Biden wants all new commercial trucks to be electric by 2040

The Biden administration, after nearly two years of relative quiet on truck electrification, announced a new direction at COP27. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm signed a Global Memorandum of Understanding, a commitment to 30% zero-emission truck sales nationwide in 2030 and 100% in 2040. With this action, the United States has become the largest national commercial truck market adhering to the 100% goal.

This is a game changer for truck electrification globally. The United States is the second largest market for commercial trucks after China. This commitment puts the United States ahead of China in its ambition to electrify the commercial truck sector. China has accounted for 92% of global electric truck sales since 2019, and less than 1% in the United States. But China does not have the goal of electrifying all of its truck sales, while the United States now joins several other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Chile and the Netherlands, that are doing so.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has a chance to adopt a regulation that could meet the 2030 sales target next year. Staff is working on a Phase III greenhouse gas standard for trucks, with a proposal to be released in March 2023 and a final rule to be published by December 2023. The global MOU target of 30% is drawn from the multi-state MOU signed by more than a dozen US states. At least six states have adopted California’s Advanced Clean Truck Rule to meet the 2030 goal. The Environmental Protection Agency will need to do the same. In the federal Phase III proposal, the alignment means at least 50% zero-emissions sales in 2030 for Class 4-8 hardtail trucks and at least 30% sales for Class 7-8 tractor trucks. It’s uncertain whether the EPA would be willing to adopt direct selling requirements as California and other states have done, but this year the agency asked for comment on whether it should. The sales clause would provide the most certainty of achieving the goal, but the ICCT also showed how the EPA could adapt US greenhouse gas standards to achieve a similar result. The EPA now has the political backing of the White House if it proposes a phase three greenhouse gas standard for trucks compliant with the Advanced Clean Truck Rule.

The benefits of this new American commitment are significant. A Phase 3 greenhouse gas standard requiring at least 30% of heavy-duty vehicle sales to be zero-emissions in 2030 and 100% in 2040 would, we estimate, avoid 4.8 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions from the year 2027 to 2050. This lower level corresponds to a path that avoids a warming of more than 2 degrees. But it would be necessary to accelerate the pace of electrification to stay within 1.5 degrees.

Calstart and Holland led the discussions with the US delegation. The ICCT first recommended the 2040 goal in a New York Times op-ed co-authored by Chairman Margo Oge and CEO Drew Kodjak in January 2022. In May, we recommended achieving the 2040 goal to the Zero Emissions Vehicle Transition Council, of which the US co-chairs The International Center against Torture supports as a technical secretariat. The ICCT has shown that all ZEVTC countries, including countries like India that have not yet joined the global memorandum of understanding, must increase their average share of zero-emission heavy vehicles to between 40% and 56% in 2030 and 94%. to 100% in 2040 to remain compliant with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, and New Jersey are also aligned with the 2030 goal of the Global MoU by joining California Advanced Clean Trucks in 2021. These states are members of a multistate MoU that was a precursor to the Global MoU and reflects similar goals for electrification of trucks.

California is poised to become the first state to adopt a 100% heavy-duty sales requirement in 2040. The California Air Resources Board held its first hearing this month on a task force proposal under a new Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation. Some board members have expressed interest in moving the target year forward to 2036. The board is likely to vote on the proposed rule in the spring of 2023.

The United States is showing leadership on transportation and climate policy at a critical moment. The Biden administration found momentum after its successful passage of the inflation-reduction bill, which included billions of dollars in incentives to electrify trucks. The administration’s commitment to the goals of the global MOU sends an important signal at a defining moment, one that will shape EPA’s ambition as it develops the Phase III greenhouse gas standard for trucks. As the United States demonstrates international leadership in climate policy, it has the opportunity to bring China, Germany, India, and other major truck markets with it.

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