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Even public officials have no idea how California’s infrastructure would support mandated electric semi trucks, public hearing reveals


The California Air Resources Board held its first public hearing on a proposed ban on fossil-fueled trucks by 2040, leading to a sound off between environmentalists and drivers. 

The hearing was held on Thursday, October 27th at 9 a.m. and lasted well into the evening. The hearing included 167 people from the trucking industry and environmental groups. The proposed regulations in question would phase out fossil-fueled trucks in California by 2040, and ban manufacturers from selling any fossil fueled rigs in the same time frame. The new rules would also require trucking companies to convert their entire fleets to electric trucks by 2042. The rule would affect about 1.8 million trucks on California roads, reports the Times of San Diego.

Truckers worry that these proposed rules and the financial burden of replacing entire fleets could eliminate smaller, family-owned companies by putting them out of business, and therefore put people out of work. Additionally, those in the industry say that the infrastructure to support mandated electric trucks simply does not exist. 

“Obviously we all want cleaner air, but this would be catastrophic to the industry. We’re operating in an already challenging environment. To add something else that is this drastic would be very harmful,” said Jeff Cox, truck driver and owner of Best Drayage in Madera. 

Although the gradual conversion of fleets would apply only to federal agencies and “high-priority fleets,” meaning companies with 50 or more trucks or $50 million or more in annual revenue, trucks weighing 10,001 pounds or more would also fall under the new rule. Package delivery vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or more would also be affected. 

Drayage and delivery trucks fall under the strictest timeline, as their typically shorter routes make them theoretically easier to electrify. New models in these fleets would need to be electrified by 2024, while diesel trucks must be retired after 18 years. 

Cox claims that these rules fail to consider drayage companies with longer daily haul ranges, pointing out the limited options for electric semi trucks and the potential for less cargo with the weight of semi truck batteries. 

“Getting the cart before the horse isn’t going to help matters by forcing the purchase of a vehicle that doesn’t exist today,” he said. “This is both impractical and impossible to comply with.” 

Currently, there are less than 90 electric semi trucks on California roads, and only 1,943 medium and heavy duty electric vehicles. If passed, the rule would add 510,000 electrified medium and heavy duty trucks to California roads in 2035, 1.2 million in 2045, and 1.6 million in 2050. Currently, it is believed that the state would need to install approximately 800 chargers per week to power electrified truck fleets, with 64-158 megawatts of charging capacity. 

“We don’t even know that chargers are going to be in place in the next two years to have somewhere to plug in the trucks. We can’t even lose time to charging if there’s nowhere to charge,” said Chris Shimoda, senior vice president at the California Trucking Association.

Even those unrelated to the trucking industry acknowledge infrastructural concerns over the rule as legitimate, and provided no real answers to the issue. 

“This is really a very large undertaking,” said board vice chair Sandra Berg. “I’m trying to understand where the grid problems are going to be and how they can be resolved. How much time do we really need here?” 

“I’m having the same whiplash experience that so many fleets have been talking about —the challenges they’re having and getting hooked up to the infrastructure . Why are we hearing from these fleets —some of them are saying that they’re not even being given a timeline for when the infrastructure will be in place,” said Air board member Daniel Sperling, who  is also the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. 

“That is certainly a concern that we are deeply thinking about and that is why we’re looking at the forecast to see where the new load may come from so that we can trigger upgrades in those areas if they’re needed,” said Yulia Shmidt, an analyst for the Office of Ratepayer Advocates at the California Public Utilities Commission.

The Air Resources Board is expected to hold a second hearing on the proposal and vote in the spring.


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