Climate 411

Driving the electric vehicle transition: auto companies and states step up to lead

If you watched any major televised sporting events this year, from the NCAA Final Four to the Super Bowl, you saw ad after ad showcasing American auto companies’ new electric cars. It’s proof that electric vehicles (EVs) are ready for a mainstream market – you don’t pay Will Ferrell and LeBron James to promote your car just to niche buyers.

Momentum is clearly building. Companies are prepared to capitalize on the economic benefits of EVs, for both consumers and autoworkers, as well as the climate and health benefits that all Americans will see.

In the last three months, some of the largest automakers in the U.S. and the world have committed to dramatically expanding their EV lineup. They have announced plans to invest billions of dollars in EV development, and plans to transition to an all-electric future by 2035 or earlier.

The Biden administration made a commitment last week to reduce U.S. climate pollution by at least 50 percent by 2030 – a commitment that was supported by major automakers and that will require significant emission reductions from the transportation sector.

States are also playing a leading role in driving progress. Last week, a bipartisan group of 12 governors detailed the important role that states have played in deploying zero-emitting vehicles and urged the Biden administration to move forward with ambitious standards that would eliminate pollution from all motor vehicles. And next week, the California Air Resources Board will hold a workshop related to its development of Advanced Clean Car II standards – standards that are expected to help the state ensure all new vehicles sold in California are zero-emitting by 2035.

The transportation sector is responsible for over a quarter of U.S. climate pollution – more than any other sector. The transportation sector also emits a slew of health-harming pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen and particulate pollution. The transportation sector is key to meaningful climate action.

To achieve meaningful reductions in transportation pollution, it will be key for the administration follow automakers’ commitments and state leadership with bold, decisive air pollution standards that put the U.S. on a path to ensure all new vehicles are zero-emitting no later than 2035 for passenger cars and trucks, and no later than 2040 for freight trucks and buses.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs / Comments are closed

DOE’s SuperTruck 3 Can Help Us Reach a Zero-Emission Future – If We Have the Right Clean Truck Standards Too

Cleaning up pollution from the U.S. trucking industry is an urgent need for the U.S. For the past decade, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SuperTruck Program has helped showcase solutions for a cleaner future. Now Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has announced a new generation of the DOE SuperTruck program – SuperTruck 3 – that will focus on higher efficiency and zero-emission solutions.

Through the SuperTruck 3 program, DOE will provide $162 million in funding to “pioneer electrified medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight system concepts that achieve even higher efficiency and lower emissions.” The funding focuses on a range of approaches, including all-electric systems, plug-in hybrid systems using renewable biofuels, and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Previous generations of the SuperTruck have delivered much needed advancements. For example, major manufacturers including Navistar, Freightliner, Peterbilt and Cummins developed trucks that achieved between 10.7 and 13 miles per gallon – significantly better than the previous average of about five miles per gallon. These trucks were critical to developing and demonstrating technical solutions that fleets across the country are using in new trucks today to burn less fuel. SuperTruck 3 could have a major impact on the market too – if it is paired with a new round of Clean Truck multipollutant standards that further drive us to the zero-emission future that is both possible and desperately needed.

There is a lot of work between a successful demonstration project and truck fleets saving billions of dollars annually from fuel-saving technologies. Well-designed federal Clean Truck standards are a key element to making this leap. The required improvement and market certainty that these standards provide fosters the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market.

The results of the first generation of the DOE SuperTruck program came out between 2014 and 2016, while the Obama administration was considering a second round of emission standards for heavy-duty trucks. Those standards have pushed manufacturers to bring more efficient trucks to market. For example, the International LT Series improved efficiency by over 8% between 2020 and 2021.

Zero-emission truck technology has also made enormous strides since 2016, when that last generation of the EPA’s heavy-duty emission standards were finalized. Back then, there were a total of seven zero-emission truck models that were either commercially available or in advanced demonstration, and most of the available models were post-production retrofits.  Today there are over 125 models that are either available, in production or at an advanced stage of demonstration, most with established manufacturers. We are also seeing very large fleet deployments and major fleets, such as FedEx, stepping forward with clear timeframes for transitioning to 100% zero-emission fleets.

It is time to embrace this rush of innovation and further accelerate it through more protective standards – 100% zero pollution new trucks and buses by 2040, with key vehicle segments moving even faster. With the current generation of zero-emission technology, we can achieve wide spread electrification for most heavy-duty vehicles, including school buses, package delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and regional haul trucks. These vehicles typically travel 200 miles or less each day and return to a centralized depot where they can be recharged. New research investments in areas like more rapid charging can further enhance the  case for electrification of these vehicles. These investments can also expand zero-emission solutions into more challenging uses, such as long-haul trucking. These advancements can support the ability of manufacturers to accelerate fleet-wide deployment even sooner than 2040.

Clean Truck standards should be paired with ambitious societal investments that ensure zero-emission vehicles are deployed first and foremost to reduce pollution in communities that have long borne the brunt of vehicle pollution. President Biden’s infrastructure package is a good first step in this direction. Congress needs to move forward to enact this plan.

States also have a critical role to play in this transition. They need to develop the charging infrastructure for electric trucks while leveraging lowest-cost solutions, such as managed charging and battery storage,and adopting the Advanced Clean Truck Rule and Heavy-Duty Omnibus Regulation.

If we pair together these critical steps – technology development, federal emission standards, state-leadership, and societal investments – the impact would be massive. Moving to 100% zero pollution new trucks and buses by 2040 would:

  • Prevent as many as 57,000 premature deaths in total through 2050
  • Eliminate more than 4.7 billion tons of climate pollution cumulatively by 2050
  • Provide America with up to $485 billion in health and environmental benefits alone as a result of pollution reductions

As the new SuperTruck 3 program makes clear, there are a lot of gains we can still make in cleaning up trucking. Now is the time for a bold, achievable vision of a zero-emission future for our truck and bus fleet.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 2 Responses

The benefits of clean trucks and buses: thousands of lives saved, less pollution, more jobs

Passenger cars have been leading the way, so far, in the development of zero emission technologies. But there’s also a movement underway to develop heavy-duty electric vehicles – like freight trucks and buses – that could have sweeping benefits for the climate, public health, and American jobs.

At EDF, we just released a new report, Clean Trucks, Clean Air, American Jobs, that analyzes the effects of eliminating tailpipe pollution from those medium and heavy-duty vehicles – including buses, semis and other long-haul trucks, and the “last-mile” trucks that deliver packages to American homes.

Our report found that a rapid transition to zero-emitting freight trucks and buses will significantly reduce dangerous air pollution – pollution that disproportionately burdens lower income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Air pollution standards that ensure all new heavy-duty trucks and buses sold for urban and community use are zero-emitting by 2035, and all such vehicles sold are zero-emission by 2040, would:

  • Prevent a sum total of more than 57,000 premature deaths by 2050
  • Eliminate a sum total of more than 4.7 billion metric tons of climate pollution by 2050.
  • Significantly reduce two main components of smog – nitrogen oxides pollution by a sum total of more than 10 million tons by 2050, and particulate pollution by a sum total of almost 200,000 tons by 2050
  • Save $485 billion in health and environmental benefits alone as a result of pollution reductions.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Health, Jobs, News / Comments are closed

A bold new commitment to the Paris Agreement is achievable – and essential for U.S. leadership

This blog post was co-authored with Nat Keohane, Senior Vice President for Climate at EDF.
The White House

Now that the United States is officially back in the Paris Agreement, after four years of climate inaction and denial, all eyes are on the Biden administration to see whether it will meet the moment by putting forward a new emissions reduction commitment that is both ambitious and credible. In order to hit both marks, the administration should commit to cut total net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 – a target that is consistent with the science and President Biden’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050, commensurate with commitments of other advanced economies, and one that many state leaders, businesses, advocates and others are already calling for.

This year’s UN climate talks, known as COP26 and set to take place in November, will be a proving ground for the Paris Agreement framework. Countries must come to the table with more ambitious climate targets known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. Collectively, these NDCs must put the world on a path consistent with the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

The United States has the chance to regain a position as a global leader on climate – and to galvanize climate action around the world – by setting an ambitious target that meets the scale of the climate crisis. The new U.S. NDC must also be credible – meaning that one or more technically and economically viable policy pathways can be identified to achieve it. Using a range of analyses, a new EDF report demonstrates how a bold new commitment of reducing total net GHG emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 is achievable through multiple policy pathways – and that charting an ambitious path on climate is essential for growing a stronger and more equitable, clean U.S. economy.

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Also posted in Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, International, Jobs, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Comments are closed

Five things to know about the Texas blackouts

1. Our first priority must be to help Texas families

Millions in Texas were without power and drinkable water for days on end, and families across the state are still working to find food and assess the damage from burst pipes. Helping them must be our first priority.

2. Climate change means all of our infrastructure may be more vulnerable to extreme weather. But Texas’ grid wasn’t ready for extreme cold and winter storms.  

While there will be much finger pointing in the days to come, it’s becoming clear that the biggest problem is that ERCOT, the state’s grid operator, as well as the Texas Public Utility Commission that oversees it, haven’t prepared the state’s electricity grid for more extreme weather, including winter storms which may become more common with climate change.

Leaders at all levels should make sure not only power facilities, but all of our infrastructure, is built with resilience in mind & factor climate change impacts in planning. We need policies from the state to ensure Texas is ready.

As the Texas Tribune said, “Texas officials knew winter storms could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies — many of which opted against the costly upgrades.”

3. Fossil fuel lobbyists are trying to spin the truth, but natural gas and coal were the biggest part of the problem.
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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Science / Comments are closed

Eleven facts about clean vehicles to counter gas guzzling lobbyists

The average American household spends about $175 a month on gasoline. That means billions of dollars to oil companies, refiners, and others — and a huge incentive for them to block policies that move America to clean, zero-emissions electric vehicles.

We’re already seeing a coordinated push to stop our leaders from boosting American clean cars, trucks and buses — even though these policies will create jobs and a more just and equitable economy, clean the air, and are popular with the public.

EDF experts have assembled these facts to counter the lobbyists who want to make sure Americans keep paying at the pump.

1. Moving to clean electric vehicles will help America win the race for good jobs today and tomorrow. 

The question isn’t electric vehicles versus gas-powered vehicles — the global industry is already moving to EVs, and spending at least $257 billion this decade to make the switch. The issue is whether American workers will get these jobs. We can build these vehicles in places like Hamtramck, MI and Spartanburg, SC or have them shipped to us from Hamburg and Shanghai. Switching to zero-emissions electric trucks, buses, and cars will create jobs today and help us compete with Europe and China in this rapidly expanding market. Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Setting the Facts Straight / Comments are closed