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California legislators call on Governor to take technology-neutral approach to HDV decarbonization plans

Nine members of the California state legislature sent a formal letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom urging that he take a technology-neutral approach to decarbonization and not focus the state’s transportation sector investments solely on battery-electric vehicles, particularly in medium- and heavy-duty transportation applications where they say fuel cell electric vehicles may be the only solution.

The governor recently issued Executive Order N-79-20, which requires sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035 and all operations of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to be 100% zero emission by 2045 where feasible, with the mandate going into effect by 2035 for drayage trucks. (Earlier post.)

It is critical that at the early stages of achieving this righteous goal, we do not pick winners and losers with regard to various zero emission technologies. Even within the text of the Executive Order, there are different guidelines for passenger and heavy-duty vehicles, which highlights the fundamental fact that the needs of various vehicle classes are diverse, dependent upon their individual utilization, and unlikely to be solved by a single zero emission solution.

Thankfully, we currently have two zero emission technologies at our disposal as we seek to both clean up our local air quality and reduce our contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, in order to leverage these zero emission technology options, it is imperative that the state take a technology-neutral approach to regulatory and legislative efforts that seek to inch us closer to a fully carbon-free transportation sector. There will be no fell-swoop solution, there is no silver bullet, and we must support and advance every zero emission mobility option possible as we work to realize the goals set forth in your Executive Order.

We stand deeply concerned about the impacts of medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, vessels, locomotives and off-road equipment on our local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. These sectors are particularly difficult to convert to zero emission, and are especially well-suited for hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Many in the scientific community believe that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are the only feasible approach to achieving zero emissions in these heavy-duty and commercial sector applications.

—Letter to the governor

Copies of the letter were sent also to California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols and California Energy Commission (CEC) Chair David Hochschild.

The three-page letter—which represents the first time legislators have formally responded to Newsom’s recent Executive Order on zero-emission vehicles — says there has been a disproportionate focus on battery-electric vehicle technology through the state’s many funding programs administered by CARB and the CEC.

We have observed that hydrogen fuel cell electric mobility solutions have been largely deprioritized compared to battery-based vehicles. But, that single technology (battery electric) will not get us there alone and fuel cell electric vehicles will need to be a significant part of our zero emission portfolio, particularly in the heavy-duty and commercial sectors.

—Letter to the governor

The Western States Hydrogen Alliance (WSHA)—a nonprofit industry organization focused on the deployment of fuel cell electric vehicles in heavy-duty and commercial settings throughout the Western US—said that the letter is a sign of frustration within the Legislature that state agencies have invested heavily in just one zero-emission technology.

The nine signatories of the letter called on Newsom to include hydrogen fuel cell technology in all administrative and agency efforts to achieve the goals outlined in the executive order.

Signatories to the letter, initiated and organized by Senator Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera), include Archuleta, Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Ventura), Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Assemblyember Marc Levine (D-Marin County), Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highlands), and Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D- Inglewood).



There is no data that H2 ground transportation is feasible.
This is the results of lobbying on behalf of Big Oil...for promised campaign funding, no doubt.


No doubt that the Legislature in California have been captured in their incentives, by Tesla et al, who after sucking them dry are shamelessly promising to abandon the State as soon as they conveniently can.

It always was a lousy place to build cars, and Shanghai or Texas is where they are moving output as soon as they can.


@Lad, I don;t think you can say that - the question is whether it is better than battery electric trucks, or over what ranges is this so.
It may turn out that battery trucks are best < (say) 600 miles and fuel cell is better for longer runs (or whatever).
It seems silly to insist on one technology.
What is required is affordable low or zero carbon trucking - if battery EVs get you there, fine, but there is no need to mandate battery EVs.


I agree. There are a number of ways that trucks and other heavy ground transportation vehicles can be carbon neutral.

The cheapest way is to simply use fuels from renewable resources. Trucks can be cheaply retrofitted to use dimethyl ether. And dimethyl ether can be derived from renewable methanol (eMethanol) which can come from agricultural waste, urban garbage and sewage, and from solar, wind, and nuclear energy. Trucks running on dimethyl ether would be substantially cheaper than purely electric powered trucks.

Trucks designed to use eMethanol could use reformed methanol fuel cells combined with lithium batteries. eMethanol would be cheaper than dimethyl ether and fuel would also be used more efficiently in a fuel cell/battery system. They' d probably be more expensive than dimethyl ether trucks but less expensive than purely electric powered trucks.



no data that H2 ground transportation is feasible...
Toyota has been running an FC semi for years.


eMethanol is still methanol. Formaldehyde, a carcinogen and also a smog constituent, increases when methanol is burned.


Why burn methanol, reform it for fuel cells.
This was done in the 1990s by Mercedes in NECAR.


I agree with Lad. I'm convinced that a H2 economy is being pushed from big oil because a H2 infrastructure resembles the oil infrastructure very closely. It's not an all to big effort for big oil to switch from one to the other and with such a move, they can keep all their cash cows in their own pastures. IOW, their main interest is to maintain dependencies of status quo.
Considering the development of various battery chemistries and architectures with the promise of high energy - and power densities, the problems still haunting us today, will be considered a joke tomorrow.

I agree that the legislature should not pick technologies or suppliers, only set standards that companies must meet.

But the market speaks on technology and suppliers, and the market has spoken.

It will be interesting to see if any H2 long haul trucks get traction, but given the delta in fuel costs, it seems very unlikely.

The price performance curve favors BEVs.

If you were a truck driver and could save $25k per year in fuel costs buy changing your schedule to include a one hour break mid-day, would you do it?

Operators and drivers will figure this out pretty quickly.

They will probably be less fatigued and in overall better health, also.


I mostly agree with electric-car-insider that the government should not pick technologies and should set standards that need to be met.

What I do think that they should do is to set a carbon tax that increases over time and let the market find the best technology for different applications.

I continue to expect that companies will build out the shorter haul delivery and logistics fleet with battery electric trucks and that his will accelerate as the overall costs will be lower than operating ICE trucks. Note that there are two articles above and at least one below with delivery vehicles or vans from Ford, Motiv Power, and Workhourse.

I do think that it will harder to electrify machines with batteries that run near full power most of the time including long haul trucks, bulldozers and other construction equipment, some farm machinery, etc. It will particularly hard to use provide charging for equipment that is normally fueled in the field. However, I think that hydrogen fuel cells have their own problems (cost, maintenance, higher fuel costs and just dealing with hydrogen).

My preferred solution for long haul trucking would be to use more intermodal rail and electrify the main rail lines.

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