August 4, 2021
The Interior West Needs to Accelerate the Adoption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicles
Electrifying our transportation system is critical to addressing climate change. Adoption of electric vehicles for personal use is accelerating; the two top-selling months ever for electric vehicles in the United States were March and April 2021. But if we are going to fully address climate change and improve air quality in our region, we need electricity-powered versions of all types of vehicles, including larger vehicles like delivery vans, box trucks, buses, and 18-wheel tractor trailers—also known as medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Larger commercial vehicles tend to have an outsized impact on air quality compared with light-duty vehicles because trucks, vans, and buses often are powered by diesel fuel and emit more carbon pollution. The harmful effects of that pollution and the poor air quality it causes are disparately experienced by low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which tend to be disproportionately located in industrial areas or along highways with large concentrations of trucks and vans transporting freight. While electric vehicle policies focusing on light-duty vehicles are a good first step, electrifying medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is critical in addressing climate change and air quality in our region.
What are the Impacts of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles on Climate Change and Air Quality?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fossil-fueled medium- and heavy-duty trucks are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s transportation sector—accounting for almost a quarter of those emissions in 2019.
While fossil-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are significant sources of the greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change, those vehicles also release other conventional pollutants. Emissions of particulate matter and ozone precursors like nitrogen oxides from the transportation sector cause and exacerbate a myriad of potentially fatal respiratory related illnesses.
Advanced Clean Trucks Rule is a Key Policy in Advancing Electric Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
In June 2020, the California Air Resources Board approved an Advanced Clean Trucks regulation. Any state can now adopt the regulation to help advance the use of electric trucks. The regulation requires manufacturers operating in a participating state to sell an increasing portion of electric vehicle models classified as 2b-8, which range from heavy-duty pickup trucks to 18-wheelers. A manufacturer can meet its Advanced Clean Trucks requirement by selling larger numbers of electric vehicles or buying credits from other auto manufacturers. Manufacturers that fail to meet the Advanced Clean Trucks requirement face a steep fee for non-compliance. The larger the vehicle, the more credits a manufacturer gets for its sale. Implementing the rule requires auto manufacturers to make wholesale shifts toward production and sales of large electric vehicles. The table below summarizes the requirements.
Adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks Rule in the Interior West is Critical to Reduce Air and Climate Pollution
Shortly after the Advanced Clean Trucks rule was approved in California, 15 states— including Colorado — and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding committing to work together to accelerate the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks. The goal is to ensure 100% of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sales are zero-emission vehicles by 2050, with an interim target of 30% by 2030.
Meeting this target will require a significant lead time for manufacturers and fleet operators. If these states are going to reach the ambitious goals laid out in the memorandum of understanding, one of the most effective tools is adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation. Other Western states that have ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, such as New Mexico and Nevada, but did not sign the memorandum of understanding should also consider this rule if they are serious about achieving their climate goals.
While some Western states are actively pursuing the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, most will not be able to act quickly enough to see this rule implemented in 2021. This means 2022 will be a critical year nationwide for adopting this regulation. State leaders across the Interior West must meet the challenges of air pollution and climate change head on and take steps to approve an Advanced Clean Trucks regulation and help reduce harmful fossil-fuel emissions from this significant part of the transportation sector.