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California's Air Resources Board could ban sales of new gas-powered medium and heavy-duty trucks

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

A semi-truck drives past a lake on a highway with mountains in the distance.
Image Credit: Wix

The Chair of the California Air and Resources Board said that the state soon could ban the sale of new gas-powered medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

The move would follow state regulations to ban sales of new fossil-fuel powered passenger and light-duty vehicles which were enacted earlier this year. That earlier ban would add to the opportunity for the U.S. to move past its targets for reducing the greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.

The Golden State is home to the world's fifth-largest economy on its own, and the regulatory measures it takes have broad ripple effects on policymaking and industry across the U.S. (thanks to its massive purchasing power and population).

“[Our] board considered the first of two hearings to consider an advanced clean fleets regulation that would transition medium and heavy-duty vehicles to zero-emission,” Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air and Resources Board (CARB) said last month at a Washington Post Live event.

While the transition will present an infrastructure challenge, Randolph emphasized both recent federal EV infrastructure funding and the economic opportunity and pollution reduction benefits associated with banning new medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

In August, California regulators passed rules banning the sale of new gas-powered light-duty vehicles by 2035, a move hailed as a crucial victory in the fight against climate change.

Now, as the board considers adding heavier vehicles to the impending ban, the largest challenge will be infrastructure to support the electric fleet.

She underscored the limitless potential for zero-emission vehicles, from delivery trucks to buses. Getting them on the road, and allowing people to see them is a significant first step in allowing people to imagine large vehicles that are quiet, smooth, and release no fossil fuels or harsh smells, Randolph said.

“Getting people to see the future is the first step.”

As they plan to transition, creating a clear regulatory pathway with clear timelines will be of the utmost importance. Randolph says that the board plans to work with manufacturers and customers to help address the inevitable challenges.

They will also work with utility and energy planning and regulatory agencies to ensure the grid needs are addressed, depot charging facilities are able to be constructed and connect to the grid, and retail charging can be deployed at scale.

She emphasized the likely need for medium and heavy-duty public charging options. “Truckstop companies are really looking into this as a growth opportunity to start thinking about charging plazas at their locations.”

“There’s a huge amount of economic opportunity and energy around this transition.”

At present, the ban will reduce Californian emissions by 40% and national emissions by 8%. Adding medium and heavy-duty vehicles will have immense benefits for emission reduction goals and for communities riddled with trucking pollution, Randolph said.

“We have people living near ports, alongside freeways, [and] near warehouses that are impacted by diesel pollution every day. Getting rid of the dirtiest of the dirty vehicles and moving them to zero-emission, will fundamentally change lives. We need to make this transition as soon as we can.”

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