HIghway lights

The highways of California may look drastically different in the coming decades as market dynamics and regulations push many more electric vehicles into service. Photo by kimi lee on unsplash.com

published on September 15, 2022 - 1:38 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

As California continues to lead the nation with its green policies, a record heatwave and the promise of annual wildfires bring environmental issues to the forefront.

Last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to approve the Advanced Clean Cars II rule that would ban the sale of new gasoline vehicles by 2035, setting interim targets to phase out new gas vehicles in the state.

The new rules will require automakers to provide an increasing number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) each year beginning in model year 2026. Sales of new ZEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will start with 35% that year, build to 68% in 2030, and reach 100% in 2035.

These rules will apply to passenger cars, SUVs and small pick-up trucks — not large, diesel-powered semis.

Even before CARB’s recent vote to ban gas vehicle sales, California already had the most stringent rules in the country regarding vehicle pollution, along with incentives, tax credits and rebate programs to get residents and businesses to invest in PHEVs and ZEVs.


Sparking interest

On Aug. 30, the San Joaquin Valley Electric Vehicle Partnership, a business-led regional collaborative based in Bakersfield that promotes EV expansion in the region, hosted an electric truck symposium, “EVs Made EZ,” at the Expo Event Center in Fresno.

Presenters at the symposium included business representatives and owners from both local, national and international businesses in the energy and transportation sector including French company Greenstruxure, WattEV, Southern California Edison, and Affinity Truck Center, as well as representatives from Fresno City College and the Fresno Council of Governments (Fresno COG).

Topics presented at the symposium included EV charging infrastructure, medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicle rebates, EV and charging incentives, and the inland port projects, discussing how these efforts will reduce air pollution in the Central Valley region.

Stephen Amstutz is the founder of San Joaquin Green Hydrogen in Bakersfield, a development company for green hydrogen projects. He is also the founder of California Clean Transportation, a group focused on supporting commercial fleets to adopt EV technology.

Amstutz said the symposium was held to help fleet operators see if adopting EV technology is feasible.

“It needs to pencil out for people, and there are tools now available that we’d love to provide people with to show them what is the lower total cost of ownership by adopting a zero emissions technology,” Amstutz said.

Amstutz said that he does sympathize with fleet operators that feel burned out by California regulations, but the quality of life for residents cannot suffer to benefit business, he said.


Flow of incentives

Catherine K.X Thao and Jocelyne Mejia-Talamentes, both senior air quality specialists with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, discussed funding opportunities through its truck replacement, electric yard truck replacement, clean vehicle fueling infrastructure and zero-emission school bus programs.

The Truck Voucher program has replaced more than 1,820 trucks totaling over $73 million in incentives.

Small fleets — 10 or fewer vehicles — will receive funding for up to 80% of the new vehicle cost. Large fleets with 11 or more trucks will receive funding up to 50% of the new vehicle costs. The funding for both excludes taxes and fees.

The dollar funding for the truck replacement program depends on the weight class of an existing truck. A new zero emission heavy duty Class 8 truck has a dollar amount capped at $410,000.

There are also different caps for low emission trucks.

“Cost effectiveness comes into play when you’re analyzing the amount of usage of the vehicle — the more miles the truck does, the more cost effective it is for us to fund that project,” Mejia-Talamantes said. “Essentially, you’re reducing more emissions with that project. If the truck doesn’t run very much, its less emissions being reduced per dollar that’s being paid to replace that vehicle.”

 Taylor Patterson, national account manager for A-1 Alternative Fuel Systems, a manufacturer in Fresno that makes alternative fuel systems for all classes of vehicles, said local clients have been increasing in the last few years.

“Hydrogen has been a big force with the zero-emissions that California is pushing. With the grants and incentives out there, we are seeing are electric offerings get more demand, as well as for hydrogen,” Patterson said.

A-1’s clients include a lot of actors in the ag industry. Many commodity haulers are transitioning their fleets from diesel to natural gas fuels. Even without grant funding, Taylor said that the upfront costs for EVs is made up in a few years with savings on fuel.

Though the rebate and incentives are meant to help fleet operators transition to electric vehicles, some in the industry see it as just another stringent rule from Sacramento.


Choking air

Raman Singh, CEO of the North American Punjabi Trucking Association, a national trade association for the trucking industry based in Fresno, said that truck drivers are already burdened by emission rules, electronic logging requirements, truck shortages and constraints on how long drivers can be on the road.

Singh said that along with stricter rules constantly being imposed on the trucking industry, most Californians won’t be able to afford an electric vehicle.

A report from Kelly Blue Book confirmed that average price for an EV in June was $66,000, a 13.7% increase when compared to May of last year.

Singh said that charging times for EV trucks can be impractical in an industry built around timeliness.

Singh said a manufacturer quoted a price tag for an electric truck that costs $435,000.

“Everybody wants better air, but this is not the way to get to that. This is choking the community and businesses to comply, and ultimately businesses will either shut down, or leave the state, which will be a big impact on the state,” Singh said.

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