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)

Federal Efforts

On March 20, the US-EPA released its final set of updated regulations addressing emissions from cars, light trucks, large pickups, and vans.  The Final Rule for the “Multi Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles” establishes the most stringent fed­eral standards to date for lowering on-road vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide and criteria pollutants (i.e., volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter (PM)).

Relative to levels that the 2026 MY will be allowed under current regulations, vehicle manufacturers will need to achieve fleet-wide average GHG emissions reductions by 2032 of roughly 52% for light-duty vehicles and 44% for medium-duty vehicles, and reductions of VOCs and nitrogen oxides of nearly 50% for light-duty vehicles and 58-70% for medium-duty vehicles.  All passenger vehicles will individually be required to achieve emissions of 0.5 milligrams of particulate matter per mile by 2032, a 95% reduction.

In adopting a final rule, the EPA did ease some of the requirements for PM and GHG emissions relative to their proposed rule of April 2023.  While adhering to the 0.5mg/mile target for PM, the EPA allowed manufacturers an additional year to comply, noting that the use of gasoline particulate filter technology will need more lead time to be adapted for U.S. applications.

CEERT supported the advocacy of many of its environmental and public advocacy affiliates in encourag­ing the EPA to adopt the even more aggressive Alternative 1, which would have set a 59% CO2 emissions reduction target by 2026.  We also strongly advocated for the original 0.5mg/mile PM standard.

Overall, the rule is anticipated to reduce cumulative CO2 emissions by 7.2 billion metric tons through 2055.  The EPA anticipates that the rule could lead to 53% of light-duty sales in 2030 being some form of plug-in electric vehicles, including 44% battery electric (BEV) and 9% plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV). In 2032, the rule could result in 68% PEV sales, comprising 56% BEVs and 13% PHEVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is still developing its updated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) Standards for the model year 2027-2032 passenger vehicles and Model Years 2030-2035 Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks and Vans.  NHTSA’s proposed regulation could boost the real-world average fuel economy of on-road vehicles to 43.5 miles per gallon, and reduce total national fuel consumption by as much as 88 billion gallons of gasoline through 2050.  NHTSA is ex­pected to publish its Final Rule for the updated CAFÉ Standards any time now.

On March 18, in response to a 2021 petition submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, the US Department of Energy (DOE) published its updated regulations for the petroleum-equivalent fuel economy of electric vehicles  (the “petroleum-equivalency factor” (PEF)).  The PEF cur­rently in use is ~82 kwh/gallon, equivalent to ~394 mpg, despite the EPA’s own assess­ment indicating that many representative EVs have efficiencies of ~29 kwh/gallon (equivalent to ~110-120 mpg-e).  A failure to update the PEF results in a perverse incentive because awarding overgenerous mileage credit to manufacturers allows them to continue to produce less-efficient, more polluting combustion cars while also selling fewer zero-polluting EVs, yet being erroneously credited with achieving compliance.

Public health and environmental advocates were strongly supportive of DOE’s proposed reduction in the PEF of 72% (to ~23kwh/gallon) by 2027, rather than the 65% reduction by 2030 as determined in the Final Rule.  As a consequence, the gentler rate of reduction in the updated PEFs could result in manufac­turers producing and selling more cars with combustion engines, including more PHEVs and fewer BEVs, than would have otherwise been the case if the PEF had been reduced by the proposed 72%.

California’s Work

CARB is still awaiting EPA’s approval of its waiver for the final Advanced Clean Cars (ACC II) regula­tions.  The EPA held a hearing on January 10 on California’s unique status under the Federal Clean Air Act and its urgent need to implement the ACC II regula­tions.  CEERT testified in strong support of California’s right to promulgate and implement its own health and environmentally protective regula­tions to fight air and climate pollution, and urged the EPA to approve California’s waiver with all due speed.

CARB staff have not held any further workshops since November 15th on potential amendments to the ACC II regula­tions to extend the GHG provisions beyond those currently required under ACC I, or to ex­plore where coordination with new Federal standards would be beneficial.  CARB staff will be holding further workshops and discussions on these issues, including establishing a rulemaking process to address modifications to current ACC II regulations and update the GHG emissions standards.

A Continent Uniting

Canada is working with its provinces and territories to implement its new national ZEV regulations (aka “Electric Vehicle Availability Standard”).  New efforts include Natural Resources Canada convening a multistakeholder group of experts to address inclu­sion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure into its National Building Code.  Provisions would need to apply to the retrofitting of older buildings and the incorporation of mandatory requirements for all new construction, especially multiunit dwellings.

Parallel International Developments

On March 13, the European Parliament approved the latest revised proposal for the Euro 7 emissions standards, which are less stringent than those originally proposed and adopted in spring 2023.  The new emissions standards package, which still needs to receive final approval from each of the EU member countries, will take effect for cars and vans in July 2030, and 2031 for buses and trucks.  The Euro 7 standards retain the same stringency for criteria emissions as the Euro 6 standards; however, they do include a requirement that particle emissions from tires and brakes must be controlled.

The recent stalling in the growth of EV sales may pose a potential challenge in that European automakers may be inclined to rely more on PHEVs in order to comply with greenhouse gas emissions requirements when the EU’s own recent research has confirmed that real-world emissions from such vehicles are up to 3.5-times greater than was presumed.  To expedite the growth in the market for EVs and ZEVs, the advo­cacy group Transport and Environment Europe (T&E) has highlighted that 58% of new passenger ve­hicle sales in Europe – accounting for 71% of passenger vehicle emissions – are corporate fleet vehicles, and that the regulation of these fleets could accelerate the decarbonization of on-road transport.  In re­sponse to a peti­tion from T&E, the European Commission is considering the regulation of corporate fleets.

Clean Truck Regulations

Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation

CARB still awaits EPA’s approval of its waiver for the final regulations.

Low-NOx Omnibus Rule

The EPA has still not issued California a waiver for the Low-NOx Omnibus regulations.  CARB has also not scheduled further workshops or meetings since November 28 to discuss how the Clean Truck Part­ner­ship agreement will be integrated with California’s suite of Advanced Clean Trucks, Advanced Clean Fleet, and Low-NOx rules, nor how these will be coordinated with the federal Heavy-Duty Truck Rules.

Federal Clean Truck Regulations

On March 29 the EPA released its finalized set of regulations updating the GHG emission standards for MY 2028-2032 heavy-duty trucks (the “Phase 3 Rule”), which establishes the most stringent federal stand­ards yet on GHG emissions from heavy-duty vocational vehicles (e.g., refuse haulers, dump trucks, delivery and public utility trucks, transit, shuttle, school buses, etc.) and tractors (such as day cabs and sleeper cabs on tractor-trailer trucks).  Truck manufacturers can achieve the standards in a number of ways, e.g., by using more efficient engines and advanced transmissions, reducing vehicle weight, and improving the aerodynamics of the vehicles.  Manufacturers may also deploy any of an increasing number of zero-emission trucks (ZETs) and buses (ZEBs) to achieve compliance.

As with the passenger vehicle standards, the EPA pulled back from its original April 2023 proposal over industry concerns about being able to bring more efficient trucks rapidly to market, and the outstanding need for available charging and refueling infrastructure for ZETs and ZEBs.  While including greater flexibility for manufacturer compliance in the early years, the Rule preserves incentives encouraging the early adoption of advanced technologies.  By 2032 the Phase 3 rule will result in GHG emissions reduc­tions of between 32 to 62 percent for vocational vehicles, and between 9 to 40 percent for tractor-trailers, compared to 2024 standards.  The EPA estimates that this could reduce GHG emissions by more than 1 billion metric tons between the years 2027-2055.  The Rule could also result in half a million or more electric trucks being on the road, with ZETs accounting for over one third of all new truck sales by 2032.

CEERT and the environmental and public health advocacy community advocated for the EPA to adopt an even more stringent alternative to that in the EPA’s April 2023 proposed rule.  11 states representing roughly 20 percent of the U.S. HD vehicle market have adopted California’s Advanced Clean Truck regulations, yet EPA has still not granted a waiver to California’s Advanced Clean Fleet rule. Unfor­tu­nately, EPA’s Phase 3 Rule failed to capitalize on this momentum and has likely missed an opportunity to reduce the environmental and public health impacts from North American trucks more substantially.

Clean Trucks in Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada staff are developing regulations for Canada’s medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which have been the sub­ject of discussions at the multistake­holder ZEV Coun­cil, an expert advisory body.  ECCC has yet to release the frame­work document for the pro­posed design of Canada’s zero-emissions truck regulations that were anticipated this spring.

CEERT is continuing to work with Canadian advocacy organizations to encourage the fed­eral gov­ern­­­ment to adopt maximally effective and stringent advanced clean truck regulations, modeled as closely as possible on California’s Clean Truck rules.

Clean Trucks in Europe
On April 10 the European Parliament approved a draft law requiring truck manufacturers to reduce the average GHG emissions of new HD vehicles by 45% in 2030, 65% in 2035 and 90% in 2040.  The re­quire­ments are even more stringent for urban buses, which will all need to be ZEBs by 2035.  The pro­posed law still needs to receive approval from each EU member country before the law can take effect.

Clean Transportation Investments

The CEC approved the Clean Trans­por­tation Pro­gram 2023–2024 Investment Plan Update at its February 14 Business Meeting.  The plan approves $1.9 billion in funding over the next 4 years (through 2027), targeted to expedite the deployment of EV charging and hydrogen refueling infra­structure in support of light, medium, and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.  At least 50% of the funding will go to benefit disadvantaged and low-income communities.

  • Light-Duty EV Charging Infrastructure: $658 million
  • Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEV Infrastructure (including hydrogen refueling): $1.02 billion
  • Zero-Emission Port Infrastructure: $130 million
  • Emerging Opportunities: $46 million
  • ZEV Workforce Development: $5 million

As previously reported, funding for the Clean Transportation Program was reauthorized through 2035  when, on October 7, Governor Newsom signed AB 126 (Reyes 2023) into law.

The CEC is currently renewing the makeup of the Advisory Committee for the Clean Transportation Program, and has not yet begun to develop the next Investment Plan Update.

CARB is holding workshops and convening workgroup meetings to begin developing the latest Low-Carbon Transportation Investments and Air Quality Improvement Program (Clean Transportation Incentives) Funding Plan, which will cover 2025/26 through 2027/28 and is due to the Legislature by January 2025.  Funding for this program was re-authorized by AB 126 (Reyes 2023).