California has a smog problem. Not all of California, but where it’s worst (SoCal and the San Joaquin Valley), it’s really bad. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the clean-air agency for the State of California, thinks it has a solution. Their mandate will markedly change the trucking industry.
CARB has adopted a rule that requires truck manufacturers to transition from diesel trucks and vans to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024. They’ve also mandated that all new trucks purchased in the state be electric by 2045.
Hydrogen fuel cells power a number of Hyundai concept vehicles that the company is bringing to production.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Company
Specifically, CARB calls out diesel as being “dirty” though the press release concerning the action fails to mention the environmental and human impact of the adoption of electric vehicles.
CARB’s move is especially aimed at lowering the smog level. According to their research, “trucks are the largest single source of air pollution from vehicles, responsible for 70 percent of the smog-causing pollution and 80 percent of carcinogenic diesel soot even though they number only 2 million among the 30 million registered vehicles in the state.”
In recent years, Hyundai, Toyota, and other manufacturers have been pushing hydrogen-fueled trucks as a smog solution. The companies have even gone so far as to promoted a “hydrogen highway” connecting ports and the areas around them. It is not immediately clear how this new decision will impact development or growth of those plans.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen to power their electric motor(s) propelling them down the road. In effect, they are electric vehicles (EVs). Typically, these models are noted as FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles) to differentiate them from BEVs (battery electric vehicles) – electric vehicles that run on battery power, like the Chevrolet Bolt EV or Tesla Model 3.
Hyundai revealed its vision of the future of commercial trucking at the NACV Show in Atlanta last year.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Company
It is also not immediately apparent if this measure includes all diesel trucks, like Chevrolet Silverados with a Duramax engine or Ford F-150s powered by a Power Stroke V8.
This action is the first of many being considered by CARB. They will take a closer look at two additional related proposals in the coming months. The first would set a new limit on NOx (oxides of nitrogen) while the other would require that new trucks that still use fossil fuels include the most effective exhaust control technology during the transition to electric trucks.
There is also a proposal on the table that would required larger fleets in the state to transition to electric trucks year over year.