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US, Canadian initiative aims to accelerate transition to zero-emission trucks

‘We are moving all of our communities to a healthier, greener future,’ says New York governor

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Multi-State Medium and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) initiative released an action plan to fight rising diesel exhaust emissions on Wednesday. Seventeen states, as well as the District of Columbia and Quebec, are participating in the initiative.

The initiative aims to advance the adoption of electric trucks and buses and slash emissions of greenhouse gases and toxic air pollutants. 

States participating are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

“By working together with states and Canadian jurisdictions to advance efforts to transition to zero-emission vehicles, including the recent adoption of the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, we are moving all of our communities to a healthier, greener future,” New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul said in the news release.

The Multi-State ZEV Task Force is facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (Nescaum). The participating U.S. jurisdictions represent 43% of the population and 36% of the nation’s medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, according to Nescaum.

Strategies to increase adoption of zero-emission trucks

While the cost of EV battery packs has declined drastically over just the past five years, EVs still have a higher upfront cost than fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Battery electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles have the potential to deliver “significant lifetime operational savings over diesel trucks and buses through lower fuel, maintenance and electric powertrain costs,” the plan said.

Nescaum said it expects the upfront cost of multiple classes of battery electric trucks and buses to be competitive with combustion engines over the next few years.

Another barrier is the charging infrastructure. An accessible charging network needs to be deployed to support a large uptake of ZEVs.

The action plan includes more than 65 strategies for state policymakers to address the barriers and support the rapid and equitable electrification of trucks, vans and buses.

They include recommendations for advancements in:

  • Vehicle sales and purchase requirements.
  • Vehicle and infrastructure incentives.
  • Actions for electric utilities and utility regulators.
  • Innovative financing mechanisms.
  • Outreach and education.
  • Economic equity and workforce development.
  • Community air monitoring.
  • Infrastructure planning and deployment.
  • Areas for ongoing research and evaluation.

Initiative calls for cleaner air

Trucks, vans and buses emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other air pollutants harmful to public health. Exposure to those pollutants can trigger heart attacks and strokes, worsen asthma, lead to cognitive challenges and contribute to thousands of premature deaths each year, according to Nescaum.

Air quality needs to be improved quickly, “especially in frontline and overburdened communities that are located near freight hubs and corridors and experience the most severe impacts,” the release said. It said the same communities impacted most by air pollution often lack access to clean transportation options.

Read: Report: Diesel truck emissions in NYC affect people of color more

“Swiftly transitioning to zero-emission buses and trucks in North Carolina will reduce greenhouse gases, combat harmful air pollution that disproportionately impacts underserved communities and continue to create good new jobs,” said Gov. Roy Cooper.

The action plan is focused on making the transition to electric trucks and buses as equitable as possible for overburdened communities and workers. The initiative participants are working with community-based groups and environmental justice organizations to shape the plan and ensure that electrification policies in transportation “deliver benefits where they are needed most,” the release said.

Advancing ZEV adoption and creating jobs

Many participants are setting guidelines or regulations in place to increase the percentage of ZEVs that make up new sales of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The Advanced Clean Trucks rule is one example.

The action plan highlights the opportunities for growth in jobs and the economy as the medium- and heavy-duty ZEV market expands. The transition will create jobs for assemblers, machinists, electrical technicians, civil construction workers, and design and engineering. 

The plan proposes collaboration among the trucking industry, labor groups, community groups and educational institutions to implement retraining programs and identify key labor issues.

“Quebec is committed to use its clean energy to electrify its road transportation as early as possible,” said Benoit Charette, minister for the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change in Quebec. “Working collaboratively with like-minded jurisdictions, we can rapidly advance the transition and share the benefits of widespread electric truck and bus adoption. We’re proud to stand with our U.S. partners at the vanguard of the fight against climate change and harmful air pollution.”

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.