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 has still not set a date for issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on fed­eral emis­sions standards for 2027 and later model-year passenger cars and trucks (expected to be largely in­fluenced by California’s updated Advanced Clean Cars (ACC II) regulations). The announcement is expected in 2023.

On October 22, 17 Republican Attorneys General suing the US-EPA over the waiver it had issued rein­stating California’s authority (re­voked under the Trump Administration) to set its own vehicle pollution emissions filed a legal briefing with the court detailing why they consider California’s waiver to be an uncon­stitu­tional grant of unique regulatory power denied any other state.  Oral arguments have yet to be heard by the U.S. Court Of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  Five major auto companies and several CEERT affiliates have intervened in support of the EPA preserving California’s authority.

California’s Work

After considering stakeholder comments to Staff’s proposed minor revisions, on August 25 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted Staff’s proposed Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) emissions regulations for passenger vehicles and light trucks, beginning with model year 2026.  The regulations set a target sales ramp that auto manufacturers need to meet in order to ensure that by 2035 100% of new cars and light trucks sold in California are either zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) or a limited number (no more than 20%) of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The regulations aim to maximize the reductions of criteria emissions from new internal combus­tion engine vehicles (ICEVs) between 2026 and 2035 before transitioning completely to ZEV sales by 2035.  The updated low-emission vehicle (LEV IV) requirements increase the stringency of ICEV emission limits and tightening standards and requirements (e.g., better control of cold-start emissions and standards for aggressive driving) to deliver real-world emission reductions outside of certification and testing labs.

CARB anticipates that ACC II will avoid cumulative emissions of 69,885 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 4,481 tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and 395.1 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions from 2026 to 2040 (including projected reductions from fuel production).  It will result in fewer cardiopulmonary deaths and reduce hospital admissions for cardiovascular illness, respira­tory illness, and emergency room visits.

While CEERT and our allies in the ACC Coalition of NGOs had long advocated that the ACC II regula­tions include mandatory equity provisions that would incentivize automakers to deploy more ZEVs in com­munities dis­pro­portionally burdened by air pollution from transportation, CARB only included op­tional provisions toward that end.  Other than this oversight, CEERT and allies in the ACC Coalition strongly supported CARB’s adoption of the new regulations.

A Continent Uniting

On December 19, Oregon adopted California’s ACC II regulations, and will require all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in Oregon to be zero-emission by 2035.

On December 21, Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change released its Action Plan for Clean On-Road TransportationProposed regulations were issued on December 31 requiring that at least 20 percent of new vehicles sold in Canada be zero-emission by 2026, at least 60 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2035.  Final Regulations are expected by year-end.  CEERT continues our work with Canadian NGOs to encourage their federal government to develop a maximally strin­gent ZEV policy.

Parallel International Developments

On November 10, the European Union released its new proposed EU 7 standards for motor vehicles, establishing an enforceable target that will require that by 2035, all cars and vans sold in the EU release zero CO2 emissions.  The new rules bring previously separate emission regulations for passenger cars, buses, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks under a single set of fuel- and technology-neutral rules that require uniform emissions performance.  The proposal will also regulate emissions from brakes and tires.

The European Commission claims that the new emissions standards will lower total NOx emissions from cars and vans by 35% compared to the earlier Euro 6 standards, and by 56% from buses and MHD trucks. Exhaust particle emissions will be cut by 13% and 39% respectively, and emissions from car brakes will be cut by 27%.  However, European environmental and public health advocates have criticized the regula­tions for not pushing for even cleaner performance of ICE vehicles in the run-up to 2035, pointing out that the proposed regulations do not achieve further needed reductions that are cost-effective and techni­cally feasible.  The Commission’s proposal will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council, which can either adopt the proposed regulations or require that they be revised and strengthened.

Clean Truck Regulations

Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation

On October 27,  CARB held a first hearing on its 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 (ZETs).  CEERT and our colleagues in the ACF Coalition advocated and provided ex­ten­sive written comment in support of moving the 100 percent MHD ZEV sales date from 2040 to 2036, and ensuring that Class 7 and 8 tractors are subject to the same transition schedule beginning 2027 while lowering the High Priority Fleet (HPF) threshold for Class 7 and 8 tractors from 10 or more trucks.

While many CARB Board members expressed support for accelerating the 100 percent MHD ZEV sales date to 2036, the Board did not achieve consensus on this issue.  Many Board members also broadly sup­ported lowering the HPF Class 7 and 8 threshold to 10 trucks.  The Board asked for more research and stake­holder engagement on the issues before offering revisions to their August 30 proposed regulatory package.

CEERT and the ACF Coalition is still advocating for CARB to lower the HPF Class 7 and 8 threshold to 10 trucks, pointing out that doing so would reduce NOx and PM 2.5 emissions by 16% and GHG emis­sions by 13% for tractors, and significantly reduce driver misclassification and thereby protect drivers.  CARB will consider this proposed rule and any revisions in its April hearings.  Staff have scheduled an all-day workshop to receive stakeholder input on January 13.

Federal Clean Truck Regulations

On December 20, the US-EPA released its finalized emissions performance standards for model-year 2027 and later heavy-duty trucks.  The EPA claims the new standards are more than 80% stronger than previous regulations.  The new rule would enable trucks to have a longer useful life and warranty period.

Some environmental, public, and health advocates (including some CEERT affiliates) are concerned that the finalized changes in enforcement and flexibility could undermine the effective strin­gency of the rule, and could allow truck manufacturers to keep producing dirtier diesel trucks, instead of requiring that all new diesel trucks be cleaner while incentivizing the deployment of ZETs.  It appears that a major push for the inclusion of ZETs will have to wait for further EPA revisions to its regulations.

This finalized rule is the first of three regulatory actions EPA announced in its August 2021 Clean Trucks Plan, which consist of:

  • Setting stronger nitrogen oxide (NOx) standards for heavy duty trucks starting in model-year (MY) 2027 and tightening “Phase 2” GHG emissions for MY 2027 and beyond.
  • Setting stronger emissions standards for medium-duty commercial vehicles for MY 2027 and later (proposed with new standards for light-duty vehicles for MY 2027 and beyond).
  • Setting “Phase 3” GHG standards for heavy-duty vehicles beginning as soon as MY 2030 that are significantly stronger than the MY 2027 GHG standards.

Clean Trucks in Canada

Canada is still developing its new emissions standards for trucks.  CEERT continues to support Cana­dian NGOs in advocating that their government leverage the work California has already done and that it design sales mandate targets that can rapidly align with those already set by California and the signa­tor­ies to the Multi-State Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicle Initiative.

Clean Transportation Investments

The California Energy Commission (CEC) released the Revised Staff Draft of its 2022-2023 Investment Plan Update for the Clean Trans­portation Program (CTP) on September 29.  CTP Advisory Committee members were broadly sup­portive of the funding allocations in the Draft, and highlighted the importance of charging infra­structure deployment in rural and disadvantaged communities.  Committee members highlighted the challenges of balancing the need for both light- and heavy-duty vehicles in those communities.

The CEC released its Lead Commissioner Report of the 2022-2023 Investment Plan Update for the Clean Transportation Program on November 29, and adopted the Investment Plan Update at its December 14 Business Meeting.  With an additional $2.4 billion in funding from the 2022-2023 state budget, the CEC’s funding for clean transportation totals $2.9 billion.  The funding breakdown is:

  • $1.7 billion for medium- and heavy-duty ZEV infrastructure.
  • $900 million for light-duty EV charging infrastructure.
  • $118 million for ZEV manufacturing.
  • $90 million for hydrogen refueling infrastructure.
  • $97 million for opportunities in aviation, locomotive, marine vessels, and vehicle-grid integration.
  • $15 million zero- and near-zero-carbon fuel production and supply.
  • $15 million for low-carbon fuels.
  • $10 million for workforce development.

The funding will be dispersed over the next four years with at least 50% targeted to benefit priority populations.

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.