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California mandates shift from diesel to electric trucks starting in 2024

The goal is to have nothing but electric trucks being sold by 2045.

Silent, emissions-free trucks are already on their way.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Remember smog? California sure as heck does, and in order to prevent a return to a permanent haze over parts of the state, the California Air Resources Board has decided to implement a sweeping mandate that's unlike any other proposed thus far.

CARB announced this week that it has adopted a rule that see truck manufacturers shifting from diesel to electric trucks starting in 2024. The goal, per CARB's press release, is to have every new truck in the state be electric by 2045. In addition to the two dates mentioned above, CARB's ruling adds some more specificity. Short-haul drayage in ports and railyards should be fully zero-emissions by 2035, with last-mile delivery vehicles reaching that target five years later.

"For decades, while the automobile has grown cleaner and more efficient, the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air," said Mary D. Nichols, CARB chair, in a statement. "Diesel vehicles are the workhorses of the economy, and we need them to be part of the solution to persistent pockets of dirty air in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Now is the time -- the technology is here and so is the need for investment."

CARB's statement points out that many logistics centers in California bump up against disadvantaged neighborhoods, meaning the negative effects of diesel drayage trucks are closest to those who may lack the ability to do anything about it. This is just as much about improving Californians' lives as it is about the climate crisis.

The release also states that, despite representing one out of every 15 registered vehicles in the state, trucks are responsible for 70% of pollution related to smog and 80% of diesel soot, which is carcinogenic. CARB believes the shift to zero-emission trucks will reduce premature deaths by 1,000 per year statewide.

CARB may not stop there, either. The release points out that the group will also consider additional regulations focused on nitrogen oxide emissions, which is a contributor to smog, as well as a possible requirement for year-over-year transition requirements.

Some automakers aren't waiting for mandates to start the shift to electric logistics, though. Earlier this year, I was able to take a spin in Volvo's VNR Electric semi truck, which will come to California as part of a larger Volvo Trucks program that will work to create an entire electric-truck ecosystem, from infrastructure to service and education.