California to vote to mandate some zero emission heavy duty trucks

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - California’s Air Resources Board is set to vote Thursday to require manufacturers of medium-duty and large trucks to sell a rising number of zero-emission trucks starting in 2024.

Environmentalists say the mandate will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035 and help sharply cut diesel pollution problems, but some want California to move faster.

The proposed mandate is expected to start in the 2024 model year and initially require 5%-9% zero emission vehicles (ZEV) based on class and rising to 30%-50% by 2030.

It would apply to pickup trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more, but not to light-duty trucks, covered by separate zero emission regulations.

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols told Reuters the agency plans a separate rule in early 2021 that will require large fleet owners to buy some zero emission vehicles.

“It’s not just a requirement for manufacturers to build but also for those who are the major purchasers to buy zero emission vehicles,” Nichols said.

Nichols noted the move comes as a rising number of companies like Rivian, Tesla Inc, Nikola Corp and General Motors are working to introduce zero emission trucks in the coming years.

Heavy-duty trucks are the largest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution in California.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in September that California’s light-duty ZEV mandate was preempted by federal law. A group of 23 U.S. states has sued, seeking to reverse that determination. The EPA declined comment Thursday on California’s action.

The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association said it backs “regulatory certainty through realistic targets” by California and said the regulation “will be helpful to stimulate the heavy-duty” ZEV market.

But the group added that proposed heavy-duty “ZEV targets will most likely need future downward adjustments” and also sought higher credits for heavy-duty plug-in hybrid vehicles. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)