Fifteen U.S. states and the District of Colombia (D.C.) have pledged to work together to “advance and accelerate” the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to slash diesel emissions and cut carbon pollution.
The 16 subnational governments have signed a memorandum of understanding in which they will work towards their collective goal of making sure 100 per cent of new medium-and heavy-duty vehicle sales are zero emission vehicles by 2050, with an interim target of 30 per cent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030.
The signatories have committed to developing a plan within six months to identify barriers and propose solutions to advancing widespread electrification, including potential financial incentives and ways to boost electric vehicle infrastructure, according to Reuters.
A press release issued late last week said the vehicles involved include large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks.
The announcement comes just weeks after one of the signatories, the state of California, adopted a landmark rule requiring truck manufacturers to transition from diesel trucks and vans to electric zero-emission vehicles starting in 2024, on the way to the goal that every new truck sold in the state be zero-emission by 2045.
“Our efforts in California will be magnified through the efforts of this multi-state coalition to reduce emissions and improve air quality, especially crucial in communities where our most vulnerable citizens live,” said California Governor, Gavin Newsom.
Nationally, the transportation sector is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to unhealthy levels of smog in signatory states.
While trucks and buses only account for 4 percent of vehicles on the road, they are responsible for nearly 25 percent of total transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, and trucks are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, with truck miles on the nation’s roads expected to soar in the coming decades, the announcement said.
The switch also to zero emission vehicles also promises improvements to health, particularly in communities with heavy truck traffic leading to higher levels of air pollution.
Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are a major source of smog-forming pollution, particulate matter, and other toxic air pollutants, which lead to a range of physical and mental health impacts from womb to grave.
Their impact on air quality can be disproportionately large: in California, for example, trucks are the largest single source of air pollution from vehicles, responsible for 70 per cent of the smog-causing pollution and 80 per cent of carcinogenic diesel soot, even though they number only 2 million among the 30 million registered vehicles in the state.
And these emissions also disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of colour, which are often located near major trucking corridors, ports, and distribution hubs.
“We tend to see facilities that house diesel fleets being located in lower-income and black and brown neighborhoods,” said Chair of the Sierra Club D.C. Chapter’s Clean Energy Committee, Lara Levison, in an article by Greater Greater Washington.
“More hotter days, more ground level ozone and the health impacts are greater on folks who work outdoors, and folks who are in poor health who more often are low-income people and people of color,” she added.
“In Connecticut, as in other states, our most vulnerable residents are hit hardest by the health effects of air pollution, including asthma and other respiratory ailments,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.
“I am looking forward to working with partner states through this agreement to leverage private sector ingenuity with smart public policy to transition to zero-emission vehicles,” he said.
The announcement comes at a crucial point for the industry.
Investment in zero emission vehicle technology for the medium- and heavy duty sector continues to rise: at least 70 electric truck and bus models are currently available on the market, and a rising number of companies in the U.S. and around the world are working on introducing, improving and evolving zero emission vehicles.
Meanwhile, major retailers and logistics companies, including Amazon and UPS, are expanding their fleets of electric delivery vehicles.
By 2030, the total cost of ownership for many common commercial vehicles is projected to reach parity with conventionally fuelled vehicles.
“The electric vehicle industry is primed for tremendous growth. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to place clean transportation technology and infrastructure at the center of the nation’s economic recovery,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The signatory jurisdictions will work through the existing multi-state Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) Task Force facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) to develop and implement a ZEV action plan for trucks and buses.
This article has been adapted from the announcement. Read the press release and comments from signatories here: 15 states and the District of Columbia join forces to accelerate bus and truck electrification
Banner photo by the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice