Hauling In California? That Rig Had Better Be Green
The California Air Resource Board (CARB) just passed a mandate that will require manufacturers of big rigs, heavy duty pickups, and some construction equipment to adhere to new zero-emission quotas and a carbon-credit system.
As all-electric 18-wheelers are in short supply, California wants to wait a few years to put the new rules into play. Still, it’s eager to get the ball rolling so it can start replacing diesel-driven transport with something from the battery-electric section. It also gives the state another opportunity to pat itself on the back despite not having any clue whether or not the strategy is economically sustainable. Even with battery technology moving at a fair clip, there’s a lot of engineering left to be done before these types of vehicles can become commonplace.
The energy grid needs to be bolstered to support higher loads as more EVs plug into it, requiring local storage centers and more facilities that produce power overall. Energy density is another serious issue that must be sorted out, otherwise the brunt of these vehicles’ payload will be sacrificed for gigantic battery packs. That’s to say nothing of waste management. Eventually, these colossal batteries will need to be disposed of in a way that doesn’t contaminate soil and water.
No matter, those particulars are of little concern when you’re living in the most futuristic state in the nation. “California is once again leading the nation in the fight to make our air cleaner,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement following the vote.
According to Reuters, the mandate was passed unanimously by CARB and was hailed by all those voting on it “as a major step toward reducing climate-warming emissions and improving public health for low-income communities near busy highway corridors and ports.”
Environmentalists say the mandate, which applies to medium-duty and large trucks, will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035.
The proposed mandate is expected to start in the 2024 model year and initially require [5-9 percent] zero emission vehicles (ZEV) based on class, rising to [30-50 percent] by 2030. By 2045, all vehicles should be ZEVs “where feasible.”
The regulation would apply to pickup trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more, but not to light-duty trucks, which are covered by separate zero emission regulations.
CARB plans a separate rule in early 2021 that will require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.
California has more electric vehicle startups than anywhere else in the nation, so it has probably the best chance of making something like this work. It’s also had historic smog problems in some areas, making its desire to eliminate diesel-powered vehicles a little easier to understand. That said, its leadership has clearly gone overboard with the recreational marijuana (speaking as someone who has been there, brah) because these targets look untenable — unless alien technology arrives within the next few years.
We might be able to hang in there on the HD pickup front if battery tech maintains good progress — especially since it seems that segment’s being cut a break, and mainstream manufacturers are already working on them — but the rest sounds fairly fantastical.
“For decades, while the automobile has grown cleaner and more efficient, the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “Diesel vehicles are the workhorses of the economy, and we need them to be part of the solution to persistent pockets of dirty air in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Now is the time — the technology is here and so is the need for investment.”
The California Air Resources Board has an impressively long document outlining the new regulations from a public hearing in 2019 — if you’re interested. Most of the data focuses on the environmental impact of the changes and how to implement them. We’ve only given you the broadest brush stokes here, but there are inclusions for construction equipment and the obligatory carbon credit system green manufacturers can use to make money off those producing too many diesel-burners. It does offer some flexibility to all companies, however, by allowing them to focus on electrifying one segment and and having those credits carry over to another.