Ready or not, the pressure on companies and individuals to adopt electric transportation is moving forward with new rules that everyone will likely feel.
The future of electric vehicles in Pennsylvania was the subject of many discussions at the Statehouse on Monday. At the same time, Congress is debating a federal infrastructure bill that would help fund a network of vehicle charging stations.
Electric trucks and cars will be needed
According to a Facebook Live event hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Monday, discounts of up to $1,000 are available for Pennsylvanians who buy electric vehicles. The event also offered tips for new electric vehicle owners about where to find charging stations and how to reduce range anxiety—the fear that your car will run out of juice before you can find a place to charge.
“At DEP we are deeply interested in supporting electric vehicles for a number of reasons,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell during the event. They listed lower operating costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, net job growth potential, and better air quality.
But the air quality is already better in Pennsylvania. During Monday’s Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Vehicle Emissions and Electrification, DEP Director of Air Quality Mark Hammond said Pennsylvania’s air quality has improved over the past decades.
Over the past 20 years, said Rebecca Oyler, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the transportation sector in Pennsylvania has decreased the following pollutants: sulfur dioxide, down 97.4 percent; carbon monoxide, 88.4 percent; Volatile organic compound 87.9 percent; nitrogen oxide 80.2 percent; fine particulate matter 77.2 percent; ammonia 53.9 percent; course particulate matter 52.8 percent; and a 12.7 percent drop in transportation-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the same period.
McDonnell said Pennsylvania is committed to increasing the use of electric vehicles. An executive order from Governor Tom Wolf calls for a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. The order also set a target of electrifying 25 percent of the state’s fleet by 2025.
The DEP intends to meet a minimum of 30 percent zero-emission (electric) vehicle market share for new medium- and heavy-duty pick-up trucks sold in 2030 and 100 percent of pick-up trucks sold by 2050.
President Joe Biden’s goal of 50 percent of all new vehicles being electric by 2030 is in line with the automotive industry’s commitments, as more consumers are replacing their traditional gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles, said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation secretary. Yasmin Gramian said during Facebook Live. Competition.
“Ironically, the adoption of electric vehicles poses a problem for PenDOT,” Gramian said. “Pennsylvania relies on state and federal gas taxes for 78 percent of its highway and bridge funding.”
That’s why Wolf established the Transportation Revenue Alternatives Commission, which discussed replacing the gas tax. Ideas include paying taxes by kilowatt-hours and paying per mile driven. A plan has yet to be set, but it is something that the people of Pennsylvania would like to see.
Electric Will Hobble Truck Industry
“We are definitely moving towards electric vehicles,” Oyler told The Epoch Times in a phone interview.
She told the Transportation Committee that there are several ways the trucking industry can continue to reduce emissions and distinguish between zero-emissions vehicles that are electric and low-emissions vehicles that run on liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas. Oiler said diesel trucks are much cleaner than they were decades ago. Replacing old trucks with new diesel can also improve the environment.
“Electric isn’t the only way to go,” Oyler said. “It’s best not to push the mandate on the trucking industry before the technology is ready,” and, she says, the technology isn’t ready for trucking.
Electric trucks weigh 4,000-5,000 pounds more than diesel. That means 4,000-5,000 pounds less cargo to keep trucks within federal weight restrictions. The result is that there are more trips to carry than a truck can currently take.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike spans 360 miles across Pennsylvania. By comparison, an electric truck can only cover 200-250 miles on a single charge. Drivers have enough driving hours to go 500 miles in a day. With electric trucks, a new tractor will have to be swapped out to complete longer journeys, or drivers will face hours of downtime while charging.
“That’s not to say we can’t get there someday. But we’re not quite there yet for most companies.”
Trucking companies would not have the option of going electric, as are the California rules that several states, including Pennsylvania, adopted in 2003. The California Air Resources Board, (CARB) sets targets for emissions reduction.
“DEP is taking the position that they adopted those rules by reference in 2003 and that obliges us to comply with the CRB for emissions,” Oyler said. “CARB is controlled by the people of California. They’re making the rules for the people of Pennsylvania. It’s a little disappointing. We don’t have a thing here in Pennsylvania.”
Another part of the CARB is the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Clean Truck Rule, which is optional, but the Pennsylvania DEP has indicated it intends to comply and is likely to announce it in the coming days.
New York and New Jersey have already agreed to comply with CARB’s ZEV Clean Truck Rule. This mandates a certain, growing percentage of electric trucks, forcing the trucking industry to transition.
“In 2020, California had 157 days above federal ozone standards, while Pennsylvania had only 27 days, which is a testament to our success,” Oyler said. “Yet our state has delegated its authority to regulate truck emissions to the people of California, and it is having a very real impact on our trucking industry today.”
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering the most interesting and sometimes elusive news from Pennsylvania politics, the courts and the Commonwealth. Send him your story ideas: