ARB Moves Forward with Electric Vehicle Fleet Purchase Requirements for Businesses

Last week, ARB (Air Resources Board) held a series of online workshops to preview its “Advanced Clean Fleets” rulemaking, the corollary to the Advanced Clean Trucks rulemaking, which was a first in the mandate for engine manufacturers to sell zero-emission vehicles in California. The Advanced Clean Fleets, as currently proposed, has differing strategies for three categories of trucks: 1) public fleets; 2) drayage trucks; and 3) private fleets.

Public Fleet Turnover Requirements

Cities, counties, special districts, and state agencies (e.g. entities with DMV exempt plates) must ensure its fleet purchases for model year 2024-2026 meet 50% zero emission and by 2027 100% of purchases must be zero emission. Low population counties (Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Inyo, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, and Yuba, as well as Butte, Humboldt, and Shasta (but not San Benito)) will get a three-year delayed implementation, and plug-in hybrids will count until 2035.

Conventional Fuel Drayage Trucks May Not Be Registered After January 1, 2023

Drayage (container) trucks must meet an accelerated timeline, transitioning all Class 7 and 8 trucks operating at California’s intermodal seaports or railyard to zero-emission vehicles by 2035. ARB’s presentation states that only zero-emission trucks are eligible to be added to the Drayage Truck Registry after January 1, 2023. Trucks registered prior to 2023 can continue operation until an odometer (800,000 miles) or age limit (18 years) is exceeded.

Private and Federal Fleets Must Meet Increasing Zero-Emission Fleet Percentages

As envisioned by ARB, private fleets mean all vehicles owned, operated, rented or leased for more than a year, or subhauler vehicles owned by third parties. The rule will apply to the following:

  • any entity with more than $50 million in revenue that operates any vehicle in California;
  • any entity that owns, operates, leases, etc. more than 50 vehicles;
  • any broker that dispatches more than 50 vehicles per year; or
  • any federal agency that operates vehicles in California.

This applies to vans, box trucks, yard tractors, work trucks, motor coaches, sleeper cab tractors, specialized equipment, cranes, hay squeezes, two-engine vehicles, log trucks, work-over rigs, and any other combustion engine vehicle. The current phase-in approach is as follows:

Exemptions are Few and Disputes Over Feasibility Will be Decided by the Agency Alone

Despite the broad application of the rule to specialty vehicles in addition to off-the-lot trucks, there are few exemptions contemplated by the agency. Essentially, ARB says that unless the vehicles simply are unavailable, you must purchase electric. In response to questions, the agency stated that it plans to create an exemption process for unique situations, but to date they have provided very few examples (e.g. if none of the vehicles for sale have sufficient range to meet your commercial needs). Cost, according to ARB, will not be a consideration for an exemption. Certainly, a problematic viewpoint given mandated sales and mandated purchases. Also unanswered is what happens if there is a technical dispute between ARB and the purchaser over what works for their needs?

In addition, public fleets may wait until their conventional vehicles are spent, but private and federal vehicles must meet the electric purchase requirements regardless of where vehicles are in their duty cycles. Drayage trucks simply may not register to operate ports after January 1, 2023 unless they are zero emission.

What’s Next?

ARB in in the process of preparing its rulemaking package, including the Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment and analysis of alternatives. ARB has asked for alternatives by March 31 and comments may be submitted to ARB intends to conduct additional workshops in April and May and plans to submit the rule for a vote by the Board at its December 2021 meeting.

Leah Silverthorn, Policy Advocate