The building blocks are in place for a strong Advanced Clean Fleets rule in California

By Lauren Navarro & Pamela MacDougall

California air regulators are currently considering adoption of the Advanced Clean Fleets rule — a purchase requirement for medium and heavy-duty fleets to adopt an increasing percentage of zero-emission trucks. This rule has the potential to be transformative.

California has some of the worst air quality in the country; these trucks make up only 6% of vehicles on the road, but they make up 73% of the nitrogen oxide from vehicles that harms local health and account for 9% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions . And because these fleets are often associated with warehouses, depots and distribution centers, more likely to be sited in already pollution-burdened communities, these vehicles have a significant hand in the disproportionate health impact faced by residents of these overburdened communities. As a result, it is imperative for the state to set the 100% ZEV truck sales target for 2036 in the ACF, with a clear and achievable ramp up for fleets to meet that ultimate 100% zero emissions goal.

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Electric trucks are market ready, and California has made major progress in ZEV truck model availability and fleet commitments in the past few years. Both California utility regulators and electric utilities are stepping up to commit major public funds and make plans to bring charging online for these vehicles. Recently, California authorized another one billion dollars of electric utility customer funds with a majority allocated to help support the fleets making this transition in communities overburdened with diesel truck pollution.

ZEV truck models are rolling off the assembly line

According to a recent analysis, a significant amount of investments in the ZEV truck and bus supply chain have already taken place — yielding a strong and growing domestic supply chain for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

California is leading the nation with at least 128 companies in 181 locations involved in this supply chain; 86 of these companies are headquartered in the state, with over 44,000 total employees — and, there has been over $3.8 billion of announced corporate investments in manufacturing, infrastructure, research and training over the last seven years.

The proof is in the numbers, and analysis finds a nearly 8,500% increase in zero-emission fleet deployments and commitments since 2017. The recent influx of these clean trucks is an important step toward reducing the health-harming, climate change pollution from diesel trucks and a key indicator of a flourishing market.

Utilities and regulatory policies are moving in the right direction

According to the California Energy Commission’s recent EV Charging Infrastructure Assessment, an additional 157,000 chargers are needed to support the 180,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles anticipated on the road by 2030.

This rapid scale-up requires the state’s large electric utilities to play a critical role by installing the charging stations and necessary infrastructure. Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a Transportation Electrification Framework that authorizes an additional one billion dollars into a five-year suite of programs, with a focus on charging trucks, particularly in these overburdened communities, to advance the deployment of ZEV vehicles. California has more than half of the EVs in the country, and this major new investment will enable the state’s electric utilities to continue the deployment of electric vehicles. This money is in addition to several previously authorized electric utility customer investments into charging infrastructure.

In coordination with that activity, the California Energy Commission approved a $2.9 billion investment plan that accelerates California’s 2025 electric vehicle charging goals. The plan includes $1.7 billion for medium- and heavy-duty ZEV infrastructure and will support the deployment of thousands of ZEV trucks. This is in addition to the heavy-duty charging infrastructure tax credit in the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which increases incentives from $30,000 per property to $100,000 per item.

To account for the increased need of grid capacity to support charging infrastructure hastened by the ACF, the state directed the large electric utilities (including Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric)  to use higher forecasts for transportation electrification than had been used previously. Since it takes time to build a power plant, this action is critical to ensure that there will be sufficient power available where and when we need it for all of these zero-emission trucks to be able to charge in a cost effective manner.

In addition to proactive power procurement planning, electric utilities will need to take other steps in order to be ready for the scale up in charging needs. Some like SCE are already heeding the call. A few best practices are below:

  • Streamline utility infrastructure process: When developing and installing charging infrastructure, utilities should work with fleets to ensure sufficient capacity is available at the depot to handle the new load. Utilities should be providing the necessary additional resources to enable these engagements.
  • Make use of accurate data: Accurate data is vital to prepare the grid at the right level in the right place and time to most efficiently deliver the infrastructure without under or overbuilding. Fleets and charging providers can offer insights into where and when they expect adoption and charging to take place, and agencies can work with industry and utilities to identify and prioritize key corridors where infrastructure support is needed. To best prepare and plan utilities need localized information from fleets on when and where vehicles will be charging and at what levels.
  • Active outreach: Collaboration between agencies, industry associations, original equipment manufacturers and utilities will have the most impact on fleet education. Providing fleets with the information and support they need in an accessible format is essential to building a strong, long-term relationship between fleets and their electricity provider.

The building blocks are in place to support the rapid scale of electrification that a strong ACF rule demands. A 100% ZEV purchase requirement by 2036 is possible, with continued work and collaboration on the part of electric utilities and fleets. To avoid compromising our air and our health, CARB must unleash widespread adoption of these life-saving, climate-protecting trucks with a strengthened ACF rule.

In adopting such a rule, California’s air regulators can be confident that both the vehicles themselves and the supportive charging infrastructure will be deployed to help uplift the state’s overburdened communities, reduce air pollution and improve people’s lives. California should continue to lead full speed ahead.

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