cleaner 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. While we presently have better technological choices for cleaner electricity production than for transportation fuels, there is still significant progress available from more fuel-efficient vehicles, hybrid technologies, and alternate fuels. There is also much future promise in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle technologies. CEERT has been working to clean up CO2 from cars and trucks, promote smarter transportation and development planning, and help develop an alternate fuel-distribution infrastructure as near-term means to reduce the impacts of fossil-fueled transportation.

Recent Developments:

Advanced Clean Cars

On March 31, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly released a final version of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule on CO2 emissions, and subsidiary corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, for model years 2021-2026 passenger cars and light trucks.  The regulations also partially withdraw Califor­nia’s waiver for its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate under the Clean Air Act.  The final rule seriously weakens the stringency of the CO2 emissions and CAFE standards in the original 2012 rule, and drops the auto manufacturers’ required improvements from 5%/year to 1.5%/year.

On May 27, California and 22 other states filed suit to challenge the Trump Administration’s plan to weaken passenger vehicle emissions standards.  The suit claims that the EPA and NHTSA have violated federal law and bypassed congressional requirements in enacting the proposed rollbacks, and that the agencies used a flawed analysis, unfounded assumptions, and statistical errors to manipulate data in support of their conclusions.  The requirements remain unchanged for new vehicles to meet the strict criteria-pollutant standards proposed in the original 2012 rule.

CEERT has a decades-long history of advocacy for improving vehicle efficiency and strength­ening Cali­fornia’s ZEV program.  In order to reduce a major source of air and climate pollution, we continue to sup­port the state’s goals for passenger vehicles, oppose any weakening of state and national vehicle stan­dards, and encourage further growth of California’s burgeoning ZEV market.  (In 2019, electric vehicles were the state’s second most valuable export, worth over $7 billion in revenue, and EV-related exports were valued at more than four times those related to conventional vehicles.)

In keeping with our efforts that contributed to a June 26, 2019 “cooperation agreement” by CARB’s Mary Nichols and Canada’s then-Minister of Environment and Climate Change, CEERT and Canadian NGOs continue to advocate for Canada’s either adopting a California-like Advanced Clean Car standard or pur­suing its own regulations that are more stringent than the SAFE Vehicles Rule.

Clean Miles Standard

CARB is conducting an analysis of proposed regulations for the Clean Miles Standard.  CEERT and a small coalition that includes UCS, NRDC, Coalition for Clean Air, American Lung Association in California, Sierra Club California, and NextGen) are working with CARB staff on the regula­tory package.  Staff analysis has GHG emissions from ride-hailing being 50% higher than for an average vehicle, while UCS findings indi­cate that figure could actually be as high as 69%.  The UCS study also determined that a pooled ride generates 33% fewer emissions than a single-occupancy ride-hailing trip.  A single-occupancy ride-hail trip in an all-electric vehicle has 53% fewer emissions, and a pooled ride that is all-electric has 68% lower emissions.  CARB’s analysis found that only 20% of riders take advantage of ride-pooling, and that ride-hailing services are cannibalizing transit ridership, which may be an important driver for recent transit ridership declines.

The most effective solution for reducing emissions from ride-hailing services is for them to use fleets of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).  Members of the coalition are advocating that CARB evaluate what a full tran­sition of ride-hailing services to ZEVs by 2030 would entail.  (This is not being suggested in lieu of other important strate­gies such as an increase in the pooling of rides, or improved coordination and scheduling with transit.)

Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation

On April 28, CARB staff released proposed amendments to the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation that call for more aggressive targets for different classes of trucks.  The Board requested the proposed amend­ments largely in response to the advocacy of the ACT Coalition, which includes CEERT.

The original staff proposal would have required that only 11% of sales from 2024-2030 be electric trucks, and peak in 2030 at 22% of sales across all categories.  This would effectively mean that only about 4% of California’s trucks would be zero emission trucks (ZETs) by 2030 (not really any greater than the status quo based on current trends in ZET adoption).  The Coalition’s proposed amendments would:

  1. Increase the overall mandates to ensure that by 2030 no less than 15% of medium- and heavy-duty trucks on the road are zero-emitting;
  2. Include Class 2b pickup trucks in the mandates beginning in 2024;
  3. Outline CARB’s longer-term objectives for achieving 100% zero-emission trucks in various cate­gories, and explain how the rule helps attain federal and state air-quality and GHG objectives; and
  4. Commit CARB to adopt corresponding ACT fleet purchase requirements in 2021 (a separate but parallel rule that the Board will consider in December).

CARB staff made three key changes that strengthened the proposed rule:

  1. Sales targets were increased across all vehicle categories;
  2. Sales targets increase through 2035 rather than plateauing in 2030; and
  3. Class 2B pickups must comply with the standard starting in 2024 rather than being exempt until 2027.

Consequently, the latest proposal doubles the number of electric trucks achieved through 2035 relative to staff’s original proposal and results in nearly one in three new tractor-trailers being ZETs by 2030.

CARB estimates that the revised ACT Rule will provide statewide benefits of $32.5 billion (including more than $8.3 billion in economic savings for the state’s businesses), with health cost savings from cri­teria emission reductions of roughly $8.9 billion, reduced manufacturer costs of $5.9 billion, and reduced social costs due to climate change of $1.7 billion.  (This contrasts with estimates of $5.7 billion, $4.8 bil­lion, and $1.1 billion for staff’s original proposal.)

While CARB staff’s new proposal represents a significant (and world-leading) step forward, the proposed regulation alone is insufficient to transition the heavy-duty vehicle sector to zero-emissions electric drive (whether that be powered from batteries or hydrogen).  More will be necessary if the air and climate pollu­tion burden produced by the state’s trucks is to be eliminated.  CARB needs to send a clear market signal that it is committed to pursuing timelines for completely transitioning all the state’s trucks to ZETs within the next 20-25 years.  CARB will consider the revised ACT Rule at its June 25-26 Board hearings.

On December 13 CARB announced it was joining seven other states and the District of Columbia in com­­mitting to accelerate deployment of zero-emission trucks and buses.  The colla­borative will pursue coor­di­nated efforts with industry and stakeholders to address cost, fueling infra­struc­ture, and other barriers through a ZEV Task Force facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, and will develop a Memorandum of Understanding for state governors to consid­er­ during the summer.

Clean Transportation Investment Plan

The California Energy Commission released a Staff Draft of the 2020-2021 Clean Transportation Invest­ment Plan Update (CTIPU; formerly the ARFVTP Pro­gram) on March 2, and on March 3 the 33-member Advisory Committee met to discuss the plan.  This year the CEC extended the budget projections to 3.5 years, effectively making the new CTIPU the 2020-2023 Investment Plan Update, which will better convey the Program’s long-term goals and provide more funding certainty to the stakeholder and business community.  The new CTIPU also reflected a shift in priorities, with a greater focus on supporting ZEVS and related infrastruc­ture and on direct benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The new CTIPU is proposing total funding of $384.2 million in 2020-2023, with:

  • $92.7 million for Light-Duty Charging Infrastructure and eMobility in 2020-2021 and $40.2 million in the following 2½ fiscal years;
  • $20 million and $114.8 million for Medium-and Heavy-Duty ZEVs and Infrastructure;
  • $20 million and $45 million for Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure;
  • $10 million and $25 million for Zero- and Near-Zero-Carbon Fuel Production and Supply;
  • Manufacturing receiving no funding in 2020-21 and $10 million in the following 2½ fiscal years; and
  • $3.5 million and $3 million for Workforce Development and Training.

The CEC’s strategy is to target large investments to reduce the state’s light-duty vehicle charging infra­structure gap in the upcoming fiscal year, and to focus more on medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs and ZEV infrastructure in future fiscal years.  Allocations for hydrogen refueling infrastructure and zero- and near-zero-fuel production and supply would remain steady over time.  The Commission’s allocations for ZEV and ZEV infrastructure manufacturing and workforce development would alternate in each fiscal year with the shared goals of supporting in-state economic development and catalyzing ZEV adoption.  (The CEC focuses its funding more on infrastructure while CARB’s programs focus more on vehicles.)

The Advisory Committee was broadly supportive of the CTIPU.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has since severely impacted state revenues. California’s projected budget shortfall has significant implications for its transportation funding programs, and the 2020/21-2021/23 CTIPU will likely need to be revised.