Breaking News: California approves world’s first electric truck sales mandate

California regulators have approved a mandate requiring truck manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of electric vehicles.

The rule is the first of its kind in the world.

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are leery, while startups Tesla and Nikola back the standard.

In a highly anticipated vote, the 12-member California Air Resources Board (CARB) has unanimously approved an electric truck mandate that will require medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of zero emission vehicles in the state starting in 2024.

The Advanced Clean Truck rule, the first of its kind in the world, sets out different sales targets based on the vehicle class. By 2035, about 75% of Class 8 big rigs sold in the state will need to be electric.

More than 150 people testified during Thursday’s seven-hour board hearing.

Wary OEMs

Dawn Fenton, director of sustainability and public affairs for Volvo Trucks, said the manufacturer “doubts the market’s readiness to absorb the volumes in this regulation.” 

Full deployment of Volvo’s electric truck pilot in Southern California has been delayed due to a lack of charging stations, she testified, while the coronavirus downturn has negatively impacted the heavy-duty truck market and eroded public funding intended to support and incentivize zero emission vehicle projects. 

Fenton asked the board to insert a provision into the regulation “to ensure truck manufacturers are not deemed not compliant” if they don’t meet sales requirements. “We ask for [a rule based on] realistic success rather than unrealistic expectations.”

Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, referred to the sales mandate as “fundamentally flawed” in lieu of an accompanying fleet purchasing standard. He urged the board to either delay implementation of the rule by two years — until 2026 — or link the sales mandate with a fleet purchasing mandate.  

CARB will hold hearings on an electric truck fleet purchasing standard this summer or early fall.

Electric truck startups

Alana Langdon, Nikola Motor’s vice chair of public affairs, spoke in favor of the standard, saying the hybrid truck maker views the sales mandate as “critical public policy” to transition away from fossil fuels and “achieve a more sustainable future.” She urged CARB to support policies that encourage fleet operators to purchase vehicles, alongside the sales standard.

Andy Schwartz, senior policy advisor for Tesla, affirmed the electric vehicle company’s support of the rule, citing overwhelming demand for both the Tesla Semi and cybertruck.

“There are those who continue to say the Air Resources Board is doing too much,” Schwartz testified. He rejected that stance, noting that “heavy-duty charging infrastructure can and will be built.”

“Fundamentally, the point of regulation is not to simply require things,” Schwartz said, “it is to push the market more quickly, transitioning away from fossil fuels as fast and effectively as we can.”

Drayage driver reaction

Gustavo Villa, a self-described “misclassified” port driver,” testified in favor of the standard.  “By misclassifying employees as contractors, companies don’t take [environmental] responsibility for fleets,” Villa added. Replacing his diesel particulate filter cost thousands of  dollars, he explained, “so I had to put off replacing the diesel particulate filter until I could afford it.”

About 8,000 trucks in the Southern California ports will be out of compliance with California emissions regulations by 2022, CARB board members said. 

Board heralds ‘revolutionary’ rule

In a discussion before the vote, CARB members referred to the electric truck rule as “revolutionary,” “on the right side of history” and “a bold step.” Board members called on CARB staff to work with other states to help scale the electric truck market, continue moving forward with charging infrastructure and accelerate development of the fleet purchasing standard.

“There needs to be mutual assurance: that there will be vehicles for the purchasers and purchasers for the vehicles,” CARB board chair Mary Nichols said.

Ensuring the burden of compliance falls on operators and not misclassified contractors was another concern, board members said.

Related stories:

California regulator: ‘A remarkable time in history’ for clean truck regulation

Waiting on the Tesla Semi

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