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$44 Million Zero-Emissions Freight Project Launched By California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board recently launched a $44 million voucher project at the Port of San Diego to help support the purchasing of zero-emissions off-road freight equipment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The equipment is for use at rail freight yards, distribution centers, ports, and airports.

The California Air Resources Board recently launched a $44 million voucher project at the Port of San Diego to help support the purchasing of zero-emissions off-road freight equipment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The equipment is for use at rail freight yards, distribution centers, ports, and airports. Electric vehicles used for personal transportation like the Teslas, Chevy Bolts, and the Ford Mach Es get a lot of press, but sustainable transportation goes far beyond personal vehicles. Commercial and industrial vehicles produce greenhouse gas emissions as well, so that problem needs to be addressed. CALSTART, a national non-profit accelerating the transition to clean transportation, answered some questions about the Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project (CORE) for CleanTechnica.

Image credit: CALSTART

For terminal tractors, railcar movers, and transport refrigeration units running on diesel at goods-movement hubs, like ports, airports distribution centers, and rail freight yards, are most or all of these forms of transportation running currently on diesel? Are forklifts running on gas or diesel also candidates for replacement by all-electric versions?

Most freight handling equipment is either diesel or propane-fueled. Forklifts with a lifting capacity greater than 8,000 pounds are eligible for funding. Additionally, CORE does not require buyers to ‘replace’ or destroy their old equipment; instead they can add zero-emission equipment to their fleet as we begin to transition the entire industry. 

Is the point of the project to reduce or eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution from these vehicles?

California has set forth stringent greenhouse gas reduction goals. We expect CORE to result in air quality improvements for local communities and overall greenhouse gas reductions. However, CORE’s primary goal is to make these new technologies attractive and accessible. It is expected that CORE will grow demand and make zero-emission equipment prices more competitive. Projects like CORE are intended to accelerate this process, by growing the industry, transforming the goods-movement and transportation sectors by transitioning them away from conventional polluting equipment and vehicles.  These efforts will lead to a transformation with impacts far beyond California but around across the nation. 

Point-of-sale vouchers of up to $500,000 per vehicle/piece of equipment are available for businesses that buy zero emissions vehicles. What is the cost of a zero emissions terminal tractor or railcar mover, on average? What is the cost of one that is diesel-powered?

Based on the data collected, a conventional terminal tractor might cost $100,000 whereas an electric one could cost around $300,000 but can widely vary, based on configuration. Conventional railcar movers vary greatly in size and power with some having a price tag in the range of $500,000, while the zero-emission configuration can be significantly greater. The goal of the project is to make zero-emission vehicles comparable in price, with the value of the voucher varying, based on the type of equipment and its configuration.  

Electricity obviously costs much less than diesel fuel. Over the life of a zero emissions vehicle, how much might an owner/operator save in diesel fuel costs?

Fuel costs drop significantly from the first day of use. In addition, the industry has shown that electric vehicles require half as much maintenance, creating even greater cost savings for fleets over time. By managing the cost of power with charging software, local utility programs, and Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits (LCFS) from the State of California, the business case for zero-emission technology becomes very compelling. Depending on hours of use, a user might save $30,000 per year in fuel and maintenance. To learn more about calculating total cost of ownership, please visit the HVIP calculator at

About how many zero emissions vehicles might the project help purchase for industrial use? Is all of the $44 million for vehicle vouchers, or are there  other aspects of the project it will be used for?

Depending on what types of requests are submitted for funding, it should be able to deploy 100-500 units. The entire $44 million is intended for off-road equipment, some supporting infrastructure pieces (e.g., EVSE or hydrogen fueling connection infrastructure), and management of the program.

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