Texas creates task force to evaluate charging needs for ZEV trucks

Texas will create an interagency task force to evaluate infrastructure charging and capacity needs for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, a tremendous step forward in the state’s ongoing efforts to support the zero-emission vehicle industry.

The taskforce is the result of a rider adopted in the state budget, which was signed into law earlier this month. The rider requires the Texas Department of Transportation to coordinate with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Public Utility Commission and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to “evaluate how to deploy zero-emission medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicle charging infrastructure to best support growth in that market” in a way that will “maximize competitiveness, innovation, and efficiency, while also maintaining the integrity and cost-effectiveness of the Texas grid.”

The rider details specific items the taskforce must examine, including:

  • Evaluate national, state and local laws and regulations that impact the manufacturing, operations and public and private investments in the development of MHDV charging infrastructure.
  • Identify opportunities for private fleets to better exchange information with utilities and relative state agencies regarding charging profiles and energy needs for the different classes of zero-emission vehicles in the state.
  • Examine what policies and statewide oversight may be most beneficial to helping expand MHDV charging infrastructure throughout the state.

The newly created task force is the latest example of Texas charting its own, unique path towards the zero-emission transportation future. While states like California, New York, New Jersey and many other states are pursuing the transition through adoption of Advanced Clean Truck rules, Texas is following its traditional low-regulation, light-touch approach to move into the zero-emission vehicle space at the industry’s pace.

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So far, it’s been working. Last summer, the state of Texas awarded $8 million in incentives for the purchase of new electric heavy-duty trucks. That total increased ten-fold this month, with TCEQ announcing $87 million for an all-electric grant program targeted almost entirely at replacing Class 4-8 medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. Increased private-sector investments, buoyed by federal grant funding through the IIJA and IRA, are coming together to make the state of Texas one of the top places where fleets are looking to place zero-emission trucks.

With financial assistance for deployment of zero-emission fleets advancing, the task force will take a head-on approach to the other major challenge that comes with zero-emission MHDV adoption: certainty around charging infrastructure.

For fleets and utilities, expanding charging infrastructure can be a chicken-and-egg situation. Fleets want to deploy more ZEV trucks, but only if they know the infrastructure will be there to support them. Utilities in Texas are eager to deliver and provide charging for fleets, but they need to know when and where those deployments will occur.

Rep. Armando Walle, who carried the budget rider and has sat on the powerful budget conference committee the past three legislative sessions, decided to pursue the creation of the task force to break the logjam. The rider brings together the relevant state agencies and instructs them to coordinate directly with fleets, utilities, local governments and community groups. This creates space for all involved parties to determine how to balance regional needs and capacities that allow for flexibility with infrastructure adoption. Additionally, statewide, uniform policies are established to create certainty for fleets that will move vehicles throughout the Lone Star State.

The task force will hold quarterly meetings, beginning in the fall of 2023, and are required to provide a report to the Legislature about their findings by October 1, 2024. EDF will play a close, hands-on role throughout the process, with the goal of advancing a bill or series of bills for the next legislative session, beginning in January 2025 that can further advance the transition to zero-emission vehicles in Texas.

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