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Western And Northeast States Set Ambitious Goal For Electric Buses, Vans And Rigs

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have agreed to promote development and sales of electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles with the goal of that all new vehicles in those categories are electric by 2050.

The states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont.

The agreement, announced Tuesday by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, comes about three weeks after the California Air Resources Board declared it would begin requiring truck manufacturers to begin transitioning to electric fleets in 2024. California will require that every new truck sold in the state be zero emission by 2045.

Trucks are the largest source of air pollution from motor vehicles, accounting for 70% of smog-causing emissions (mostly oxides of nitrogen) and 80% of diesel soot, according to CARB researchers, even though they are only about 2 million of the 30 million registered vehicles in California.

The multi-state initiative will apply to large pickup trucks, delivery vans and trucks, box trucks, school buses, public transit buses and long-haul freight trucks.

The goal is ambitious and some observers may regard it as unrealistic.

But the NESCAUM coalition says that while trucks and buses are about 4% of the U.S. vehicle population, they emit nearly 25% of transportation-generated greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide).

There is a significant public health benefit from a transition to an electric fleet because emissions of gas and diesel commercial vehicles disproportionately impact low-income communities located near major trucking routes and distribution centers.

One challenge will be to expand the number and locations of charging stations. The speed of charging also must improve over current technology.

According to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, off-shift charging of large trucks is readily available today, but future electric trucks will need to be charged in less than 30 minutes. That technology is still in the early stages of development.

But in announcing their memorandum of understanding, the NESCAUM coalition solicited support from large retail logistic executives.

“We are committed to driving a clean transportation future with 100% of ourhome deliveries made in zero emission vehicles by 2025,” said Steven Moelk of IKEA Retail U.S. in a statement.

PepsiCo already use electric vehicles to cover 12 million miles on its delivery routes, said Mike O’Connell, PepsiCo vice president of supply chain.

A recent report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency said that the value of used electric vehicles is still unclear.

Most early deployments have been with new vehicles. The used electric vehicle market is in its infancy.

But the report acknowledges that the value of electric motors and salvaged batteries may be an advantage if they can be repurposed for non-vehicle use.

My fellow Forbes contributor Sam Abuelsamid points out that commercial vehicles are among the highest fuel-consuming light-vehicles in use, in many cases getting no better than 10 miles per gallon.

The lower costs of electricity more than offsets the higher upfront premium fleet operators will pay for most EVs.

Abuelsamid cites the case of a gas-fueled van driving 50,000 miles at 12 miles per gallon and $3-a-gallon gas, which would have an annual fuel cost of about $12,500 per year.

An electrified version of the same van, achieving 2 miles per kilowatt-hour at 13 cents per kilowatt hour, would cost just $3,250 for the same 50,000 miles.

There are now about 70 electric truck and bus models currently on the market. Agreements such as the one announced Tuesday could stimulate engineering work on new vehicles.

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