Energy Exchange

New York should accelerate the adoption of zero-emission trucks

On the heels of COP26, Governor Hochul has made it clear that New Yorkers must work together to tackle climate change in the state. And New York is taking steps to prioritize climate and clean air. Back in September, the Department of Environmental Conservation introduced the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which requires manufacturers to produce and sell a percentage of new electric trucks annually through 2035.  Since the process began, there has been a 60-day public comment period, during which Environmental Defense Fund provided testimony at a public hearing and submitted joint comments with key stakeholders.

The ACT is a critical first step toward eliminating tailpipe emissions from new trucks and making the air cleaner and more breathable in neighborhoods across the state. But it is not — nor should it be — the sole means to mobilize the market for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and reduce pollution.  A variety of complementary policies must be put in place to allow for a cost-effective, equitable and sustainable transition to clean vehicles.

New York needs zero-emission trucks

Transportation is a leading source of air pollution in New York, accounting for 36% of all greenhouse gas emissions across the state. And while trucks only make up 5% of the state’s 10.6 million registered vehicles, the emissions produced from this sector are disproportionate to the population. Read More »

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Illinois can step up as environmental leader in truck and bus electrification

Yesterday, Illinois State Senator Celina Villanueva and House Representative Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. introduced a resolution to encourage Gov. Pritzker to sign on to a memorandum of understanding that would commit the state to a goal of transitioning all medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses to zero-emission models by 2050. Spearheaded largely by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the Illinois Environmental Council, the resolution will encourage a key step towards a clean transportation future.

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Gearing up for a zero-emission world

President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure package includes $174 billion for electric vehicles, an investment that will speed the transition away from polluting gas and diesel vehicles and toward cleaner forms of road transportation. The upfront cost of infrastructure is a key barrier to rapid deployment of zero-emission vehicles and the health and climate benefits that an electrified vehicle future will provide.

The proposal includes a wide array of vehicle electrification issues — from research and development to manufacturing to increased capability to purchase clean vehicles. But when it comes to maximizing the environmental, health and equity potential of electric transportation, it leaves some critical considerations on the table. Most notably, the potential impact of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, or trucks and buses.

First and foremost, it is crucial that the country’s investment in zero-emission vehicles includes more than passenger cars and is ambitious in cleaning up all medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. President Biden’s call to modernize transit and expand clean school buses is well placed, but the call should extend beyond buses — and as soon as possible. This will require investment in all aspects of the supply chain as well as increased funding and programs to deploy increasing numbers of zero-emission vehicles and charging stations throughout the nation —as well as ensuring that communities of color have the tools needed to benefit from the increased deployment of these vehicles.

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Market certainty critical to hitting ambitious state zero-emission truck goals

Last year, a collection of 15 states and Washington D.C. committed to transitioning to zero-emission trucks and buses via a multi-state memorandum of understanding. This year will be a critical year for the effort, as these states begin to pinpoint the suite of policies needed to foster this transition in an equitable, maximally beneficial way.

The first critical step for these states is to get the ambition right. The targets set out in the MOU are a good start, but they can and should be more aggressive.

The second is to create the market certainty that will be critical to unleashing innovation.

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A teachable moment: Zero-emission school buses are a winning proposition

Every pre-COVID school day, approximately 480,000 school buses carry more than 25 million children to school across the United States. Most of them run on diesel fuel and spew pollution that causes cancer, triggers asthma attacks and makes climate change worse. Indeed, of the over 40,000 school buses registered in the U.S. in 2019, only 240 were zero-emission (and only about 1% of school buses are electric). This picture will not improve without intervention — barring additional measures, only 27,000 of the projected 560,000 school buses that will be built in the next 10 years will be electric.

Luckily, that intervention is starting to arrive. Today, Senator Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Senator Murray (D-WA), Representative Cardenas (D-CA) and Representative Hayes (D-CT) introduced the Clean School Bus Act a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will provide grants for infrastructure and vehicles, with an emphasis on deploying them in communities hardest hit by health-impacting air pollution.

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In 2021 we must set more ambitious targets for zero-emission trucks and buses

There is no question that 2020 was a hard year — for some, it was the hardest year of their lives. Yet despite the historic difficulty of 2020, there were some climate and air quality bright spots. For example, the march toward zero-emission trucks and buses is on. In 2021, we should increase our ambition.

Falling battery and vehicle prices, increased vehicle availability and a growing recognition that we must reduce climate and local air pollution from the transportation sector have sparked the transformation away from fossil fuel trucks and buses — classified as medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. In July, a coalition of 15 states and Washington D.C. committed to accelerating the transition of diesel trucks and buses to zero-emission alternatives. In so doing, they are committing to zero-emission sales targets — 30% of new truck and bus sales by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Given that these states represent about one-third of the U.S. truck market, this commitment is a big step forward.

However, these goals do not represent the level of speed or scope needed to adequately address the significant health and climate change concerns posed by trucks and buses.

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