WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELESWASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California on Thursday approved a groundbreaking policy to wean its trucking sector off of diesel fuel by requiring manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024.
The mandate, passed unanimously by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), was hailed as a major step toward reducing climate-warming emissions and improving public health for low-income communities near busy highway corridors and ports.
"California is once again leading the nation in the fight to make our air cleaner," Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement after the vote.
Environmentalists say the mandate, which applies to medium-duty and large trucks, will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035.
The proposed mandate is expected to start in the 2024 model year and initially require 5%-9% zero emission vehicles (ZEV) based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030. By 2045, all vehicles should be ZEVs "where feasible."
The regulation would apply to pickup trucks weighing 8,500 pounds or more, but not to light-duty trucks, which are covered by separate zero emission regulations.
CARB plans a separate rule in early 2021 that will require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.
The move comes as a rising number of companies including Rivian, Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), Nikola Corp NKLA.O and General Motors (GM.N) are working to introduce zero emission trucks.
Heavy-duty trucks are the largest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution in California.
The Environmental Protection Agency said in September that California's light-duty ZEV mandate was preempted by federal law. A group of 23 U.S. states has sued, seeking to reverse that determination. The EPA declined comment Thursday on California's action.
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association said the regulation would help stimulate the heavy-duty ZEV market but warned the targets would most likely need future downward adjustments.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Nicola Groom; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lincoln Feast.)