WASHINGTON — Truck manufacturers are pushing back hard against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to drastically cut carbon emissions from heavy trucks beginning in model year 2028.

While fully electric, zero-emission trucks are already on the roads, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) maintain that the biggest impediment to the EPA’s rule seeking aggressive adoption for the trucking industry is a lack of infrastructure to support it.

“We fully support that goal, demonstrated by the billions of dollars already invested by our members to develop and bring to market zero-emission power trains and vehicles,” said Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), during EPA’s first public hearing on its proposal on Tuesday.

However, “without electricity recharging and hydrogen refueling infrastructures in place, our customers are not likely to make the needed investment to purchase the zero-emission vehicles that EMA members put out for sale,” Mandel said.

“We cannot afford a scenario where manufacturers must sell zero-emission vehicles but fleets won’t purchase them because there’s no infrastructure in place to operate them. That is a recipe for disaster.”

The EPA’s new greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks would begin in model year (MY) 2028 and extend to MY 2032, and would govern a range of truck sizes from delivery trucks and dump trucks to freight-hauling day-cab and sleeper-cab trucks.

It is the third phase of carbon dioxide emission standards that began during the Obama administration. They would also reopen for revisions the GHG standards for the 2027 model year that were established under EPA’s Phase 2 rule in 2016.

Kevin Maggay, senior manager of public policy for Navistar, told EPA officials that while the company supports a zero-emissions future, “the reality is that this regulation as proposed is going to significantly change the trucking sector.”

“The regulation would essentially mandate the move away from liquid fuels, which would fundamentally change the trucking industry’s fueling, operational and business models. Truck drivers have never had to think much about where they’re going to get their fuel from when they’re purchasing a truck. And OEMs like Navistar have never had to work with electric utilities and think about things like electrical substations before selling a truck, because the fuel has always been ready and available.

“We and other OEMs have invested in the technology and we have product available. The success of the transition to zero-emission trucks really now hinges almost exclusively on infrastructure.”

Over 100 people participated in the first day of the two-day virtual public hearing. Most spoke on behalf of national and grassroots environmental groups. All either strongly supported EPA’s proposal or thought it should be even more aggressive.

But other trucking industry groups shared the OEMs’ concerns about infrastructure and aggressive timelines, including representatives from the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Small fleet owner Monte Wiederhold, president of B.L. Reever Transport in Ohio, told EPA that he believed long-haul electric trucks will never work.

“If you really think EV trucking is feasible anytime soon, I encourage you to visit a truck stop near you,” he said. “Go between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., and see trucks parked along the driveways or anywhere they can find a place to park. Then explain how all these trucks will get their batteries charged. Better yet, visit an interstate off-ramp and explain where the charging stations will be.”

Countering the argument about lack of infrastructure was the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the agency that is seen as driving the federal government’s aggressive emission reduction timelines.

CARB Executive Officer Steven Cliff said that eight states have joined California’s heavy-duty truck emissions reduction programs, with every fourth truck registered in an Advanced Clean Truck state. Cliff, like some of the environmental group witnesses, wants EPA to make the rule stronger.

“EPA should finalize a Phase 3 standard to push significantly more heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles [ZEVs] than proposed,” he said, “on par with the vehicle manufacturer targets many major heavy-duty truck manufacturers have themselves been publicly stating.”

He also wants EPA to ensure that a final rule does not promote certain technologies such as hydrogen internal combustion engines (ICE).

“CARB is concerned that, instead of deploying heavy-duty ZEVs, manufacturers may respond to the Phase 3 rule by making hydrogen ICE engines. Although these engines have near zero CO2 tailpipe emissions, their NOx [nitrogen oxide] emissions are a concern.”

Related articles:

California gets EPA waiver to move ahead with Advanced Clean Trucks rule

Trucking company owner pleads guilty to evading EPA regs

Biden climate blueprint promotes modal shift away from trucks

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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