Biden EPA Gives California Special Authority To Phase Out Heavy Duty Gas Trucks
California Governor Gavin Newsom attends California Governor Gavin Newsom's press conference for the official reopening of the state of California at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 15, 2021 in Universal City, California.
Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images

EPA officials provided the state of California authority on Friday to phase out heavy duty trucks powered by gasoline over the next two decades.

Guidelines from the California Air Resources Board will require truck manufacturers to enact increasingly strict standards aimed to promote electric vehicles between 2024 and 2035 such that all new truck sales are zero-emission by 2045. The EPA granted two waivers of federal standards so that California can enforce the requirements.

“This is a big deal for climate action. Last year, California became one of the first jurisdictions in the world with a real plan to end tailpipe emissions for cars,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) said in a statement. “Thanks to the Biden administration, we’re getting more zero-emission heavy duty trucks on the roads, expanding our world-leading efforts to cut air pollution and protect public health. We’re leading the charge to get dirty trucks and buses, the most polluting vehicles, off our streets, and other states and countries are lining up to follow our lead around the world.”

EPA Administrator Michael Regan lauded the move toward electric heavy duty vehicles. “Under the Clean Air Act, California has longstanding authority to address pollution from cars and trucks,” he said in a press release. “Today’s announcement allows the state to take additional steps in reducing their transportation emissions through these new regulatory actions.”

States such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington have adopted the truck standards established by the California Air Resources Board. Attorneys general from multiple states urged the EPA in a letter last year to approve the California waiver request.

Proponents of the new regulations note that California is the fifth-largest economy in the world and could arguably incentivize the market to develop new heavy duty electric vehicle solutions. Automakers, however, have not yet brought robust electric semi-truck offerings to the mass market: diesel semi-trucks can travel 2,100 miles on one tank of gas, according to an analysis from Knight Transportation, while the recently released Tesla Semi has a range of 500 miles.

Policy under the Biden administration has broadly favored nascent electric vehicle technology. Individuals who purchase certain electric cars can receive tax credits between $4,000 and $7,500 under the Inflation Reduction Act. “The climate crisis doesn’t care if your state is red or blue. It is an existential threat,” President Joe Biden commented during his most recent State of the Union address. “We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to confront it. I’m proud of how America is at last stepping up to the challenge.”

The California Air Resources Board also issued standards requiring that 35% of new vehicles must be entirely electric by 2026, a standard that will progressively apply to all new vehicles in the state by 2035. The Biden administration has set the “ambitious target” of ensuring that electric vehicles constitute 50% of car sales in the United States by 2030.


Ministers in the European Union likewise adopted a provisional agreement last year to completely eliminate carbon dioxide from roadways by 2035. The bloc has established the policy of becoming “a climate-neutral society” by 2050 in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

Analysts have expressed concern that the power grid in California will be unable to handle the increased power demand arising from increased electric vehicle ownership. California officials asked residents to refrain from charging their electric cars last summer amid a heat wave that threatened to overwhelm the grid and induce blackouts.

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