California shakes up auto industry, says all vans and trucks must be electric by 2024

California regulators have approved new rules that would see a massive shift from conventional gas and diesel trucks and vans to ones powered by batteries and zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells.

The first-of-their-kind guidelines, which take effect in 2024, cover a broad range of truck segments, from medium-duty models up to the “big rigs” that move vast amount of goods throughout California and across the country. Current guidelines from the California Air Resources Board already press manufacturers to add electric and hydrogen trucks to light-duty segments.

California’s push to reduce truck emissions could lead to some major changes in a traditionally staid automotive industry. Among other things, it could encourage the emergence of new competitors such as Nikola Motors, which is producing an array of hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks, and Detroit-based start-up Rivian, which has a contract to produce around 100,000 all-electric delivery vans for Amazon.

“California is once again leading the nation in the fight to make our air cleaner, becoming the first place in the world to mandate zero-emission trucks by 2045,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a Thursday statement. “Communities and children of color are often forced to breathe our most polluted air, and today’s vote moves us closer toward a healthier future for all of our kids.”

California has long pressed auto and truck manufacturers to reduce emissions. The state has considerable sway, not only because of the size of its market but also because of a waiver enacted under the federal Clean Air Act.

Under guidelines approved Thursday, at least 40 percent of the tractor trailers sold in California would have to be powered by some form of zero-emissions technology by 2024. Medium-duty trucks, such as the Ford F-250 or Chevrolet Silverado HD, would be required to switch over 55 percent of their sales by 2035; and 75 percent of delivery trucks and vans would have to use zero-emissions powertrain technology by 2035, a point by which fully 100 percent of government fleets and last-mile delivery trucks would have to meet the target.

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