Powering Strong Communities

California releases strategy to guide transition to 100% zero-emission vehicles

The office of California Governor Gavin Newsom has released its strategy for achieving the states’ ambitious zero emission vehicle emission goals.

Newsom in September 2020 signed Executive Order N-79-20 that stipulates that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and light-duty trucks will be zero-emission by 2035 and 100% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sales must be zero emission by 2045 where feasible. For drayage trucks and off-road vehicles and equipment, the zero-emission target date is 2035 where feasible.

The state’s new Zero- Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Market Development Strategy falls under the purview of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), which will work with multiple agencies across the state to implement the means of achieving the zero emission goals.

The report says the GO-Biz’s market strategy is centered on four market pillars: vehicles, infrastructure, end users, and workforce and rests on a foundation of five core principles: equity in every decision, embracing all zero-emission pathways, collective problem-solving, public actions drive greater private investment, and designing for system resilience and adaptability.

“The ZEV Strategy is structured to break down silos and ensure cross-cutting work throughout the California state government to achieve our ZEV goals,” the report said.

Within the four pillars, vehicles encompass new and used battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles of all duty classes, as well as equipment used for transporting people and freight, as well as industrial, agricultural and recreational equipment. The category also includes zero-emission solutions such as carsharing and micro-mobility options such as electric bicycles and scooters. Vehicles also includes zero-emission high-speed rail, locomotives, marine vessels, and aircraft.

The infrastructure pillar includes electric vehicle charging stations, hydrogen fueling stations, and the systems that supply them, as well as vehicle-grid integration, grid integration of fueling systems such as hydrogen production through electrolysis.

The end-user pillar includes consumers, riders, fleet operators, transportation network companies, car dealers, drivers, transportation planning agencies, program administrators, ports, regional and local governments and communities, trucking companies, and fuel providers.

The workforce pillar includes workers in supply chains, needed to design, manufacture, sell, construct and install, service and maintain zero-emission vehicles, infrastructure, distribution systems, dealerships, and charging and fueling stations. The workforce category also includes third-party support companies and agencies that work with zero-emission vehicle focused institutions that are critical to operating and expanding the zero-emission vehicle market, such as marketing and advertising firms, roadside assistance companies, financial institutions, insurance agencies, and recyclers.

The governor’s office said the zero-emission vehicle strategy will be updated at least every three years and each state agency is required to submit a brief action plan annually, starting March 1, 2021, that will serve to set the agency’s priorities.

The strategy report also said that GO-Biz will develop annual priority summaries for each pillar, along with an equity engagement and implementation strategy. The “pillar priority documents will focus on harmonizing policy and implementation to get to scale with a target of being posted by March 15th each year,” the report said.

A corresponding public ZEV Strategy website will house the documents related to the strategy and track the state’s progress towards meeting the Executive Order targets, agency objectives, and pillar priorities.

Although California has made great strides in cleaning up its air, the Los Angeles region and the San Joaquin Valley “still suffer from the worst air quality in the nation,” the strategy report said.

And while greenhouse gas emissions are falling across the state, led by the electricity sector, transportation still accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, with medium- and heavy-duty trucks being the largest source of vehicle pollution even though they comprise only 2 million of the 30 million registered vehicles in California, the report noted.

Separately, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) has undertaken a series of regulatory steps to address emissions from the transportation sector – specifically from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and especially from fleet vehicles. 

In June 2020, CARB adopted the Advanced Clean Truck rule, requiring truck manufacturers to transition from diesel to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024.  The first-in-the-world rule would require that every new truck sold in California will be zero-emission by 2045.  It includes both a manufacturers Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) sales requirement and a one-time data reporting requirement (by April 1) for large entities and fleets, including most of California’s public power utilities.    

In August 2020, CARB adopted the Heavy-Duty Low NOx Omnibus Regulation requiring manufacturers to comply with tougher emissions standards, overhaul engine testing procedures, and further extend engine warranties to ensure that oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions are reduced to help California meet federal air quality standards and critical public health goals.  NOx is a primary component in the formation of smog.  The On-Road Heavy-Duty Certification Program certifies new incomplete or diesel medium-duty engines and vehicles, heavy-duty engines and vehicles (including hybrid, fuel cell, and electric vehicles), and alternative fuel retrofit systems. 

Because the transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, accounting for approximately 40% of statewide emissions in 2016, CARB is now undertaking a regulatory effort to convert the state’s public and private fleet vehicles to zero emission.  The Advanced Clean Fleet rule would seek to help achieve the 2045 ZEV goal.  According to CARB, the initial focus will be on larger fleets with vehicles that are suitable for early electrification, their subhaulers, and large entities that hire them. The goal is to accelerate the number of medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle purchases to achieve a full transition to zero-emission vehicles in California as soon as possible.  California’s public power utilities are supportive of electrification efforts and have been engaged in the effort.  This includes noting that unique role that specialized utility equipment plays in emergency response situations – including mutual aid – whereby certain specialized utility vehicles may not be suitable for all-electrification.

“The California electric transportation goals are very aggressive and our Members are leading the efforts to prepare their communities to be electric friendly,” said Randy S. Howard, General Manager of Northern California Power Agency.  He shared the recent study results on the need for electric charger infrastructure shows California has nearly 67,000 public and shared chargers installed, with an additional 121,000 planned, leaving a need for 62,000 additional chargers to meet the state’s goal of 250,000 chargers (pursuant to Executive Order B-48-18). 

To meet the state’s goal of 5 million EVs by 2030, 968,000 chargers are needed.

To meet the Governor’s Executive Order N-79-20, which sets a target for 100 percent of passenger vehicle and truck sales to be zero-emission by 2035, it’s expected that 1.5 million chargers will be needed for passenger vehicles, and an additional 157,000 chargers will be needed to support medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in 2030.