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    Changing the world, one electric truck at a time


    Lynn La  LYNN LA  MAY 1, 2023

    Now that California has opted to phase out diesel trucking, the state will find out in the years to come which was right: the aspirations of environmentalists or the warnings of the trucking industry.

    On Friday the California Air Resources Board unanimously voted to ban the sale of new diesel big rigs, delivery and garbage trucks by 2036 and to require large fleets to reach 100% zero-emissions by 2042. The first-in-the-world move is as ambitious as it is controversial, according to CalMatters’ environmental reporter Nadia Lopez. While environmentalists cheered the board’s decision to loosen the diesel industry’s grip on the economy, truckers anticipated “economic chaos and dysfunction.”

    • Gideon Kracov, air board member and environmental lawyer: “Ten years from now, when we look back to this day…we can say that California has changed the world. We can say that California did this right.”
    • Jim Verburg, spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association: “We do not want to see this regulation compromise the delivery of essential goods and services to Californians or compromise the state’s economy.”

    The decision will impact about 1.8 million trucks in California. In addition to cleaner air, especially for residents living near ports, railways, freeways and warehouses, the board calculated as much as $48 billion in economic savings for fleet operators, as well as $26 billion saved in health impacts over the lifespan of the rule.

    But the expensive upfront costs and tight deadlines for trucking companies make the practicalities of implementing the board’s decision difficult.

    Diesel-powered engines are highly efficient and can carry heavy loads across long distances. Electric models, on the other hand, currently cost more than twice a diesel truck (a Tesla semi is about $250,000) and take hours to charge. They also can’t yet travel the long ranges necessary to move goods as quickly — an issue compounded by the state’s lack of a robust charging network.

    California has more than 80,000 chargers. An additional 17,000 are to be installed, but the state will need 1.2 million for the 7.5 million electric vehicles expected on the roads by 2030.

    Then there’s the issue of power: During the hot summer months, Californians are all too familiar with the rolling blackouts that try to cut down on the state’s energy consumption. As Nadia first reported in January, the state must triple its power-generation capacity if it wants to electrify vehicles and other sectors of the economy. But state officials said they were confident that the 12.5 million passenger cars and trucks hitting California roads by 2035 will not strain the grid.

    In response to these concerns, the board said it will revisit the rule as it rolls out, and scheduled a check-in on zero-emission truck availability and charging infrastructure by the end of 2025.

    Electric vehicle primer: New from our engagement team — a version of our electric vehicle explainer, especially made for libraries and community groups, as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative. Topics already featured: Wage theft, water and state government.


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