in the transportation sector, though just a small fraction of all vehicles on the road. They travel many more miles than passenger vehicles and often have diesel engines, which are more powerful but generate more pollution than petrol engines.

California has plenty of these trucks on the road, as it is home to two of the world ‘s largest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, where heavy duty trucks continuously bring freight to and from warehouses in the Inland Empire while sprinkling toxic contaminants into the air.

The State of the Air Study for 2020 by the American Lung Association said that seven of the 10 most ozone-polluted cities in the U.S. are in California, with 98 percent of its residents residing in poor air quality counties. The rules, which would not come into effect until 2024, will require zero emissions by 2035 of at least 40 percent of all tractor trailers sold in California.

For smaller trucks including models such as the Ford F-250, by 2035 55% of all sales would be zero emissions. The standard for delivery trucks and vans is the toughest, with 75 per cent of sales required to be zero emissions by 2035.
Similar regulations now apply to passenger vehicle sales in California. But no one has yet placed rules like these for work trucks which are purchased with the purpose of making a profit unlike passenger vehicles.
The board also set a goal at the last minute to make entirely electric government fleets and last-mile delivery trucks by 2035 five years earlier than previously envisaged.

Critics argue that the industry will not succeed in selling more electric trucks without requiring companies to buy more of them first. Board staff said work on such rules is ongoing and added that there is already demand for bulk electric truck orders.
Nichols said that next year the board plans to adopt rules requiring fleets to carry 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.”

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