By on June 26, 2020

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) just passed a mandate that will require manufacturers of big rigs, heavy duty pickups, and some construction equipment to adhere to new zero-emission quotas and a carbon-credit system.

As all-electric 18-wheelers are in short supply, California wants to wait a few years to put the new rules into play. Still, it’s eager to get the ball rolling so it can start replacing diesel-driven transport with something from the battery-electric section. It also gives the state another opportunity to pat itself on the back despite not having any clue whether or not the strategy is economically sustainable. Even with battery technology moving at a fair clip, there’s a lot of engineering left to be done before these types of vehicles can become commonplace. 

The energy grid needs to be bolstered to support higher loads as more EVs plug into it, requiring local storage centers and more facilities that produce power overall. Energy density is another serious issue that must be sorted out, otherwise the brunt of these vehicles’ payload will be sacrificed for gigantic battery packs. That’s to say nothing of waste management. Eventually, these colossal batteries will need to be disposed of in a way that doesn’t contaminate soil and water.

No matter, those particulars are of little concern when you’re living in the most futuristic state in the nation. “California is once again leading the nation in the fight to make our air cleaner,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement following the vote.

According to Reuters, the mandate was passed unanimously by CARB and was hailed by all those voting on it “as a major step toward reducing climate-warming emissions and improving public health for low-income communities near busy highway corridors and ports.”

From Reuters:

Environmentalists say the mandate, which applies to medium-duty and large trucks, will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035.

The proposed mandate is expected to start in the 2024 model year and initially require [5-9 percent] zero emission vehicles (ZEV) based on class, rising to [30-50 percent] by 2030. By 2045, all vehicles should be ZEVs “where feasible.”

The regulation would apply to pickup trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more, but not to light-duty trucks, which are covered by separate zero emission regulations.

CARB plans a separate rule in early 2021 that will require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.

California has more electric vehicle startups than anywhere else in the nation, so it has probably the best chance of making something like this work. It’s also had historic smog problems in some areas, making its desire to eliminate diesel-powered vehicles a little easier to understand. That said, its leadership has clearly gone overboard with the recreational marijuana (speaking as someone who has been there, brah) because these targets look untenable — unless alien technology arrives within the next few years.

We might be able to hang in there on the HD pickup front if battery tech maintains good progress — especially since it seems that segment’s being cut a break, and mainstream manufacturers are already working on them — but the rest sounds fairly fantastical.

“For decades, while the automobile has grown cleaner and more efficient, the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “Diesel vehicles are the workhorses of the economy, and we need them to be part of the solution to persistent pockets of dirty air in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Now is the time — the technology is here and so is the need for investment.”

The California Air Resources Board has an impressively long document outlining the new regulations from a public hearing in 2019 — if you’re interested. Most of the data focuses on the environmental impact of the changes and how to implement them. We’ve only given you the broadest brush stokes here, but there are inclusions for construction equipment and the obligatory carbon credit system green manufacturers can use to make money off those producing too many diesel-burners. It does offer some flexibility to all companies, however, by allowing them to focus on electrifying one segment and and having those credits carry over to another.

 

[Image: D-VISIONS/Shutterstock]

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67 Comments on “Hauling In California? That Rig Had Better Be Green...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    So will they build a bunch of depots on the state line and transfer transcontinental loads to/from the California spec trucks?

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      @Indi500fan

      Yes, this is exactly what will happen–in conjuntion with major carriers deciding to not operate in CA.

      A similar arrangement already exists along the border with Mexico. Mexican trucks were long ago determined to be unsafe (as determined by the American Trucking Association!) and were limited to a very narrow strip of operations along the US border. Goods arriving from Mexico, mostly food products, are unloaded into huge warehouses in Laredo, Brownsville, Nogales, etc, where they are then reloaded onto American trucks for national distribution. I can easily envision this practice being implemented at the CA border.

      One end result will be a measurable increase in the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in California and distrubted nationwide. The cost of loading, storage, and reloading in border zones is VERY inefficient, and will increase food spoilage due to delays and additional handling. These added costs will, for sure, be shown to be disproportionally costly to women, minorities, and poor children.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “Mexican trucks were long ago determined to be unsafe (as determined by the American Trucking Association!)”

        Bwahahahah, you know it’s bad *when*…

        You can’t drive a hundred miles on the interstate and not come across at least one tire carcass- and it’s never from a car or a pickup truck/SUV. I wonder just what the American Trucking Association considers to be unsafe.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No need to load and unload the trailer, just swap tractors and that is something that is done regularly by many companies. Drop off one trailer pickup another and head back home.

        • 0 avatar
          JRobUSC

          “No need to load and unload the trailer, just swap tractors and that is something that is done regularly by many companies. Drop off one trailer pickup another and head back home.”

          That wouldn’t work, since the trailer is where all the batteries for the electric 18 wheeler would be. Swapping trailers means the non-electric truck is now wasting a big chunk of their hauling potential carting around a bunch of batteries in the trailer, instead of more cargo. And there isn’t an endless supply of ginormous battery equipped trailers, either – presumably the California trucks will need theirs back so they can continue operating in California, as it would do them zero good to have their electric trailer disappear for weeks on a non-electric truck heading into the other 49 states that don’t require them.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Transport will route around Cali. Only necessary transport will enter. And Amazon Prime will cost more there, much as most else do. Property along highways which can serve as alternates to current Cali routes, will be converted to serve long haul. While, more speculatively, more passenger car traffic may choose to reroute through Cali, to avoid the sea of 18 wheelers crowding other freeways.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      indi500fan – you beat me to it! That is my thought as well.

    • 0 avatar
      wdburt1

      More of those loads moving between the Midwest/Northeast and California will shift to rail. A windfall for BNSF and UP.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Lithium producing countries will probably be happy about this. (Chile and a few others in South America, Oz, China)

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    “the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air”

    Since fleet purchases of large trucks are driven by overall cost of operation I find it hard to believe that the average fuel economy of these vehicles hasn’t significantly improved over the years. I don’t know the technical side of it, but I assume all the aero doodads on current trucks are mirrored by a host of less visible changes to improve efficiency.

    Their target dates are nuts, but they’re sure to make the backers of this look oh so green.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      True, but fuel consumption and emissions aren’t always directly related to each other.

      About five years ago when fuel was very cheap and the economy was moving along well, I distinctly noticed a lot more big trucks going faster than usual on the freeway. A lot of them adjusted their governors up, chose to set higher speeds on cruise control, but it got to be pretty common to find one driving 75-80mph on stretches where 65-70 for trucks was common a few years before. As the price of fuel crept up then they seemed to ease back. Nothing surprising to me about any of this, it’s just an observation.

      I do agree with what you’re saying about fleet cost and little changes to improve efficiency that are good bang for the buck.

    • 0 avatar
      RangerM

      @Old_WRX

      It won’t matter, because the backers won’t be stuck with the bill.

      The target dates are probably 50 years too soon, without a leap in technology.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        That gives me an idea that I think is long overdue. I think the people living in the other 49 should initiate a class action suit against California for reimbursement of all that their virtue signalling has cost us. Including the cost for the ink for printing the utterly laughable Prop 65 warnings.

        And, I am proposing a new usage: greenanism. This a combination of the word green and onanism.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          It’s not all virtue signaling. I remember when the air was genuinely bad there. Personally, I kind of like blue skies myself and can understand.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            A lot of it is a genuine improvement, thanks to the collective effort of the residents.

            A lot of it is also transferring some of that pollution elsewhere though- Californians import a lot of their electricity (although some of their neighbors are quite happy to sell it to them). And the place isn’t exactly a spotless model of self sacrifice and conservation of resources for the common good- look at their car culture, look at their mass transit systems, and look at how a lot of them commute each day ;)

            Anyhoo….

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            Don’t get me wrong. I think the environment is of critical importance. This is why I find it frustrating that it has become so dominated by politics and economic machinations. It has become almost impossible to know what is causing what in the environment because of this.

            I remember an article on the weather channel that claimed that all scientists agreed about climate change (or was it still called global warming then…). All scientists agreeing on anything is about as likely as all the car obsessed agreeing on what is the best car. Which leads to the logical conclusion that the article was blarney.

            I was in LA in the 60’s and the 90’s, and I have to agree — the improvement was huge.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    California reminds me of Berlin – run by socialists and green ideologists with no understanding of reality and the demands and needs of the industry.

  • avatar

    This from a state that has power companies routinely cutting power to large areas to prevent fires from downed power lines.
    And we know who’s going to end up paying for replacement of fleets w/electic trucks.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It doesn’t matter if it’s feasible or realistic. CARB did the same when they required semi/bus/medium duty diesel emissions. Now it’s not enough.

    The smaller companies were forced out of business or out of state. It wasn’t a problem for the large corps (that gained market share), so it’s more of the usual for CA.

    The large corps also export most of their profits out of state. CARB doesn’t care. Still it warms my heart every time I’m in CA and watch billion/trillion dollar infrastructure contracts performed by large Utah and Colorado Corps with convoys of UT/CO plated $250+K utility trucks.

    CA is screwing their large corps too. And residents. Anything for (short term) money.

  • avatar
    stuki

    “Energy density is another serious issue that must be sorted out, otherwise the brunt of these vehicles’ payload will be sacrificed for gigantic battery packs.”

    There is no feasible energy density “sorting out” for long haul.

    Long haul will be electrified, once highways themselves are hot. So that battery is only required for last mile.

    Just as “self driving” will arrive, only once those hot highways and/or lanes are physically separated from other traffic.

    Until then, “electric” and “AV” are just sales pitches, aimed at selling paper to gullibles.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      I used to work for a class one (i.e. large) railroad that operates in the western half of the US. More than forty years ago, the company studied electrification using catenaries. (My work group was involved in field tests.) Electrification, as an alternative to diesel, was abandoned after it was realized that the infrastructure would be prohibitively expensive to install. By the time I left twenty years ago, the company had become the biggest consumer of diesel fuel beating out the US Navy.

      Two questions about CARB:
      (1) Does it employ any engineers or economists?
      (2) Does it pay any attention to them?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The cost of building electrical distribution infrastructure is very high. But your company no doubt only cared about direct cost of diesel vs electric. A regulatory agency also looks at all the indirect costs that a company ignores – all the health costs associated with those diesel emissions as just one of many concerns. So yes, they do employ engineers and economists. They just have a much wider area of concern than a corporate beancounter does. As they should.

        While this proposal seems to be ahead of the technology available, the same was said with emissions and safety with cars. And like those cases, I’m sure the initial technology will be fraught with learning curves. And the power has to be cleanly generated. But ultimately, getting away from combustion is probably the best thing we can do for ourselves and the planet. Those images of pre/post Covid shutdowns on air quality made that abundantly clear. I, for one, sure don’t miss the plumes of visible diesel exhaust from trucks that would surely still exist if regulation didn’t force its elimination.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Answers to your questions: 1) engineers – yes; economists- no. 2) sometimes.

        A third question, with an answer: 3) Where does CARBs authority end, and the federal government’s authority over interstate commerce begin? The answer is that CARB’s authority ends just inside of California’s borders, and federal authority over interstate commerce extends across all borders.

        There’s a state-federal clash coming, and CARB seems willing to run head first into it. That might not be wise.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air”

    This is factually incorrect, and she should know this:
    https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/timeline-major-accomplishments-transportation-air

    Anecdotally speaking, following a big rig these days is not the lung-choking experience it was 10-20 years ago.

    It’s interesting that this move precedes any production electric OTR truck, just as the EV subsidy of 2009 preceded any EV cars (except the Roadster 1).

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Commiefornai strikes again, moving a idiotic agenda forward, facts be damned.

    Hopefully other large companies will follow Tesla’s and the Muskrat’s lead and get the heck out of there. Residents will follow until there is nothing left. Or, we just cut California away from the “sane”land and push them out to sea. Good riddence.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Commiefornai strikes again, moving a idiotic agenda forward, facts be damned.

    Hopefully other large companies will follow Tesla’s and the Muskrat’s lead and get the heck out of there. Residents will follow until there is nothing left. Or, we just cut California away from the “sane”land and push them out to sea. Good riddance.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    This isn’t rocket science. Electric semi leaves one of the two busiest ports in the USA; Los Angeles and Long Beach respectively. Cross Nevada border; drop your eastbound load. An east bound diesel semi picks up your eastbound load. You pick up a west bound load that a diesel semi has dropped off. UPS, and I’m sure other trucking companies have their drivers “meet in the middle” Indianapolis to St. Louis? St. Louis to Indy. Have the drivers meet in say, Effingham, IL. Both drivers get to go home that night. As usual, the B&B would rather pile on about EV’s, air pollution, and one of their all time favorites, California. There won’t be many economics gains from this; a truck terminal; some mini-marts and a hotel or two with low paying jobs. We will pay for this EV/Diesel truck switch in the middle of no where.

  • avatar
    mcs

    They really need to hold off on any mandates until sometime after 2025. I just don’t see where there will be enough units produced to meet the mandate. I think they’ll convert on their own anyway. If the savings is really there, the trucking industry will make the switch on their own.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      This is the right answer and I think this is one area where this tech is most likely to both work and have a real impact. Much easier to just rush it and pass the cost on to the voters though.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The pre-orders for the Tesla Semi and the Rivian Amazon trucks indicate that some major players already see the advantages.

  • avatar
    Dartdude

    California needs to cut the wages for all state, county and local employees to pay for free solar to all residential homes. Then implement all their crazy pie in the sky ideas. Glad I left.

  • avatar

    I do not see anything wrong. Somebody has to start revolution. We cannot burn oil breath toxic fumes forever.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      The air is cleaner now than it ever has been despite FAR more vehicles on the road. Stop with the hysterical nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “We” will burn it as long as it’s available. Less demand from Cali, just makes it cheaper for everyone else, so they can afford to burn more of it.

      What’s important, is to burn it as cleanly as possible. So that emissions are as clean as thy can be. Just CO2 and water, IOW.

      50 years ago, when CARB got moving on reducing smog, emissions were horrible. AND, the delta between toxic emissions emitted per watt of power at cutting edge large power stations, versus in car engines, were much wider than today. So it would have made sense to centralize the burn, so to speak.

      Nowadays, ICEs, particularly gas ones, can be made so darned clean burning there’s little benefit to air quality from replacing them with battery cars. In some European cities, more air quality “problems” seem to arise from the tire/roadsurface interface (“problems” are always a bit subjective), than from the tailpipe of a modern ICEs. And that’s with a mix skewing much more towards harder-to-clean-up diesels than we have. And BEVs, with their heavy battery packs, increase those emissions due to more weight on the tires. As well as increased power/torque in popular models like Teslas.

      And to make matters worse, the current fad for demonizing CO2, has resulted in engines that emit more toxic particulates, NOx’ etc., than if they were regulated to minimize toxic emissions, rather than harmless soda bubbles.

      On some level, it is true that the more you burn, and the more power you generate whether at a power station or in a car engine, the more of everything you are likely to emit, so I’m not saying a Hellcat will ever pollute less than a Prius.

      But the reason the Prius is so “good”, is that it is light, aerodynamic, efficient as heck and has harder wearing tires unable to exact as much force on the road surface etc. Everything a 6000lb, 600hp Tesla CUV is not.

      And there is no way to make BEVs with good range as light as a hybrid Prius, much less a non hybrid, efficiency optimized such thing for those who mainly drive long freeway stretches where the hybrid system doesn’t contribute much.

      So, as is always the case in Pelosistan, the whole “electrification” nonsense, is mainly about poorly informed, self entitled yahoos who want their 600HP, wile still reatining privileged access to carpool lanes, parking spots and other people’s tax money. Not to say the guys at CARB aren’t doing good work. They’re just overran by the same lobbyist bought politicians as everyone else these days.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Sounds good to me, just means less traffic at CA ports, meaning some of that traffic is likely to come north to my area. Distribution centers will follow.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @ Scoutdue Sir, most international good are shipped in containers. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are set up to handle those containers. Container ships sail on a time/fuel consumption schedule. Pressure is on the shipping line to meet their schedule. The container itself is scanned when leaves the factory,when it’s loaded, when it’s unloaded and when it leaves the port facility. This information is sent to the company that bought whatever is the container. Mega-lo mart already knows what the truck driver is hauling and when he should hit the dock. This puts the truck driver under a schedule to get a container of say, velveteen lined hangers to the Mega-lo mart distribution center. He’s got a schedule to hit. His container and the other three containers of velveteen hangers go to scheduled distribution centers. Mega-lo mart is already tracking them. The distribution centers well, distribute the velveteen hangers to individual stores. This information was known when the last velveteen hanger filled the shipping container. I do not see San Francisco,Portland or Seattle spending hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade or build new ports. The EV to diesel switch, call it “The Nevada Switcheroo” will be studied and timed. It’ll be another point in the logistics schema. The extra shipping time will be charged for. Mega-lo mart ain’t paying for it.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    Reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is a necessary part of life in the 21st century. I get it. But wouldn’t it make more sense to save the batteries and electrification for light-duty vehicles and move trucks towards natural gas until battery technology, availability, and the collateral damage from their production and manufacturing are more developed?

    Also, what about shipping (as in, actual ships)? I remember reading that the 15 largest cargo ships produce the same amount of pollution as all the cars in the world. So it might be untrue, but. Could we get them transitioned away from the heavy sludge they currently burn more cheaply and with less infrastructure than coming after the trucks?

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I have nothing to back this up, but it seems like a hybrid path would be more appropriate. For the price of a much smaller battery, you’d get all the benefits: regeneration power from stopping a 40-ton rig, and smooth EV torque to pull away from a stop. All with no extra charging infrastructure or downtime. Doing this for 100,000 trucks would probably do as much good as selling a million EV cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      I’m not sure hybrid long-haul trucks buy much over straight ICE. Hybrid cars shine in stop and go stuff because they use regenerative braking, but on long highway runs they are basically powered by the engine.

      Now, USPS switching to some sort of hybrid local delivery vehicles would make a ton of sense. I would think they could double fuel economy over their ancient jeeps with the famous asthmatic wheezing sound.

      Hydrogen eliminates (alleged) greenhouse gases at the vehicle, but the hydrogen has to produced somewhere which would often produce CO2 anyway. And, as with lithium battery powered cars, there is the question of safety with hydrogen. Rupturing a large hydrogen tank could cause one huge kablooie.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “I’m not sure hybrid long-haul trucks buy much over straight ICE. Hybrid cars shine in stop and go stuff because they use regenerative braking…”

        Yep.

        Hybrid cars also benefit from smoothing out the peaks and valleys of the load on the gas engine- they help acceleration which means the gas engine doesn’t have to be as big and they take advantage of moments when the demand on the gas engine is low (take advantage and recharge the battery). Those cases don’t apply to over the road, long haul trucking either. When a big truck gets on the highway, it takes as much time and distance as necessary to accelerate. When it goes up a long, steep grade, if it slows down a bit then oh well. The engines are pretty well already built to the right size for efficiency.

        Back to regenerative braking and long distance hauling, when big trucks goes down a long, steep grade then there is some wasted energy from engine braking and you could theoretically get it back. Anyone who has driven a hybrid car in mountainous terrain understands how quickly the battery pack gets to full charge on those long descents, usually long before you get to the bottom. It’s simply an impossible technical challenge for present day battery technology.

        I’m not trying to be a naysayer, just down to earth about what works and what doesn’t work with today and tomorrow’s technology. By tomorrow I mean 1-10 years from now. Technology will be different 25 years from now- there is some amazing stuff these days that was only a dream for cars and trucks made in 1995, but that is another sense of the word “tomorrow.” Maybe we’ll have amazing battery technology in 2050 or maybe somebody will invent and perfect something else.

  • avatar
    Oliver Snurdlap

    It is very possible that the California transportation authorities are aware of the hydrogen powered buses running in China and Nicola? trucks running in the US. Toyota has been in favor of hydrogen for many years but I don’t know if it is because of its truck division.

  • avatar
    Super555

    My 2017 Kenworth Fitzgerald Glider Kit with a 1994 Detroit Diesel 550 hp engine self identifies as a zero emission EV so no worries. :)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    California lost its waiver to have different emissions standards than the US. Plus its CARB partner states aren’t touching this matter (and slowly backing away, like you would a crazy/meth person).

    CA is currently suing to get it back (renewed), so they might as well shoot for the Moon.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    This is so typical of modern government: Do something meaningless for public relations purposes; while failing to manage the important things.

    In CA’s case, they pass regulations like this while doing nothing to stop wild fires–a much greater source of air pollution. I lived through this in the Bay Area two years ago when wild fires made the air unbreathable for millions of people for many days. This is because PG&E is not allowed to clear the underbrush from overhead power lines lest it endanger some sort of lizard or other weird creature no one’s ever heard of.

    I’ve recently said goodbye to the Golden State, and am re-locating to the Free States of America, where COVID masks are optional and there’s still some semblance of competent government.

    • 0 avatar
      Dartdude

      Good for you

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      You do realize that the hotter and dryer it gets the more likely there will be wildfires?

      When I was kid my dad told me there was 1 summer where fires were so bad the town was blanketed in smoke. One….Only once in 40 years. I’ve had to deal with heavy wildfire smoke 5 times in the last 16 years.

      In the past 5 years we’ve had 2 of the worst fire seasons EVER.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Good for you MB. Commiefornia is the armpit of our country. You’re 100% right when it comes to wildfires. They will happen, always have. But not clearing the underbrush is a huge problem.

      Glad you got out of that oppressive garbage dump and relocated.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Three questions:

    1. How much of the nation’s food supply is produced by Cali as a percentage?

    2. Does Cali produce enough food to feed itself without major imports?

    3. What happens to the rest of the country if Cali food is only sold locally?

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