‘Regulatory nonsense’: Calif. to ban diesel trucks at ports by 2035 despite lack of EV charging stations

As California looks to ban diesel trucks from operating in state ports by 2035, the conflict between infrastructure and ambition is in stark relief, with opponents of the measure saying current charging infrastructure is wholly inadequate.

“The California Air Resources Board is proposing phasing out older big rigs operating in the busy corridors shuttling shipping containers between ports, rail yards and warehouses and require that all new vehicles be powered by clean fuels starting in 2024,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “From 2025, the state would bar trucks powered by internal combustion engines that have more than 800,000 miles on them from operating at ports and rail yards.”

Trucking industry officials say the goal of converting 30,000 diesel trucks to clean energy by 2035 is unrealistic because the gap between the target and the minimally existing charging infrastructure would take years to build.

“Nobody is saying we don’t want to move to advanced technology,” said Matt Schrap, chief executive of the Harbor Trucking Association, an advocacy group that represents thousands of the state’s port truckers. Truckers can’t meet the deadline, he said, “because there’s no charging.”

Plus electric trucks cost 2-3 times their diesel counterparts and the short duration of charge makes many long-haul routes impractical.

But officials with CARB said the regulations solve a “chicken or egg” conundrum by forcing dealers and truckers to make the change, prompting private investment in charging stations.

NFI Industries will be introducing 90 electric vehicles to their Southern California fleet and installing dozens of charging stations near ports and warehouses over the next year, said Aaron Brown, senior vice president of port services for the New Jersey based company.

The largest privately held trucking company is betting that many of their California customers will support zero-emissions hauls, regardless of the increased cost.

“We are counting on the shipper community to pay significantly elevated prices to support the higher equipment costs,” Brown said.

Smaller outfits will have a harder time making the change and will require publicly available charging stations, according to the California Trucking Association.

According to state data, California has about 80,000 electric-vehicle chargers, almost all of them for cars and light trucks. The number of heavy-duty stations is unknown, according to officials, but they estimate “the state will need 157,000 chargers by 2030 to support electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.”

The Port of Long Beach, one of the busiest ports in the United States, has two truck charging stations and plans to add more, but the Port of Los Angeles said it can’t add many stations because of concerns about “local traffic impacts, available land and the grid improvements needed.”

Instead, new stations will be congregated in private yards, funded by billions of dollars in state grants, allowing businesses to charge drivers for parking and filling up, officials said.

“There are a number of different business models emerging that will help support a network,” said Elizabeth John, who manages the California Energy Commission office that oversees investments in heavy-duty zero-emission infrastructure.

The state has funded 200 charging stations for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and many more are planned by private companies, according to the WSJ, which reported that “the California Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 17 adopted a $1 billion transportation electrification program that committed $700 million over the next five years to charging for medium-and heavy-duty vehicles.”

The state regulatory board is expected to vote on the rule next spring.

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