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Proposed California Electric Truck Standard Is First Of Its Kind In The Nation

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Electric trucks of all sorts could become commonplace on California’s roadways if state air officials and clean-air advocates get their way.

“We’re sending the market signals that zero-emission trucks are going to be required in California,” said Craig Duehring, who works in the transportation and clean technology branch of the California Air Resources Control Board, or CARB.

The agency updated its draft plan on electric trucks this week to ask manufacturers to create more zero-emission trucks — from full-size pick-up trucks to cement trucks to semi-trucks. The proposal is part of the state’s climate goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2045.

“This is putting us on a path to having 100% of trucks being zero emission by the 2045 time frame where feasible,” said Tony Brazil, branch chief for CARB’s heavy duty diesel implementation branch.

The trucking industry questions the proposal, especially with the pandemic and a possible lengthy recession ahead. Meanwhile environmental advocates say it “shows that CARB is listening to the experts instead of special interests,” said Patricio Portillo, transportation analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The plan, if adopted later this year, would be the first of its kind in the country requiring manufacturers to produce electric trucks. It could result in 100,000 zero-emission trucks on roads by 2030 and around 300,000 by 2035.

The estimates are in some cases nearly double a previous draft from 2019, where only about eight percent of trucks would be required to go electric, said Paul Cort, staff attorney with the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice.

“The rule was fairly gentle and had a slow start; it exempted trucks like pickup trucks until 2027,” said Cort. “It just was not aggressive enough to sort of match what was possible and what was needed.”

If the plan succeeds, Cort says, there could be 4,000 zero-emission trucks on California roads by 2024. The deadline for public comment on the truck rule is May 28 and it could be voted on in June.

The proposal comes after CARB adopted a rule in 2018 that requires California public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040.

“This is the next step … it doesn't require that all trucks are zero emissions, but it's an important first step to really get that market up and off the ground,” Cort said.

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Ezra David Romero