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Zero-emission vehicle regulations on the rise, strong partnerships help fleets get ahead

Electric vehicles have been a popular talking point in the logistics industry for several years. At the same time, climate change research and consumer sentiment toward it has pushed companies across all industries to reevaluate their business practices through a more eco-conscious lens. With all eyes on EVs and their projected role in meeting urgent sustainability targets, emission regulations are on the rise. 

It is clear that EV adoption is on a steep incline. U.S. fleets have deployed 1,215 zero-emissions trucks and step vans from Class 2b through Class 8 as of December 2021, according to a January report from CALSTART, a nonprofit organization focused on cleaning up the transportation industry. The organization expects this number to increase more than tenfold over the next decade. With more than 140,000 pending orders for commercial zero-emission trucks, this projection seems realistic. 

The current regulatory environment can be opaque and confusing, with each state left to create — or not — its own rules surrounding electric vehicles. California typically leads the pack when it comes to environmental initiatives, and zero-emission vehicle regulations are no exception. California’s Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) regulation will require a percentage of each fleet’s trucks to meet the definitions of zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) beginning in 2024.

Under ACT, 9% of Class 4-8 trucks will need to be classified as ZEVs in model year 2024 and 75% by model year 2035. For Class 7-8 tractors, that percentage is 5% in 2024, rising to 40% by the 2032 model year.

Several other states Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts followed California’s lead, passing the ACT regulation in 2021. As these rules begin to take effect, more states are expected to follow suit. The federal government has also begun to roll out proposed nationwide emissions regulations. 

The Environmental Protection Agency “is working on a proposed rule to reduce pollution from heavy-duty vehicles and engines that would significantly cut NOx emissions and update [greenhouse gas] standards for certain categories,” EPA spokesman Rick Conger stated in an email to John Gallagher, FreightWaves’ Washington correspondent. “These standards, currently subject to interagency review, will be rooted in the latest science and the law.”

The EPA issued the first step of this proposed series of rules, called the Clean Trucks Plan, on March 7. The new standards are designed to promote clean air and reduce pollution from heavy-duty vehicles and engines starting in model year 2027. These standards are expected to play a critical role in fulfilling the Biden administration’s pledge to cut the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

All signs point to these types of regulations continuing to crop up on both the state and federal levels. States that are typically apt to adopt eco-friendly policies will be affected first, but fleet operators across the nation should get familiar with ZEVs and begin thinking through implementation strategies now. This can feel like a tall order. Wading through regulations can be difficult, and this topic can become even more overwhelming when charging access is taken into account.

When juggling changing regulations, fleets may be tempted to put off purchasing equipment and charging infrastructure. This may not be a winning solution, however, as the most proactive fleets will likely encounter the fewest profit-threatening challenges once regulations do begin to take effect over the next few years. 

“As states increasingly adopt requirements related to light and medium zero-emission vehicles, fleet owners are becoming aware of a whole new word of regulation that can be confusing,” ChargePoint Director of Public Policy Kevin Miller said. “We provide clarity into these regulatory environments and work with fleet operators to identify EV-friendly policies that award grant money and incentives for fleets delving into electrification.”

ChargePoint also engages with regulators to shape and support policies that decrease upfront capital costs for fleet owners. The company worked alongside policymakers to introduce the Medium- and Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Act, which would establish a rebate program to promote the purchase and installation of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). The federal rebate program would authorize $250 million for fiscal years 2022-2025. ChargePoint plans to replicate this model legislation in states across the nation.

“It is rather sexy to promote zero-emission vehicles on an expedited schedule, but the folks that are pushing those buttons are not the ones running trucking companies or writing checks for new equipment,” Kedzie said. “We prefer taking a more subtle approach that focuses on doability and affordability.”

Miller emphasized Kedzie’s point, noting that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to fleet electrification. Fleets do not need to go all-in immediately, but they should begin to consider the realities of an electrified future.

Federal incentives will play a significant role in increasing affordability in the coming years. On a nationwide level, these incentives could include changes to the U.S. tax code that would allow businesses to receive tax credits for procuring commercial EVs and installing charging infrastructure, expanding opportunities for private businesses to invest in fleet electrification. ChargePoint believes policymakers should also appropriate funding for federal EV fleet procurements and allocate more grants for charging infrastructure.

ChargePoint does more than just work with regulators to shape the future of EV policy. The company also works with fleet operators to ensure a smooth transition to electrification by helping fleets identify the best locations to launch their EV pilot programs based on available financial incentives. ChargePoint analyzes a company’s entire transportation and logistics network in order to help it identify the most cost-effective way to start electrifying.

Click here to learn more about how ChargePoint is electrifying the supply chain.