Industry Aims at Refocusing Zero-Emission Efforts to National Level

September 29, 2021

While momentum is building around the country to shift commercial transportation to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), vehicle manufacturers are increasingly concerned over the lack of consistency moving forward. As several states move to adopt requirements for ZEVs — with more on the way — manufacturers have even more reason to call for national uniformity.

State governments are gradually beginning to emulate California’s Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) and Heavy-Duty Omnibus rules, even before the Golden State has finalized the regulations for themselves. New Jersey and Washington began the process earlier this year, and Oregon and New York embarked on the adoption of the ACT rule more recently. Other states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, are also considering the adoption of California’s ACT regulation, but have not yet initiated a formal rulemaking process.

The ACT rule in California is the first to require commercial truck makers to sell an increasing number of zero-emission trucks.

Unanimously adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) at the end of 2020, the ACT rule was the first to require commercial truck makers to sell an increasing number of clean, zero-emission trucks in California. Its counterpart, the Heavy-Duty Omnibus rule, calls for reductions in NOx emissions standard for heavy-duty engines by approximately 75% below current standards beginning in 2024, increasing to 90% in 2027.

States, Stakeholders Taking Notice

Oregon began its official adoption process this past June. Although nearing the end of the public comment process, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently extended its comment period relating to the adoption of rules similar to California’s template to the beginning of October. Next up: the Empire State.

In advance of this year’s Climate Week, New York’s newly inaugurated Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation on September 8, that calls for all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. Mirroring the ACT rule, Gov. Hochul also directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue a proposed regulation to require commercial truck manufacturers to meet a specific annual sales percentage of zero-emission trucks starting with model year 2025: at least 55% of all new Class 2b-3 pickup trucks and vans, 75% of Class 4-8 trucks, and 40% of all Class 7-8 tractors must meet these sales targets by 2035. The comment period for New York’s proposed regulation ends on November 17, 2021.

One of the primary issues troubling commercial truck manufacturers is the inconsistency of regulations across the states.

These rulemakings have been greeted by some with concern. One of the primary issues that troubles manufacturers is the inconsistency of regulations across the states. In a letter sent to the Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a group of industry stakeholders — including truck manufacturers, state and national associations, and global fleets — called for a “pause” in the adoption of the proposed rule, citing the “significant developments regarding California’s proposed Omnibus Low NOx rule.”

“California has recognized that, with the standards they have proposed, significant sections of the heavy-duty truck market will go unserved, as manufacturers are unable to meet these standards across a broad variety of applications in the timing required,” wrote the group. “To address this issue, California has been adding numerous new NOx credit provisions, rule exemptions, and other complications to the proposed rule.”

According to the group, these changes are complicating the matter and will lead to increased costs and uncertainty. The continued revision of these rules leaves the industry in an odd position, with uncertainty over the state of the market and OEMs’ role in moving towards a zero-emissions future.

The EPA announced a Clean Trucks Plan, a federal rule that would result in substantial emissions reductions from OEMs.

The group that sent the letter to Governor Brown is pushing for a nationwide rule, highlighting the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new Clean Trucks Plan, which would include creating standards to reduce NOx and other criteria pollutants in the heavy-duty truck market. EPA’s rule, which is expected by the end of the year, would also include changes to the Greenhouse Gas rules for heavy trucks. The adoption of a federal rule, according to the group, would result in substantial emissions reductions without the increased complexity and costs they claim will be associated with the emerging two-regulation approach.

Anticipating the Wave

With a handful of states already pushing a zero-emission agenda, and more poised to ride the same wave, the concerns echoed by the authors of the letter to Governor Brown appear to be creating dilemmas for manufacturers and commercial fleets from all sectors. These emerging public policies not only impact their businesses, but also affect the decisions they make when projecting incoming profits, outgoing expenses, and near-term capital investments.

To help stakeholders better understand and prepare for these emerging regulations, GNA has initiated a new service. Policy 360 is a clean transportation policy tracking program designed to keep stakeholders up to date on the latest changes in regulations affecting the transportation industry. Policy 360 consists of a team of “policy gurus” that continuously connect with their contacts in local, state, and federal agencies about the latest developments in clean transportation regulation and legislation. The GNA team dives deep to understand the decisions policymakers are making now and planning for the future, enabling us to anticipate regulatory developments before they are made official. With this, Policy 360 can give clients the opportunity to influence policies before they are even proposed.

Policy 360 is the evolution of the involvement and support GNA has had over the past 28 years in supporting the clean transportation industry.  Our work helps our 300+ clients — fleet, OEM, technology providers, and other stakeholders — effectively navigate the ever-changing landscape of advanced clean transportation. To learn more, contact Cliff Gladstein, founding president of GNA.