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

At a September 16 workshop, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began developing post-2025 Advanced Clean Cars reg­u­la­tions to tighten emissions standards for new light- and medium-duty vehicles, increase the number of zero-emis­sion vehicles (ZEVs), and further reduce air and climate pollu­tants.  Staff weighed modi­fi­ca­tions to the criteria pollutant and greenhouse-gas (GHG) regulations, preliminary pro­po­sals for wider adoption of ZEVs, and projected costs of future electric vehicle technologies.  Cali­fornia must continue to reduce air and climate pollution from transporta­tion to meet the Federal National Ambient Air Quality Standards as required in the State Implementation Plan, and to mitigate the increas­ingly severe impacts of climate change.  CEERT strongly supports these efforts, and has been discus­sing this important regulatory pack­age with CARB Staff.

In response to the March 31 release by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and US Environmental Protection Agency of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for model years 2021-2026, several petitioners submitted briefs in the lawsuits filed Sep­tem­ber 20, 2019 by California, joined by 22 states, Washington, DC, New York City, Los Angeles, the Union of Con­cerned Scientists, and other environmental and public health groups, arguing against aspects of the SAFE Vehicles Rule.  The lawsuits challenge whether NHTSA has authority to preempt state vehicle emissions standards and whether it vio­lated agency rulemaking procedures before implementing the SAFE Vehicles Rule, and note that the Rule will impair California’s and other states’ ability to comply with clean air laws.

On September 9, the Department of Justice filed a reply brief defending the federal agencies’ preemptive authority.  Peti­tion­ers’ responses were due on October 13 and final briefs on October 27.

On August 31, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against NHTSA’s attempt to delay the long-overdue up­dat­ing of penalties against automakers that fail to meet corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) stand­ards.  NHTSA tried to avoid increasing the penalties from $5.50 (established in the 1980s) to a more current $14.00 per tenth of an mpg, as required by the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act.

Clean Miles Standard

In workshops on May 15 and July 17, CEERT and other members of a small coalition that includes UCS, NRDC, Coalition for Clean Air, American Lung Association in Califor­nia, Sierra Club California, and NextGen continued to work with CARB Staff on regulations for the Clean Miles Standard (CMS).  The Coalition seeks to strengthen Staff’s proposed CMS targets, which would avoid requiring transportation network companies (TNCs) to directly acquire ZEVs for their drivers.  (Currently drivers own their vehicles).  Staff’s proposal for the GHG targets would likely mean TNCs could comply solely by using ZEVs, without adopting complementary strategies such as reducing deadheading and shifting more passengers into pooled rides.  CARB Staff are weighing a requirement that only 30% of ride-hailing vehicles be ZEVs by 2030, though Lyft and Uber have said they intend to transition their fleets to 100% ZEVs by then.  The Coali­tion is adv­o­cating for a full tran­sition of ride-hailing services to ZEVs by 2030, and is urging Staff to design incen­tives that help drivers from low-income and disadvantaged communities purchase ZEVs, consistent with the requirements of SB 1014, which established the CMS.  Staff plan to release pro­posed CMS regula­tions in late October for CARB Board hearings in December.

Clean Truck Regulations

According to CARB, trucks are the largest source of air pollution from vehicles, accounting for 70% of nitrous oxides (NOx) and 80% of carcinogenic diesel soot, even though they are only 2 million (6.7%) of the 30 million registered vehicles in California.  Many of California’s communities of color and low-income neighbor­hoods are located next to ports, railyards, distribution centers, and freight corridors, and are directly ex­posed to emissions from these areas of heaviest truck traffic.

CARB is drafting a set of complementary regulations to address the disproportionate burdens affecting these communities, and enable California to significantly reduce and ultimately eliminate emissions from this sector.  Building upon its earlier rules to electrify transit agency buses and shuttles at large airports by 2030, CARB is working on three new regu­lations that deal with the rest of the on-road truck fleet: (1) The Advanced Clean Trucks (Manufacturers) Regulation; (2) The Advanced Clean Trucks (Fleet) Regula­tion; and (3) the Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation.

Advanced Clean Trucks (Manufacturers) Regulation
At a June 25 hearing, CARB adopted and added amendments extending Staff’s April 28 revised proposal for the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation package for manufacturers—which was passed largely in re­sponse to the advocacy of the ACT Coalition that CEERT is part of.  This is a first-in-the-world rule re­quiring truck manufacturers to transition from diesel to electric-drive, zero-emission trucks.  Manufac­tur­ers that certify medium- and heavy-duty chassis or complete vehicles with combus­tion engines are re­quired to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their California sales from 2024 to 2035.  By 2035, zero-emission truck/chassis sales would need to be 55% of Class 2b – 3 straight truck sales, 75% of Class 4 – 8 straight truck sales, and 40% of truck tractor sales.

Chiefly due to the ACT Coalition’s advocacy, the CARB Board also required Staff to work to achieve a transition to an all-zero-emission California fleet by 2045 everywhere feasible, with earlier goals of 100% ZEV fleets for drayage trucks, last-mile-delivery, and government fleets by 2035; for refuse trucks and local buses by 2040; and for utility fleets by 2040.  The regulations must emphasize emissions reductions in disadvan­taged communities to the maximum extent feasible.  The rule phases in available medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission technology starting in 2024, and sends a clear signal to manufacturers, fleet owners and utilities to begin immediately investing in zero-emission truck technology.

Advanced Clean Trucks (Fleet) Regulation
CEERT and the ACT Coalition have been in discussions with CARB staff on an AC Fleet Regulation.  In workshops on February 12, September 18 and September 20, CARB began work on requirements to in­crease the numbers of zero-emission trucks in the state’s public and private fleets, and achiev­e a goal of 100% zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty truck operations as soon as possible.  The third work­shop ex­plored efficient ways that large entities could meet reporting requirements for vehicles subject to the AC Fleet Rule.  CEERT will remain active in this rulemak­ing, which CARB Staff plan to bring to the Board in December 2021, with the fleet requirements taking effect in 2023.

Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation
To achieve the difficult reductions in ozone pollution essential to meeting community health standards and federal and state clean air requirements, the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Districts filed petitions with the US-EPA in June 2016, asking it to set lower NOx emission standards for on-road trucks and rail locomotives.  These petitions were later joined by industry groups, community health NGOS, environmental and health agencies across the country, and CARB and other California air districts.

Later in 2016, CARB began to establish new standards for on-road trucks that would reduce NOx emis­sions by 90%, improve engine reliability and durability, and maintain lower emissions for more of the trucks’ useful life.  John Shears has been a participant for CEERT in technical work­groups on protocols for engine emissions certification and in-use testing, the feasibility and economics of meeting lower emissions targets, and other key issues.  On June 23, CARB issued its proposed Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation (aka the Low-NOx Omnibus Rule), which will be a model for how the US-EPA should design its federal Cleaner Truck Initiative.

CEERT helped lead an HD Low-NOX Coalition of environmental justice, public health, and en­viron­men­tal NGOs and manufacturers of zero-emission trucks in encouraging CARB to adopt stringent low-NOX standards for on-road trucks.  In 2018 CEERT helped organize meetings of Coalition members with truck and en­gine manufacturing representa­tives from Volvo, Freightliner, Peterbilt, Kenworth, Cum­mins, and the Truck and Engine Manufactur­ers Association.  CEERT hosted meetings and webinars with Coalition members, environmen­tal stakeholder groups, emissions-control equipment suppliers, the Inter­national Council on Clean Trans­portation, the Southwest Research Institute, and the National Renewable Energy Lab on technical, public health and economic aspects of a strong regulation.

CARB’s June 23 proposed Low-NOx Omnibus Rule seeks to stablish a more stringent Low-NOx Engine Standard, and lower in-use emission performance levels. The proposed regulations include:

  • Lower NOx and PM emission standards on existing regulatory cycles and a new NOx standard on a new low-load certification cycle.
  • A revamping of the current heavy-duty in-use testing program to require better emission control;
  • A new low-load certification test cycle that reflects how trucks often operate in urban areas;
  • Improved warranty, useful life, and emissions warranty information and reporting.
  • Longer emission warranty coverage to help ensure that emission control systems are properly de­signed and built, and make it more likely that emissions-related repairs are completed promptly.
  • A strengthened heavy-duty durability demonstration program.
  • Powertrain certification test procedures for heavy-duty hybrid vehicles.
  • An optional voluntary emissions certification standard of 0.1g/bhph for model years 2024-2026.
  • Emissions averaging, banking, and trading program allowing for credits generated for zero emission trucks under the ACT rules to count toward the NOx fleet average from 2024 through 2030.

CEERT and the Coalition supported the bulk of the Staff’s proposal but strongly opposed the last two provisions—the first because the inclusion of the optional 0.1g/bhph standard would both undercut the state’s efforts to meet its own standards and risk leading the US-EPA to adopt a weaker national standard.

CEERT and many Coalition members also opposed the design of the emissions averaging, banking, and trading program, under which manufacturers might be incentivized to deliver more zero-emission trucks to California sooner, but discouraged from further lowering emissions from conventional long-haul trucks.  We urged the Board to limit this provision to the initial compliance period of 2024 – 2026.

On August 27, the CARB Board unanimously adopted the proposed regulations but, as requested by CEERT and aligned Coalition members, remov­ed the vol­un­tary emis­sions certification standard of 0.1g/bhph and restricted the use of zero-emission truck credits for NOx compliance to 2024 – 2026.

Multistate ZEV Truck MOU

On July 14, the expanded 15 state + D.C. ZEV Task Force for zero-emission trucks released a Memoran­dum of Understanding on how participating states will collaborate on an action plan for deploying zero-emission trucks.  The states will work together to accelerate deployment of 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, to ensure that by 2030, 30% of new medium- and heavy-duty vehi­cles sold are zero-emission vehicles, and that all trucks sold are zero-emission by 2050.

The action plan will address incentives for vehicles and infrastructure, deploy­ment strategies, outreach and education, working with utilities, weight restrictions, and data stand­ards, and emphasize reducing dis­proportionate impacts on frontline communities.  The MOU signatories will continue to coordinate with the multistate ZEV Task Force facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management.

Federal Cleaner Trucks Initiative

On November 13, 2018, the US-EPA launched a consultative process for its Cleaner Trucks Initiative to further decrease NOx emissions from on-highway heavy-duty trucks and engines.  One goal is a new 50-state program that could be adopted by EPA and CARB and streamline compliance for manufacturers.  On January 21, 2020, EPA announced a notice of proposed rulemaking to:

  • reduce in-use emissions under a broad range of operating conditions;
  • enable effective technological solutions while carefully considering cost impacts;
  • develop fair, effective compliance and enforcement provisions;
  • incentivize early compliance and innovation; and
  • ensure a coordinated 50-state program.

On July 15, the EPA quietly postponed further work on the rulemaking.  The reason might be com­plica­tions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, or anticipation of a June 2021 rulemaking for re­consider­ation of fuel efficiency and GHG standards for medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles and trucks.

Clean Transportation Investment Plan

The California Energy Commission released the Lead Commissioner Draft of the 2020-2023 Clean Trans­portation Invest­ment Plan Update (CTIPU) on June 16, and the Advisory Committee met to dis­cuss the Plan on June 19.  This CTIPU uses budget projections for the next 3.5 years, better con­veying the Pro­gram’s long-term goals and future funding priorities to the stakeholder and business community.  The 2020-21 funding budget for the Clean Transportation Program avoided any cuts; however, funding in each fiscal year through 2023 is subject to fees collected from future Califor­nia vehicle sales, and re­quires legislative approval. The latest draft of the update adjusted some spending but maintained a greater focus on supporting ZEVS and related infrastruc­ture, and on direct benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The new CTIPU still proposed total funding of $384.2 million in 2020-2023, but with some adjustments:

  • $92.7 million for Light-Duty Charging Infrastructure and eMobility in 2020-2021 and $40.2 million in the following 2½ fiscal years (unchanged);
  • $20 million and $114.8 million for Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEVs and Infrastructure (unchanged);
  • $20 million and $45 million for Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure (unchanged);
  • $25 million for Zero- and Near-Zero-Carbon Fuel Production and Supply in 2021-2023;
  • $2.0 million and $7.0 million for Manufacturing;
  • $1.5 million and $6 million for Workforce Development and Training; and
  • $10 million for Recovery and Reinvestment in 2020-2021 (new category).

The Advisory Committee maintained its broad support of the CTIPU.  However, concerns were expressed about the continued need to support ZEV infrastructure for both battery electric and fuel-cell electric ve­hi­cles as market growth and demand for these vehicles are accelerating.  (The CEC focuses its funding more on infrastructure while CARB’s programs focus more on vehicles.)

The Revised Lead Commissioner’s 2020-2023 CTIPU was re­leased on September 30.  It made two ad­just­ments to the prior draft, reallocating $5 million from Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEVs and Infra­struc­ture to Hydrogen Refueling Infra­structure for 2021-2023.  The Commission will consider the Revised Lead Commissioner’s 2020-2023 CTIPU for adoption at its October 14 Business Meeting.