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California’s ‘clean truck’ mandate has heavy implications for ag

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California leads the nation in agricultural commodities produced, but it’s also leading the nation in its bid to move from diesel-powered trucks to electric power. The California Air Resources Board has hashed a new plan to require trucking fleets in the state to switch from diesel to electric power by 2040. 

Just last year, California shipped over 11 million tons of agricultural commodities in refrigerated trucks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarterly reports — and the reports don’t even include livestock, grains, or trucking from Mexico to California. Under the new proposal, manufacturers won’t be able to sell trucks fueled by diesel or gasoline in California starting in 2024. 

Over 1.8 million heavy-duty trucks on California’s roads will be affected. The unknowns may have heavy implications for supply chains, the cost of new trucks, and the limited number of charging stations. Also, a promise for challenges will be the limited range of these vehicles — especially when transporting livestock. Currently, electric truck prices are ranging from two to three times the cost of conventional diesel vehicles. Meanwhile, the range for electric trucks is just 100 to 200 miles between charges. 

In addition, electric models currently on the market require four hours to charge. During California’s harvesting season, truckers work long days and the drives often include rural locations without access to charging stations. The numbers don’t really add up. 

Today, California gets about two-thirds of its electricity from thermal and non-renewable sources, including natural gas and nuclear.

The plan also aims to have medium- and heavy-duty trucks entering ports and railyards to be zero emission, and even more rapidly, that state and local government fleets be so by 2027.

According to the California Trucking Association, California would need to install 336 chargers every week until 2035 to be able to meet charging demands for trucks. Chargers are just the beginning of making the new proposal work — an additional 65 megawatts each week need to be supplied by the power grid to support an additional 290,000 electric trucks.

California may be putting the cart before the horse. The announcement of this new proposal comes on the heels of a power grid in California that struggled to handle late-summer heat waves. Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio pointed out that the state is already importing nearly 30 percent of its power needs. 

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