CARB Invests Heavily in New Generation of Clean Vehicles for California Roads

May 04, 2017 by Carly Schaffner, @carlyschaffner

The California Air Resource Board is making moves to accelerate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by putting more clean vehicles on roads and highways in its home state.

Since 2013, California Climate Investments – a statewide program that funds myriad efforts to improve the economy, environment and public health – has dedicated funding of $599 million to the transportation sector, which has the largest impact on air quality in the state.

The pool of resources support the development and deployment of zero-emission consumer and commercial vehicles in California.

The investment helps “bring these ultra-clean vehicles to market sooner,” Mary Nichols, head of CARB, said in a report presented at the Alternative Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, Calif., this week. “It also generates thousands of clean-tech jobs in California.”

Jump starting use of cleaner vehicles will get the state closer to meeting the goal set by Governor Jerry Brown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The spending includes $150 million for a range of heavy-duty vehicle and off-road equipment projects, including advanced technology demonstration projects and providing zero-emission buses for transit agencies and rural school districts.

SunLine Hydrogen Fuel Cell bus

SunLine hydrogen fuel cell bus. (Photo: SunLine)

Some of these programs include electric school buses in Sacramento, electric yard trucks in Fontana, a fleet of electric delivery trucks for Goodwill Industries in the Bay Area and hydrogen-powered buses in the Coachella Valley.

Bus operator SunLine Transit Agency covers the desert valley in Southern California and only uses zero-emission buses to cart passengers. The agency works with a wide range of advanced technologies – including CNG, all-electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells – a mission the company pledged to stick with in the early 1990s.

Moving to alternative fuels “takes focus,” said Lauren Skiver, SunLine’s chief executive. The agency recently received a $12.5 million grant from CARB to add five hydrogen fuel cell buses its fleet.

Manufacturers that have received funding to develop commercial trucks include TransPower, Efficient Drivetrains, Inc., Peterbilt Motors Co., Kenworth Trucks, Phoenix Motorcars, First Priority GreenFleet and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Hino Trucks arm.

Hino is already a major player in the diesel-hybrid Class 5 market. And last month Toyota dipped its toe in the heavy-duty game with the launch of its hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 truck. The company is testing the truck as a drayage vehicle, shuttling shipping containers between the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex and various freight depots up to 70 miles away.

Lion Bus' eLion school bus

Lion Bus’ eLion school bus. (Photo: Lion Bus)

Manufacturers working on bus programs include New Flyer, Proterra, BYD Motors and Hydrogenics. Lion Bus, the maker of the only electric Type C school bus in North America, has 16 “eLion” buses on the road, and Motiv Power Systems, Inc. has 13 electric buses in operation.

But such green vehicles still make up only a tiny portion of California’s collective commercial fleet. There are just 46 Class 7 and 8 heavy-duty, zero-emission trucks; 950 zero-emission delivery, utility and refuse trucks; 438 zero-emission transit buses, shuttles and light rail cars and 29 electric school buses in operation in the state.

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