For those looking to support the fight against climate change, electric cars are often seen as an impactful (and conspicuous) choice to move away from fossil fuels. Tax credits at the federal level and further incentives in many states have helped make Tesla
Purely from a numbers standpoint, trucks have a huge impact. Despite representing just under 7% of vehicles in California, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reports that truck emissions make up 70% of smog-causing NOx and 80% of cancer-causing soot from the vehicle sector statewide. This is true even though California has some of the world’s strictest emissions regulations for medium and heavy duty trucks, such as the state’s clean idle requirements.
Truck pollution impacts are also not evenly distributed. Medium and heavy duty truck traffic is heavily concentrated in major arterials, ports, and logistic centers, which tend to be in closer proximity to low-income neighborhoods. The health impacts on minority communities, particularly the hispanic and black communities, is well documented. One Google
A transition to zero-emission trucks provides a unique opportunity to help right multiple wrongs at once. Climate change is slowed through the reduction in CO2 emissions, smog is reduced through a drop in NOx, cancer is reduced by lowering soot in the air, and the benefits flow most heavily to traditionally marginalized populations. It’s climate justice, environmental justice, and social justice all wrapped up in one.
The major players are lining up to support the change. Utilities up and down the west coast are planning out charging infrastructure to support electric trucks, legacy semi-truck manufacturers are getting in the electric game, and new entrant Nikola is watching its stock price soar. There will likely be the same tired lawsuits and bad-faith arguments about increased costs for consumers or the negative environmental impacts of battery manufacturing. The Golden State, however, refuses to ignore the real costs paid by those most impacted by pollution and global warming. As has been the case for decades, California is once again setting the bar for others to follow.