States on the American west coast lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. All west coast states now have regulations requiring the sale of zero-emissions light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles. Transportation accounts for 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Washington is the latest state in the region to pass new vehicle emissions standards. In November, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order requiring 40 percent of passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks must be electric vehicles by 2025. By 2030, 75 percent must be EVs and 100 percent by 2035. Transportation accounts for 44.9 percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“Vehicles are the biggest source of carbon pollution in Washington and major emitters of toxic air pollution,” said Kathy Taylor, who manages Ecology’s Air Quality program. “With more electric or hydrogen vehicles coming on the market every year, it’s time to move away from fossil fuels and toward clean transportation.”
California led the way and Oregon followed
Washington’s new rules for vehicles are similar to the rule California adopted. In 2020, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, the first zero-emission commercial truck requirement in the world. The rule requires truck manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of zero-emission trucks in the state. Manufacturers must increase their zero-emission truck sales beginning in 2024 to 30 to 50 percent by 2030 and 40 to 75 percent by 2035.
In November, Oregon adopted the Clean Trucks rule which requires manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty vehicles to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission EVs starting with the 2025 model year. The Clean Trucks Rule is California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Rule. Oregon also adopted the Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus rules, modeled after similar California rules, which strengthen nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions standards for new truck engines.
Renewable energy and fleet electrification
Will fleet electrification reduce greenhouse gas emissions? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), electric fleets can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by converting energy five times more efficiently than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine. A report looked at the impact fleet electrification has on Poland, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Fleet electrification would help reduce carbon emissions by 24 percent.
Several reports found that the reduction of emissions from fleet electrification depends on the power sector adopting renewables. One report found that the effects of electrification of light-duty vehicles and trucks on greenhouse gas emissions depend on carbon emissions from the power sector. Another study by Ceres found that “access to cost-effective, renewable energy is critical to enable fleet electrification.”
West coast states and renewable portfolio standards
The good news is that every state in the region has a renewable portfolio standard in place. California passed a bill in 2018 requiring 100 percent of electricity retail sales to be sourced from renewable and zero-carbon energy by 2045. Two years later, Washington passed legislation requiring that the state adopt a carbon-neutral electricity supply by 2030 and eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2045. While Oregon initially adopted a renewable portfolio standard in 2007, the state passed legislation in 2016 requiring 50 percent renewable generation by 2040.
Following the west coast’s example
More regions, states, and the federal government could adopt fleet electrification standards. Public transportation and light-duty vehicles are the low-hanging fruit of electrification. According to a report by Atlas Public PolicyBy 2025, around 40 percent of light-duty vehicles and buses owned by federal agencies could be replaced with EVs at a lower cost compared to fossil fuel-powered vehicles. By 2030, 97 percent of those vehicles could be replaced with EVs.
The good news is that 46 states and the District of Columbia took action concerning EVs and charging infrastructure during the second quarter of 2021, according to a report by NC Clean Energy Technology Center. During the second quarter of 2021, a total of 537 EV actions were taken.
Image by Toby Parsons from Pixabay