A group of 61 federal lawmakers recently wrote a letter to the EPA asking it to finalize the strongest clean truck rules it can. Their goal? To get the EPA to follow California’s lead and require a growing percentage of trucks to be zero emissions.
“The rule should strengthen EPA’s proposed Option 1 by building on the successes of the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule adopted by seven states and set the expectation that at least 50 percent of sales should be zero-emission by 2030, putting the United States on track for all truck sales to be zero-emission by 2035. And as we advance our goals to transition to zero-emission trucks as quickly as possible, it is also important that EPA ensure the remaining new diesel truck purchases operate as cleanly as possible to protect public health, especially in our most overburdened communities,” the lawmakers wrote.
The problem this group of lawmakers successfully identify is that heavy trucks tend to stay in service for decades. When you have a vehicle that goes 100,000 or more miles a year, it doesn’t make sense to throw the whole thing away after 2-3 years (a typical passenger car can go 200-300,000 miles). Instead, they rebuild the truck’s diesel engine every few hundred thousand miles, allowing a truck to rack up over a million miles in some cases.
For an over-the-road truck, this might happen in only a decade, but for a truck doing regional or local runs, it might be on the road for 30+ years spitting pollutants out right next to our lungs. They’re right to identify urban and low-income populations (which often fall along racial lines, unfortunately) as those most at risk. This is where the longest-lasting dirty trucks will live, so it’s the place where today’s climate and pollution policies will have the longest-lasting impacts.
But, there’s also an upside. Urban and suburban runs are also where electric trucks can most easily replace the diesel-powered ones. Stop-go traffic, idling at lights and in parking lots, and low speeds all mean that smaller batteries can take a truck (and, more importantly, its load) over greater distances with smaller (and cheaper) battery packs.
So it’s not unreasonable at all for these lawmakers to request better rules that require a percentage of the trucks to be EVs. This means that the trucks that make the largest environmental impacts will end up getting replaced first, and the new electric trucks will have the greatest long-term impact.
They also have ideas on how to reduce pollution and emissions from the remaining diesel trucks: “During this transition, remaining sales of combustion trucks should be required to make full use of the identified vehicle technologies that improve overall truck efficiency and reduce fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions. Thus, EPA should strengthen the NOx and Phase 2 greenhouse gas requirements for trucks to account for the aggressive adoption of zero- emission heavy-duty trucks.”
The result would be that the most harmful trucks (those driven in cities) would be replaced first, and then the long-haul trucks would be replaced later, but would get cleaner year over year as technology improves.
Featured image by Tesla.
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