clean transportation and alternative fuels

Gasoline and diesel transportation fuels represent a major share of America’s most pernicious air pollution, water-borne toxins, and climate emissions. CEERT has been working to clean up CO2 from cars and trucks, promote electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and their recharging/refueling infrastructure, and bring about smarter transportation and development planning.

Recent Developments:

Advanced Clean Cars (ACC)

The Federal Reset

The US-EPA is expected to announce updated regulations setting new emissions standards that will further reduce GHG and criteria pollutants produced by passenger cars and trucks.  The regulations will cover model years (MY) 2027-2032 and will support President Biden’s goal of achieving at least 50% sales of electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by 2030.

EPA has indicated it will not mandate that the whole vehicle fleet be zero-emission.  Environ­mental and public health advocates are urging that the regulations avoid any backsliding and maintain maximum performance-based stringency, including real-driving emissions tests.  They, EV advocates, and EV man­u­­facturers argue that, given new federal government investments in charging and battery production, the EPA should push for limits on overall car emissions strict enough to yield at least a 75% reduction from 2021 levels by 2030.  The advocacy community is pressing for the EPA proposal to measure up to stand­ards set in California’s ACC II regulations and tighten limits on smog-forming vehicle pollution, with automakers potentially having to adopt exhaust control equipment already standard on new passen­ger vehicles sold in Europe, China, India, and other markets.

California’s Work

On October 14, CARB submitted final Advanced Clean Cars II regulations to the Office of Administra­tive Law, with OAL approving the package on November 30.  CARB must receive a waiver from the US-EPA before the regulations can be enforced.

A Continent Uniting

The Canadian federal government took submissions through March 16 on proposed zero emis­sion vehicle (ZEV) regulations that will require all new passenger vehicles sold in Canada to be ZEVs by 2035.  CEERT continues to work with Canadian NGOs on ZEV policy.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC’s) proposed approach to the ZEV mandate would set a nationwide standard, but not regional or provincial targets.  While British Columbia and Québec have had their own mandate programs for some time, and Ontario is a large enough market to serve as another center of ZEV deployment, CEERT and the Canadian NGOs believe that vehicle man­u­facturers should have to meet separate targets in the other provinces and regions, and multiple com­ments on how regional targets could ensure a smoother overall national ZEV transition were submitted.  ECCC’s Expert Advisory Group on ZEVs, comprising NGOs, auto manufacturers and other key stake­holders, continues to provide feedback to ECCC on further refinement of the proposed regulation.

Parallel International Developments

In a highly unusual move, the European Union’s proposed EU 7 vehicle emissions standards were put on hold, and a planned March 7 vote on final approval of the regulations was postponed.  The core issue was that Germany, Italy, and Finland objected to the use of CO2-neutral e-fuels in combustion-engine vehicles (ICEVs) sold after 2035 being non-binding.  An agreement was subsequently reached guaranteeing that the sale of ICEVs would be permitted after 2035, provided the ICEVs operate only on e-fuels confirmed to be carbon-neutral.  The EU must now craft language on this provision that can satisfy the zero-emissions stipulation, and the issue will likely require EU separate supplemental legisla­tion in the fall.  While there are other EU members who oppose the ICEV ban on grounds other than when using e-fuels (e.g., Poland, Czechia and Bulgaria), they do not represent a sufficient number of votes to veto the current compromise reached with Germany, Italy, and Finland.

Clean Truck Regulations

Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation

In its April 27-28 hearings, CARB will consider the adoption of the revised proposed Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation (ACF Rule) intended to complement the ACT and Low-NOx Omnibus Rules, reduce truck pollution, and prime the market for state, public and private fleets to transition to 100% zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) trucks (a.k.a. ZETs).  The regulations will reflect one of the adjustments CEERT and our colleagues in the ACF Coalition had advocated for: moving up the 100% MHD ZEV sales date for fleets from 2040 to 2036.  However, CARB did not respond affirmatively to our other request: lowering the High Priority Fleet (HPF) threshold for Class 7 and 8 tractors to 10 or more trucks (down from a threshold of 50).  Adopting the 2036 compliance deadline for trucking fleets could reduce tractors’ NOx and PM 2.5 emissions by 16% and GHG emissions by 13%.  CEERT and our colleagues in the ACF Coalition will be advocating for the CARB Board to adopt the revised proposed ACF regulatory package.

Advanced Clean Trucks Rule

On April 6 the US-EPA granted California a waiver allowing it to proceed with regulations to trans­ition the state’s fleet of MHD trucks to 100% ZETs by no later than 2045.

Low-NOx Omnibus Rule

CARB is awaiting US-EPA approval of its waiver to enforce this regulation, which was filed with the Secretary of State on December 22, 2021.  The waiver will likely be issued sometime this year.

Federal Clean Truck Regulations

The US-EPA is also expected to announce planned updates to the regulations setting new emissions stand­ards to further reduce the GHGs produced by MHD trucks for MY2027 and beyond.  This and the rulemaking for passenger vehicles and trucks are anticipated to take into considera­tion recent Con­gres­sional action such as the Inflation Reduction Act, and lead to an accelerated deploy­ment of zero-emission trucks across the country.

Clean Trucks in Canada

Canada has not yet begun an extensive public process on updated regulations for clean MHD trucks.  In its December 14 Action Plan for Clean On-Road Transportation, the Federal Govern­ment does rhe­torically commit to “… reach 35% of total new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales being zero-emission vehicles by 2030 [and] develop a medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle reg­ulation to require 100% of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales to be zero-emission ve­hicles by 2040 for a subset of vehicle types based on feasibility…”   In the meantime Canada has ramped up incentives for medium- and heavy-duty programs and is moving toward increasing awareness about zero emission trucks.  Canada is a signatory to the Drive to Zero Initiative.

Clean Transportation Investments

The CEC has not yet released its proposed Clean Transportation Program 2023–2024 Investment Plan Update.  A first meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Clean Transportation Program to dis­­cuss the Plan Update will be on April 27.  Funding for this program established under Assem­bly Bill 118 and extended under Assembly Bill 8 is due to expire on January 1, 2024 unless further ex­tended in this legislative session.  The Governor’s office and several legislators have shown an interest in reauthor­izing the funding programs (which also include the Air Quality Improvement Program ad­min­istered by CARB, which is now jointly implemented with its Low Carbon Transportation Invest­ment Plans.)

On April 24 CARB will hold a first meeting to discuss the 2023-2024 Clean Transportation Incentives for Low Carbon Transportation Investments and the Air Quality Improvement Program.

On January 10 Governor Newsom released his proposed 2023-24 California State Budget, which reflects the challenges posed by a projected $22.5 billion deficit.  The budget proposes to eliminate $6 billion in spending from the five-year $54 billion climate package the Legislature approved last year, cutting it to $48 billion.

$2.5 billion would be cut from ZEV incentive programs, such as for car rebates and charging infra­structure, and shift about $1.4 billion to the state’s cap-and-trade program, leaving a $1.1 billion short­fall.  (The proposed budget nominally preserves most of the multiyear clean transportation funding plan: $8.9 billion of the $10 billion ZEV package funded from the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 State Budgets.)  The cuts would also impact construction of chargers and other critical infrastructure for heavy-duty trucks needed for the transition to 100% ZETs in the coming years.  $1.5 billion would be cut from the general fund and $839 million would be replenished from the state’s cap-and-trade fund.  A further $2.2 billion would be cut from some rail and public transit projects such as the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program.

With transportation remaining the state’s largest source of air and climate pollution, responsible for 50% of the GHG emissions, 80% of smog-forming pollutants, and 95% of carcinogenic diesel par­ti­culate matter, advocates are working to ensure that all transportation investments remain stable and aligned with California’s environmental and public health obligations, while continuing to prioritize maximum air quality, public health, and job benefits for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The CEC funding will complement $2.6 billion in clean transportation incentives, including consumer vehicle rebates and heavy-duty and off-road equipment, approved by CARB in its Fiscal Year 2022-23 Funding Plan for Clean Transportation Incentives.