Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Saved by Zero?

CARB releases updated AB 32 Draft Scoping plan for GHG reductions in California.

It should be of no surprise to anyone who has been remotely paying attention to CARB that the “clean up” of the freight transport network in California will never end. Recent discussions have only served the arguments that needed carbon reductions from the freight transport sector can only be achieved through the deployment of Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV’s) in the heavy duty trucking sector.
As far as policy makers in Sacramento are concerned, zero emission freight transport is an inevitable reality; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and quite possibly sooner rather than later. The ZEV solution is gaining ground and according to CARB, deployment of these vehicles in California will more or less, save us from ourselves, while still allowing us to maintain our “California lifestyle”.
Regardless of the reductions already achieved through existing regulatory measures, major reductions are still needed.  And that, as laid out in the Scoping Plan, can only be achieved through the deployment of ZEV’s in the on-road heavy duty trucking (HDT) fleet.

For those of you who remember the 1980’s new wave band, The Fixx, the term “Saved by Zero” might take on a slightly different connotation.  Nevertheless, the freight transport sector in California remains in the Crosshairs for GHG reduction targets; and ZEV’s are the magic bullet.
It is obvious from this latest version of the plan that CARB’s intended pathways for reaching ZEV deployment in the HDT sector is constantly evolving.  The targets may not change, but the roadmap will morph and shift as technological solutions (or limitations) present themselves in the market.
Currently, there are zero options available for ZEV’s in the HDT sector. Anything over 26,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) does not have a ZEV option commercially available. All projects are currently in the demonstration phase and all carry a heavy price tag. Even lighter trucks from 14,000 to 26,000 GVWR are in limited ZEV offerings, more are currently available on the Hybrid electric side.
CARB’s own admission in this latest draft plan speaks to the challenges in catching up the HDT fleet with ZEV technology, “(w)here the technology is available or being demonstrated, near-term challenges exist in terms of cost, vehicle range, payload, and the need for associated infrastructure.”  
This quote speaks volumes to the fact that these efforts are not going to materialize overnight. This is why CARB has come to see the light and determined that “Coordinated, comprehensive planning is critical to achieving deep emission reductions in the transportation sector…”  That translates into the fact that industry participants can expect the future formation of focus groups to address the physical, fiscal and political challenges that need to be overcome before CARB can hang their hat on anything for HDT ZEV’s.