CNGVC Responds to Proposed Draft of Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) will have its first opportunity to react to staff’s Proposed Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) Regulation at today’s Board Meeting.

The ACF seeks to accelerate the market for zero-emission trucks and buses by requiring medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) fleets to transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2045 where feasible and significantly earlier for certain market segments like last mile delivery and drayage applications.  The regulation applies to fleets performing drayage operations, state and local agencies, federal government agencies, and high priority fleets with at least one vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 8,500 lbs. operating in California. 

This is a substantial rulemaking that will undoubtedly have a monumental impact on almost every sector of the State’s economy for decades to come. Therefore, it is important the rule be flexible enough to maximize near-term emission reductions and minimize unnecessary burdens on fleet owners. It should also incentivize the use of the cleanest available technology to displace traditional, higher-emitting diesel trucks when zero-emission trucks are not available.  

The Proposed ACF Draft has many challenges and deficiencies that need to be addressed before the regulation is adopted, which is why the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition (CNGVC), in concert with 41 other industry stakeholders, submitted a comment letter asking for amendments to the proposed regulation, as discussed below.  We urge the Board to direct staff to work with stakeholders on revisions to the proposed draft through a public process before bringing the final version back to the Board for future adoption.

Suggested Amendment #1: “Pull Forward” the More Stringent 2027 Engine Standard Found in the Existing CARB Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation.

Why is this Needed? 

  • The proposed exemption process to address the situation when ZEV or Near-Zero Emission Vehicles (NZEV) (as defined in the Draft) are unavailable for commercial purchase is deficient. It lacks a pathway for allowing fleet operators to make an alternative clean fuel choice when ZEVs, NZEVs cannot be obtained.
  • We question the assumptions by CARB staff that medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) ZEVs, NZEVs will be available for ALL vehicle classes, for ALL duty-cycles, and for ALL commercial sectors and uses on January 1, 2024 since every day, we are bombarded by news updates highlighting delays in the development and production of new technologies due to component shortages, supply chain issues, and inflationary impacts.

How Does it Work?

  • Requires fleets using the “ZEV Unavailability Exemption” in the Proposed ACF Draft to purchase vehicles certified to the Omnibus Regulation’s 2027 0.02g NOx engine standard during the calendar years 2024-2026.  This provides a flexible “safety net” while zero-emission products mature.

    The Omnibus Regulation was adopted by CARB in 2021 to improve the performance of internal combustion engines (ICE). Incorporating this stringent NOx reduction standard into the proposed ACF regulation not only reinforces CARB’s support of the Omnibus Rule, it also will promote the purchase and use of the cleanest available technologies when ZEVs, NZEVs are unavailable. This will discourage the purchase and use of higher-emitting diesel trucks and further the near-term achievement of our climate and air quality goals.

Suggested Amendment #2: Develop a Definition for “Commercially Available” that Includes Consumer Protections, Objective Criteria, and an Independent Technology Evaluation.

Why is this Needed?

  • The Proposed ACF Draft does not define “commercially available,” even though this analysis is critical to the successful implementation of this regulation, given that MHD ZEVs are not expected to become commercially viable for a decade or more. 
  • The Draft currently includes an amorphous, subjective process for determining availability that is based on limited and unrealistic criteria and developed at the sole discretion of the CARB Executive Officer, absent a transparent public process. 
  • The operational needs of fleet owners – such as cost, payload, reliability, infrastructure access, existing maintenance network and one-to-one replacement capability – are important considerations that are currently omitted from the proposed analysis.

How Does it Work? 

  • Requires the inclusion of a definition for “commercially available” that contains objective criteria to ensure practical concerns like viability and operational needs are considered when determining if a vehicle is “available.”
  • Includes as a basic requirement the “Zero-Emission Powertrain” Certification process (ZEPCert) contained in the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) regulation.  The ZEPCert was included in the ACT by CARB as a consumer protection measure[1] and there is no justifiable reason for not requiring it under this companion regulation. 
  • Mandates that an independent advisory committee, and not the Executive Officer, determine whether a ZEV, NZEV is “commercially available.” This will ensure transparency, objectivity and public participation when determining the status of ZEV, NZEV technology development and deployment.

Suggested Amendment #3: Recognizing “Early Adopters” and Renewable Fuels Generators and Users.

Why is this Needed?

  • The Proposed ACF Draft fails to recognize the early work and investments of those industries subject to California’s SB 1383[2] mandate.  Fleets subject to this statute use the renewable natural gas (RNG) generated from their actions to power their vehicles. This has the co-benefit of achieving greater reductions in other harmful toxins like diesel particulate matter and nitrogen oxide (NOx). 
  • Failure to recognize these actions neither aligns with our SB 1383 requirements or the State’s overall strategy to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) to attain carbon neutrality. 

How Does it Work?

  • Allows these “early adopter” fleets, especially those subject to SB 1383, to postpone their ZEV, NZEV purchase requirements until 2040.  This supports the State’s SLCP reduction strategy and incentivizes the purchase and use of the cleanest technology available over traditional diesel. 
  • Allows those who have made early investments in low NOx trucks powered by net carbon negative RNG, either by rule or at the urging of air agencies, to realize their investments and actions.
  • Provides immediate emission benefits in the near-term while ZEV, NZEV technology matures.

[1] According to CARB, the ZEPCert was created to accomplish the following goals: protect consumers purchasing vehicles as part of future technology-forcing zero-emission measures; promote development of effective and reliable HD electric and fuel-cell vehicles; and increase consumer confidence in HD zero-emission technology. CARB PowerPoint, “Proposed Zero-Emission Powertrain Certification Regulation (ZEPCert);” February 21, 2019

[2] SB 1383 requires the reduction of organic waste in landfills by 75% no later than 2025 to reduce methane emissions, a powerful Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.