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California mandates big increase in zero-emission trucks

Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

The nation's toughest clean-air mandate on trucks was approved Thursday by the California Air Resources Board.

In effect, the board ordered manufacturers of medium-duty and heavy-duty commercial trucks to begin selling zero-emission versions in 2024, with 100,000 sold in California by 2030 and 300,000 by 2035.

"This is a bold step we're taking today," said air board member Judy Mitchell, adding it is a daunting challenge, given the public investment that will be necessary for buyer incentives and charging infrastructure.

The mandate is intended to cut air pollution and push the state toward ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals -- 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below by 2050.

Environmentalists, health advocates, climate action supporters and others voiced strong support at an online hearing Thursday before the vote. So did makers of electric trucks and buses.

"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. 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."

 

Representatives of traditional manufacturers, 95% of whose products are powered by diesel fuel, opposed the mandate and suggested it will be impossible to meet the air board's timeline.

The mandate is "flawed," said Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Assn., an industry group. "There is no charging infrastructure, there is inadequate incentive funding available" for buyers and zero-emission trucks "cost more than traditional fuel trucks," he said.

As it approved the mandate, the board pushed infrastructure and incentive funding questions into the future.

Mandel suggested the program be delayed for two years, until 2026, to allow more time for truck-specific charging systems to be installed and for the consideration of policies to encourage the purchase of such vehicles: state incentives for buyers and a mandate on fleet operators to buy a set percentage of zero-emission trucks.

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