California to Require Half of All Heavy Trucks Sales to Be Electric by 2035

Emily Elconin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it's granting California the legal authority to require that half of all heavy-duty truck sales in the state be fully electric by 2035.
  • The Biden administration's approval of California's Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation goes beyond federal requirements.
  • The approval comes after the state last year banned the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in the same target year of 2035.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it's granting California the legal authority to require that half of all heavy-duty truck sales in the state be fully electric by 2035, an ambitious standard that will go beyond federal requirements.

The Biden administration's approval of California's Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation comes after the state last year banned the sale of new gasoline-powered cars starting in the same target year of 2035.

The two decisions make California, the country's most populous state and center of U.S. car culture, a leader in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which generates most of the country's greenhouse gases.

The California Air Resources Board had sought waivers from the Clean Air Act to set stricter standards for heavy-duty vehicles such as garbage trucks, delivery vans and tractor-trailers. The approval of the new rule will likely have greater impacts beyond California and pave the way for other states to follow suit.

California, which has committed to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2045, has considerable authority over the country's auto industry. For instance, a federal waiver under the Clean Air Act gives the state authority to adopt stronger fuel economy standards than those of the federal government, which has set the precedent for the rest of the U.S. on how to address vehicle emissions.

The heavy-duty truck rule has already been adopted by six other states — New York, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and Vermont — all of which were waiting for permission from the Biden administration to enact it.

A Tesla Semi electric truck parked outside the Frito-Lay manufacturing facility in Modesto, California, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.
Benjamin Fanjoy | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A Tesla Semi electric truck parked outside the Frito-Lay manufacturing facility in Modesto, California, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

"Under the Clean Air Act, California has longstanding authority to address pollution from cars and trucks," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. "Today's announcement allows the state to take additional steps in reducing their transportation emissions through these new regulatory actions."

The state's rule requires manufacturers to produce zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024 — three years ahead of the Biden administration's most recent regulations — and raises production targets through 2035. The rule aims to put 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035.

The requirement will curb climate pollution by nearly three million metric tons each year by 2040, according to estimates from the California Air Resources Board. Heavy-duty trucks represent nearly one third of the state's nitrogen oxide and more than one quarter of its fine particle pollution from diesel fuel.

"California has been hard at work passing landmark regulations to clean our air and protect our climate with zero emissions vehicles, so we're heartened to see EPA stand with California today and grant this waiver," Paul Cort, director of Earthjustice's Right to Zero campaign, said in a statement.

However, some of the country's major truck manufacturers and their lobbying groups have argued that the requirements to sell a certain percentage of electric heavy-duty trucks are costly and difficult to implement.

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, an industry group that represents truck and bus manufacturers, has said that the standards would increase the cost of trucks and result in truck buyers delaying decisions to purchase new vehicles.

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