NATIONAL VIEW: Biden’s order: Let there be electric trucks

THE POINT: EPA’s latest EV mandate is the most costly and fanciful to date.

The Environmental Protection Agency chose Good Friday to roll out its burdensome electric truck mandate, no doubt so fewer people notice. Biden officials well know the damage they are doing, but the damage in the name of climate change is the point.

EPA’s new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks will effectively require that electric semi-trucks make up an increasing share of manufacturer sales from 2027 through 2032, similar to its recent rule for passenger cars. The difference is that the truck mandate is even more costly and fanciful.

EVs make up less than 1% of U.S. heavy-duty truck sales, and nearly all are in California, which heavily subsidizes and mandates their purchase. EPA’s rule will require electric models to account for 60% of new urban delivery trucks and 25% of long-haul tractor sales by 2032. The harm is predictable in return for no climate benefit.

Start with the fact that no electric long-haul tractors are currently in mass production. Most electric trucks can’t go more than 170 miles on a charge. Electric semis require bigger and heavier batteries, which means they must carry lighter loads to avoid damaging roads. Fleet operators will have to use more trucks to transport the same amount of goods.

This will increase vehicle congestion, especially around ports and distribution centers. EPA says its rule will reduce pollution in “environmental justice” communities near major truck freight routes. But more traffic will result in more pollution. Electric trucks also generate more soot from their wear and tear on roads and vehicle braking.

Power generation and transmission will have to massively expand to support millions of new “zero-emission” trucks. An electric semi consumes about seven times as much electricity on a single charge as a typical home does in a day. Truck charging depots can draw as much power from the grid as small cities.

By 2030 electric trucks are projected to consume about 11% of California’s electricity. The additional power to fuel electric trucks won’t come from renewables, which can’t be built fast enough to meet demand. Most trucks will recharge at night when solar isn’t available since drivers don’t want to waste prime daylight driving hours.

Some 1.4 million chargers will have to be installed by 2032 to achieve the EPA’s mandate, about 15,000 a month. This will require major grid upgrades when there are shortages of critical components such as transformers. It could take three to eight years to develop transmission and substations in many places to support truck chargers.

Truckers estimate the EPA rule will cost utilities $370 billion to upgrade their networks. On top of that, truckers will have to invest $620 billion in their own charging infrastructure. This doesn’t include the cost of electric trucks, which are typically two to three times more expensive than diesel cabs.

Replacing diesel trucks with electric will cost the industry tens of billion dollars each year. Truckers will pass on these costs to customers—meaning U.S. manufacturers and retailers—which will ultimately pass them on to Americans in higher prices. This is President Biden’s trickle-down economics.

EPA says its big-rig quotas are feasible because the Inflation Reduction Act and 2021 infrastructure law include hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for EVs. This includes a 30% tax credit for charging stations, $40,000 tax credit for commercial EVs, and a tax credit for battery manufacturing that can offset more than a third of the cost.

The Wall Street Journal