EPA Hearing Draws Environmental, Trucking Interests
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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials overseeing a two-day public hearing announced that the agency plans to finalize its aggressive Phase 3 heavy-truck greenhouse gas emissions mandate by the end of this year.
To many of the more than 200 individuals who testified during the May 2-3 virtual hearing, that target was either too soon, or not soon enough.
EPA’s “multi-pollutant” heavy truck proposed emissions mandate for model years 2027 and later, announced last month, will build on existing emissions standards for heavy trucks.
EPA is proposing staggered time frames for cleaner heavy trucks because of the growing development of electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles, including battery component sourcing, unknown electrical grid demands, uncertain electricity cost structures and lack of a cohesive national electric vehicle charging network.
President Biden and the @EPA are driving towards a clean transportation future with new proposed vehicle emissions standards for models 2027 and beyond.
These standards would reduce climate pollution, lower costs for families, and reduce dependence on foreign oil. https://t.co/jHc3eVyc98 — The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 12, 2023
Truck manufacturers, trucking trade groups and motor carrier executives were for the most part united in their hearing testimony that the EPA emissions requirement would lead them down a very costly path, and effectively force them to buy electric trucks before the electric charging infrastructure is in place to keep those trucks running down the highway.
On the other hand, environmental groups and many of the concerned moms, pops, doctors and scientists told EPA that bad air from truck emissions was ruining their health, and that of their children. Most of them lauded regulators for their speedy effort to clean up the air their families breathe, especially those residents of low-income communities near ports.
However, trucking stakeholders told a different story, saying while they supported the goal of the new standard, they were uneasy about how it could play out.
“EPA has the authority to force zero-emissions technology,” said Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association. “But EPA has no authority to assure the necessary infrastructures are in place. We cannot afford a scenario where manufacturers must sell zero-emission vehicles, but fleets won’t purchase them because there is no infrastructure in place to operate them. That is a recipe for disaster.”
“EPA’s heavy-duty greenhouse gas Phase 3 regulation will push electrification in an industry that unfortunately isn’t right to adopt the technology yet,” said Jacqueline Gelb, vice president of energy and environmental affairs for American Trucking Associations.
“Our members are early adopters of the technology today,” Gelb said. “They’re grappling with serious technical challenges incorporating zero-emission technologies into many operations because of a host of factors, including the lack of sufficient power generation and charging infrastructure, long lead times for installation, significant capital investment in purchasing electric trucks, site readiness and design challenges in the reliability of charging equipment.”
Truck manufacturers also expressed charging infrastructure concerns about the GHG proposal.
“Truck drivers have never had to think much about where they’re going to get their fuel from,” said Kevin Maggay, senior manager of public policy for Navistar. “OEMs like Navistar have never had to work with electric utilities and think about the kinds of things like electrical substations before selling a truck. The fuel has always been ready and available. The success of the transition to zero-emission trucks really now hinges almost exclusively on [charging] infrastructure.”
“OEMs cannot do their part without assurances that trucking station providers and utilities as well as federal, state and local governments can deploy electric and hydrogen fueling infrastructure at scale in a timeline that matches the regulation’s requirement,” said Kelly Bobek, director of government relations for Volvo Group North America. “Our customers will not purchase our zero-emissions trucks unless both the vehicles and the fuels are cost-effective and readily available, so as not to negatively impact their business operations. Unfortunately, we are starting to see customers delay, and even cancel their purchases in California because of delayed infrastructure.”
“But what we’re finding is that the charging infrastructure is behind,” Waters said. “We are destined to fail to meet the ambitious goals of the states, our country and the world until emphasis is put on meeting the charging needs of the electric fleet.”
The coalition includes ATA; American Truck Dealers; National Tank Truck Carriers, Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association, Natso, National Motor Freight Traffic Association and Truckload Carriers Association.
“Fleets today who are seeking to add charging stations for their networks are being told by utility companies that they cannot provide even a fraction of the power necessary for their fleets,” Mullen testified. “The funding for these stations has become robust, but building them out is another issue.”
Mullen added, “The U.S. cannot domestically resource all of the required raw materials, including the required minerals. We must resolve this power grid and sourcing of required materials as we discuss getting to ZEVs.”
But Steven Cliff, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, commended EPA for proposing stricter heavy-duty greenhouse gas emissions standards aimed at accelerating the nation’s transition to heavy-duty zero-emissions vehicles.
“We are pleased to see EPA’s analysis matches CARB’s staff findings that heavy-duty ZEVs are feasible for a wide range of applications, and provides significant cost savings,” Cliff testified.
However, Cliff said he is concerned that instead of deploying heavy-duty ZEVs, EPA’s Phase 3 rule could cause manufacturers to respond by making hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicles.
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“Although H2 ICE engines have near-zero CO2 tailpipe emissions, their NOx emissions are a concern,” he said.
Thereza Cevidanes, who testified on behalf of Natso/Sigma, added that although progress is being made, it is “not anywhere near the pace” that this proposed rule appears to require.
“We had asked OEMs and trucking companies around the country whether we can expect demand for these technologies to increase,” Cevidanes said. “The timelines laid out in this rule simply do not comport with the market’s measured assessment of reality.”