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California is pushing electric trucks as the future of freight transportation

California is pushing electric trucks as the future of freight transportation

Neri Diaz thought he was ready for a turning point in California's ambitious plans to phase out diesel-powered trucks, which were being closely watched in other states and around the world.

His company, Harbor Pride Logistics, acquired 14 electric trucks this year to work with 32 diesel vehicles, in anticipation of a rule that says after Monday, diesel rigs will have to move freight in and out. Cannot be added to the list of approved vehicles. Of the ports of California. But in August Mr. Diaz's maker of electric vehicles, Nikola, took the trucks back as part of a recall, and said it would return them in the first quarter of the new year.

“It's brand new technology, first generation, so I knew things were going to happen, but I didn't expect all 14 of my trucks to be recalled,” he said. “This is having a major impact on my operations.”

Trucking, a major source of carbon emissions, is where California's green revolution is facing some of its biggest challenges. Electric trucks with large batteries can cost more than $400,000, and they cannot make long trips without stopping for extended charging periods, which could undermine the economics of trucking fleets.

But the California port sees trucks as an opportunity to take a big step forward.

Electric trucks on the market today can travel without charging from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the nation's busiest hubs for container cargo – to numerous warehouses inland. And could have a big impact on the cleanliness of port trucks. With approximately 30,000 trucks registered at the ports, introducing green vehicles could significantly reduce carbon emissions and particles that can cause illnesses in the communities the trucks travel through.

Nancy Gonzalez and her 25-year-old son Juan, who has Down syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, live in the Wilmington neighborhood just north of the Ports. Huge rigs coming and going from nearby truck yards are roaring constantly just feet away from the house.

Truck traffic became heavier about four years ago, Ms. Gonzalez said, and she now cleans twice a day to get rid of the mess it creates. Ms. Gonzalez says he has sinus problems and that her son started having tears in his eyes about two years ago.

“Nobody opens their windows,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter. “nobody.”

California hopes that its strict rules along with financial aid — truck purchase grants from state agencies can be up to $288,000 per vehicle, operators say — will spur truckers, automakers, warehouse owners, utilities and charging companies to make the necessary investments. will gain help in. Carbon-free port truck sector by 2035, when all diesel trucks will be banned from ports. And success at the ports could help the state meet its goal of decarbonizing all types of trucking over the next two decades, and become a model for similar efforts in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington. Can.

“In the long run, I'm confident we can decarbonize the heavy-duty truck sector,” James Salley, a professor in the department of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley, said, referring to California's plan. “But I don't know that the industry is willing to overcome the various barriers to rapid deployment.”

The port fleet has barely begun the transformation.

180 electric trucks in November, only 1 percent of the total, were registered for operation at the Port of Los Angeles. One truck was powered by hydrogen fuel cells, the other technology used to power larger rigs.

Some truck operators say they have stockpiled diesel trucks and registered them at ports ahead of Monday's cutoff, although this is not reflected in port data. In November, there were 20,083 diesel trucks accessing the Port of Los Angeles, down from 21,310 a year earlier.

Large companies with deep pockets and large facilities are best positioned to make the green transition. Mike Gallagher, a California-based executive at Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, said the company has an all-electric fleet, including about 85 vehicles made by Chinese automakers Volvo and BYD, to transport goods up to 50 miles from ports. Of Southern California. And it has worked with landlords to install a large number of chargers in their depots.

“We are well ahead in this matter,” he said.

But smaller trucking fleets perform the majority of port operations – accounting for about 70 percent at the Port of Los Angeles – and they will find the transition difficult. California Trucking Association has filed a federal lawsuit Against state trucking regulations, including regulations focused on port trucks, arguing that they “represent a vast overreach that jeopardizes the safety and predictability of the nation's freight transportation industry.”

Matt Schrap, chief executive of the Harbor Trucking Association, another trade group, said harbor truck rules lack exemptions that would help small businesses survive the changes. It's especially difficult for smaller fleets to get access to chargers, he said: They're expensive, and truck yard landlords may be reluctant to install them, forcing operators to rely on public charging systems. It falls on what is being made right now.

“The landlord is like, 'There's no chance of a snowball in Bakersfield that you're going to tear down my parking lot to put in some heavy-duty charging,'” Mr. Scharpp said.

Concern exists beyond trade groups. Mr Gallagher, the Maersk executive, said if the clean truck rules caused serious problems for smaller operators, it could cause “a significant disruption to the supply chain”.

Forum Mobility is one of several companies that believe they can help small fleets by building public truck charging stations and leasing electric trucks. The company has secured a permit to build a depot at the Port of Long Beach, expected to open next year, that can charge 44 trucks. The depot will run on nine megawatts of electricity, enough to power most sports stadiums, but Forum Mobility officials say it will take almost half of the electricity produced by California Nuclear Power Station Diablo Canyon and thousands of chargers to charge all the port trucks. Quantity will be required. ,

“We need a real Manhattan Project on interconnection,” said Adam Browning, executive vice president of policy at Forum Mobility.

Chanel Parson, director of building and transportation electrification at Southern California Edison, a large electric utility, said building truck-charging infrastructure would be helped if state agencies streamlined permit issuance and expedited expenditure approvals. , and inform trucking companies about their charging if necessary. But he also said that his company was undaunted by the task. “No worries it's really hard,” she said. “That's what we do.”

Mr. Diaz, the operator whose Nikola trucks were recalled, said the trucks cost about 40 percent less to charge than diesel, and he was impressed by their performance. Even with the help of state grants, he estimates electric trucks will cost him 50 percent more than diesel models. During the recall, Nikola was covering payments on a loan taken out by Mr Diaz to buy the truck, but said he was concerned about the truck manufacturer's financial situation.

Nikola Chief Executive Steve Girsky said the new infusion of capital in December shows investors have confidence in the company. “This will take us much further,” he said in an interview. “All the things this company has talked about are coming together in the fourth quarter.”

Some trucking executives say not only are they accustomed to reacting to California's increased regulations over the past few years, but they also believe in the environmental goals of the port truck transition.

Rudy Diaz, president of Height Logistics, said the new rules have increased some of his costs as his company has brought drivers onto its own payroll and reduced its reliance on contract drivers who use their own diesel trucks.

“It's extra headache, extra cost,” he said. “But consumers are demanding products that are more sustainable, and they are willing to pay the price.”

Anna Facio-Krajser Contributed to the reporting.




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