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  • Robert Farago

How Do You Stop a Charging Elephant?

California truckers want to know how to cope with the new EV mandate

There were two things I really liked about the Pandemic lockdown: empty roads and Tiger King.

The former allowed me to drive 160 mph down Capital of Texas Highway without worrying about cops. The latter provided unprecedented entertainment value.

Watching Tiger King, I found myself slack-jawed, saying “That’s fucked-up. No way it can get more fucked-up.” And then it would get more fucked-up. And then I’d say it again. And then it would do it again. And again and again.

Wait. He shot himself? On camera? Wait. She murdered her husband? Fed him to the tigers? He’s marrying a man in a thruple? A tiger ripped off someone’s arm and he’s OK with that?

The Tiger King documentary series deserved every bit of the attention it received. It put the Pandemic pandemonium in its proper place: the realm of the mondo-bizarre and the completely bonkers.

I got the same feeling of absurdity piled atop absurdity reading California’s Assault on Trucks in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

Before I share the facts triggering paroxysms of post-Pandemic incredulity, let me be clear about one thing…

It makes no difference whether or not you believe global warming/climate change is man-made and, if so, shit needs doing. ‘Cause whatever shit needs doing, it isn’t this.

The WSJ Op-Ed address a new regulation proposed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Starting next year, drayage operators that transport goods between state’s ports and distribution centers would be prohibited from registering new diesel trucks. By 2035 almost all package delivery, drayage and box trucks would have to be “zero emission.”

A great idea! With the best of intentions! Aside from people who’ve never heard the word, who doesn’t want to reduce drayage greenhouses gasses?

There’s no getting around it: transportation is California’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for some 40 percent of the total.

Trucks account for about 15 percent of transportation’s 40 percent. Which is six percent of the total, for those of you keeping score at home.

Speaking of stats, California’s ports are a big deal. They process about 40 percent of all U.S. imports (go China!) and 30 percent of all exports (go China!).

Schlepping these goods: 272 trucks powered by Reddy Kilowatt. The rest, some 510k trucks hitting the Golden State’s highways and byways, are powered by dead dinosaur.

To summarize, trucks aren’t California’s worst greenhouse gas emitters and they’re the lifeblood of the state and national economy. Totally worth zeroing-out, right ? What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s the WSJ’s analysis of the new regs’ impact on everything save the environment. So to speak.

  1. Charging a small trucking fleet can require three times more power than a factory and about as much juice as a shopping mall or sports stadium.

  2. One trucking company wanted to install charging stations for 30 trucks at a terminal in Joliet, Illinois, only to be told by local officials they would draw more power than the entire city.

Captain, we need more power! Provided by renewable energy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Uh-oh! CA doesn’t have enough juice in the grid to accommodate half-a-million plus electric trucks and no plans to amp-it-up to cope.

Even if they did, there aren’t enough sockets.

As of last month, there were fewer than 700 chargers at trucking depots, yet California’s energy commission estimates 157,000 more will be needed for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by 2030.

This would require more than 450 to be constructed each week , while grid upgrades to install chargers could take five to 10 years at minimum.

But hey, where there’s an unfeasible regulation strangling a business, there’s a sly workaround that renders the regulation moot. Or, in this case, counterproductive.

A Southern California Edison executive recently said some fleets are powering chargers using diesel generators so electric trucks don’t go unused.

If other trucking companies follow suit to keep their e-rigs rolling, CARB’s truck electrification mandate would increase air pollution. Sorry, greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s some heavy shit. Literally.

Electric trucks run on two batteries that each weigh about 8,000 pounds. Since trucks must comply with strict federal weight limits, they won’t be able to carry as large a load as diesel big rigs.

Hang on! I got this! That would mean more trucks on the road – not to mention trucks by the side of the road charging. Right?

Batteries can power trucks for about 150 to 330 miles between charging, which can take five to eight hours. Longer battery ranges require bigger and heavier batteries, which add more weight and reduce payload. That means more trucks and drivers will be needed, which will increase shipping costs.

I reckon interstate trucking companies would be forced to do another work-around: transfer cargo to fossil-fuel powered trucks at the border. A process that requires time, manpower and electricity.

Unless Uncle Sam takes the mandate national. Meanwhile, more trucks = more traffic = more greenhouse gasses.

Should the CARB mandate come into effect, there’d be more traffic in a shorter window.

Drivers will have no choice but to charge their trucks at night, though this is when many prefer to drive because there’s less traffic. That means more trucks will be on the road during the day, causing more congestion during work-time commutes.

More fossil fuel burned/battery juice drained by everyone? Mother Earth won’t be happy. Neither will the little guy.

Among the losers will be independent contractors who won’t be able to afford electric trucks. Some may retire or leave the state. This could disrupt supply chains.

Don’t tell me! The mandate would raise prices for all goods coming into The Land of the Free, and higher costs for goods going out of the Home of the Brave. Reducing competitiveness. Leading to job losses.

The CARB electric truck mandate is a legislative Tiger King: a deranged entity that can’t win from losing.

In its attempt to save humanity from man-made climate change, California is hoisting itself by an electric-powered petard.

Here’s hoping the rest of us can keep on truckin’. And save the planet. Oh and the answer to the headline question: you take away its credit card. Hmmm.

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