Biden wants all new commercial trucks to go electric by 2040

The Biden Administration, after nearly two years of relative quiet on truck electrification, announced a new direction at COP27. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm signed the Global MOU, a commitment to 30% zero-emission truck sales nationwide in 2030 and 100% in 2040. With this action, the United States becomes the largest national commercial truck market to commit to a 100% goal.

This is a game-changer for truck electrification globally. The U.S. is the second largest market for commercial trucks after China. This commitment puts the U.S. ahead of China in its ambition to electrify the commercial truck sector. China has accounted for 92% of global electric truck sales since 2019, the U.S. less than one percent. But China has no goal to electrify all of its truck sales, while the U.S. now joins many other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Chile, and the Netherlands, that do.

U.S. EPA has an opportunity to adopt a regulation that could deliver the 2030 sales goal next year. Staff are working on Phase III greenhouse gas standard for trucks, with a proposal to be released in March 2023 and a final rule to be published by December 2023. The 30% Global MOU goal is taken from the Multi-State MOU signed by more than a dozen U.S. states. At least six states have adopted California’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule to meet the 2030 goal. EPA will need to do the same. In a federal Phase III proposal, alignment would mean at least 50% zero-emission sales in 2030 for class 4–8 rigid trucks and at least 30% sales for class 7–8 tractor trucks. It is uncertain whether the EPA would be prepared to adopt direct sales requirements as California and other states have, but this year the agency asked for comment on whether they should. A sales requirement would provide the greatest certainty of meeting the goal, but ICCT has also shown how EPA could adapt the U.S. greenhouse gas standards to achieve a similar outcome. EPA now has the political support from the White House should they propose Phase III GHG standards for trucks aligned with the Advanced Clean Trucks rule.

The benefits of this new U.S. commitment are significant. A Phase III greenhouse gas standard that required at least 30% zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle sales in 2030 and 100% sales in 2040 would by our estimate avoid 4.8 gigatonnes of well-to-wheel CO2 emissions from 2027 to 2050. This level of reduction is consistent with a path that avoids greater than 2 degrees of warming. But a faster pace of electrification would be necessary to stay within 1.5 degrees.

CALSTART and the Netherlands led the discussions with the U.S. delegation. ICCT first recommended the 2040 target in a New York Times op-ed piece co-authored by Board Chair Margo Oge and Executive Director Drew Kodjak in January 2022. In May, we recommended the 2040 target to the Zero Emission Vehicles Transition Council, which the U.S. co-chairs and ICCT supports as a technical secretariat. The ICCT has shown that all ZEVTC countries, including those like India that have not yet joined the global MOU, must increase their sales-weighted average share of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles to between 40% and 56% in 2030 and 94% to 100% in 2040 to remain aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement.

The U.S. states of Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, and New Jersey are also aligned with the 2030 goal of the Global MOU by virtue of joining the California Advanced Clean Trucks rule in 2021. These states are members of a multi-state MOU that was the precursor to the Global MOU and reflects similar truck electrification goals.

California is preparing to become the first state to adopt a 100% heavy-duty sales requirement in 2040. The California Air Resources Board held its first hearing this month on a staff proposal under a new Advanced Clean Fleets regulation. Some Board members expressed interest in advancing the target year to 2036. The Board will likely vote on the proposed rule in the spring of 2023.

The U.S. is showing leadership on transport and climate policy at a crucial moment. The Biden Administration has found momentum following its successful passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included billions of dollars in incentives for truck electrification. The administration’s commitment to Global MOU goals sends an important signal at a key moment, which will shape EPA’s ambition as it develops a Phase III greenhouse gas standard for trucks. And as the U.S. demonstrates international leadership on climate policy, it has the opportunity to bring China, Germany, India, and other major truck markets along with it.