In 2020, California introduced the world’s first zero emissions commercial vehicle standard. It requires half of the heavy trucks sold in the Golden State to be fully electric by 2035, and it has since been adopted in Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey and New York. This means the measure could provide up to 75 million Americans with cleaner air. California was not able to implement the rule right away because it exceeds the requirements established by the Environmental Protection Agency. That hurdle was overcome on March 31 when the EPA granted California a waiver.
The EPA waiver will likely lead to a renewed focus on electric power among truck manufacturers. The states that have adopted California’s zero emissions rule are home to some of America’s busiest ports and account for approximately 20% of all commercial vehicle sales in the United States. A companion rule being developed by the California Air Resources Board could require public and private sector fleets to start purchasing electric trucks in 2024 and be fully electric by 2036. The rule is expected to be approved by CARB in late April.
California leads the way
California has been leading the way in smog reduction since Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963. The environmental law allows California to adopt stricter standards, which has led to breakthroughs like the development of catalytic converters. Officials expect the commercial vehicle zero emissions standard to provide California with more than $25 billion in public health benefits, and it may help the the state to qualify for billions of dollars in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. Businesses that use electric trucks should also save money because the price of electricity is expected to fall by more than 10% by 2050.
California’s zero emissions standard for commercial vehicles should fill state coffers and save commercial vehicle operators money, but the greatest benefits will be enjoyed by society as a whole. Diesel fumes cause or worsen respiratory conditions like asthma that make life more difficult for millions of Americans, and people who live or work near major truck routes suffer the most. When the nation’s commercial vehicle fleet runs on electricity, these people will breathe much easier.