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3 ways New York can speed up progress on its ambitious clean transportation goals

The transportation sector is the largest source of emissions in the state. These policies could fix that.

New York City streets

New York City streets.

To achieve New York’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), New York needs to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector — the largest source of emissions in the state.  

New York City truck

Thus far, most of the transportation emission reductions have been focused on passenger vehicles. But in order to achieve widespread pollution reductions in the transportation sector, the Empire State also needs to consider how to electrify trucks and buses to clean up the air we breathe and provide clean transportation options for all.

New York already has taken important initial steps to electrify trucks and buses, most recently by signing onto a 15-state Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which sets a goal for 100 percent of truck and bus sales to be electric by 2050 and for 30 percent to be electric by 2030.

However, to achieve the state's climate and zero-emission vehicle goals, more needs to be done. The price tag to electrify buses and trucks, as well as provide charging infrastructure to support these vehicles, is high but nevertheless important.

Luckily, policy pathways can help reduce these costs and barriers and support the expansion of electric trucks and buses in New York.

1. Vehicle cost

To meet its 2030 goal, New York will need to support about 38,366 electrified trucks and buses. As the average upfront price of an electric truck or bus is much higher than its diesel counterparts, as shown in Table 1, the cost of electric truck and bus purchases needed to electrify over 38,000 trucks and buses is about $2,023,383,620.

It should be noted that the total cost of ownership of electric trucks and buses is lower than diesel because of operational savings.

Table 1: Comparison of Annual Costs for Diesel and Electric Trucks (Source: Atlas EV Hub Electrifying Trucks: From Delivery Vans to Buses to 18-Wheelers)

Thankfully, New York state will not need to front this whole bill — operational savings such as lower fueling and maintenance costs can help offset the higher upfront costs of electric trucks and buses.

However, the costs of the vehicles aren’t the only financial barrier the state needs to consider — infrastructure needs to be available to charge these vehicles.

2. Charging infrastructure cost

Needed charging infrastructure is harder to estimate than vehicle needs because of the nascent state of the market and the variance of needs between vehicle and fleet type. For this analysis, I calculated the public charging needs and assumed medium-duty trucks use Level 2 charging and bigger heavy-duty trucks use Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) — not including depot charging or "home bases" which would require further analysis. Due to the variance of needs, the cost estimations of this analysis may be low in comparison to the actual uptake price.

Based on these assumptions, to support the number of electric trucks and buses the state needs by 2030, New York needs about 98 additional high-powered DCFC public stations and 695 Level 2 public stations for an estimate cost of about $17,545,007.

The total estimated cost of truck and bus electrification by 2030 is about $2,064,857,144.

In addition to the charging station costs, the state also will need to consider make-ready costs, such as electrical infrastructure (transformers and wiring) required to prepare charging sites. Based on estimated station needs for both Level 2 and DCFC stations, estimated make-ready costs are about $23,929,517 — calculated from the average price of Level 2 and DCFC make-ready needs per site, the number of chargers needed from each type as well as the number of sites needed across New York.

Given this data on charging costs, vehicle costs and make-ready costs, the total estimated cost of truck and bus electrification by 2030 is about $2,064,857,144, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Total Cost Estimates for Truck and Bus Electrification

While this number is large, implementing programs and policies to support the electrification of trucks and buses can help alleviate this financial barrier.

3. Policy pathways to achieve electrification

New York has started taking the needed steps to support truck and bus electrification, but to tackle the scope of the problem more needs to be done. Additional policy pathways for truck and bus electrification in New York can be modeled based on policies from other states.

For example, in June, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the Advanced Clean Truck Rule (ACT), a policy that requires truck and bus manufacturers to sell electric trucks as an increasing percentage of sales. The adoption of California policies such as the ACT in New York would be a promising step toward reaching 100 percent electric truck and bus sales by 2050.

No single perfect policy or program can tackle the full scale of the issue. To support truck and bus electrification, multiple policy and financial pathways need to be used. To support the Empire State’s goals for electrification, we need incentive programs to fund the uptake this task will require.

To support the Empire State’s goals for electrification, we need incentive programs.

Incentives are an important strategy to help close the gap between electric and diesel vehicle upfront costs. New York can support and fund incentives through programs such as a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the Transportation Climate Initiative market-based policy and expanding programs already in place, such as the Clean Truck Voucher Program.

For charging stations, utilities can help support the expansion of a statewide network. For example, New York’s Make-Ready Program is funded by investor-owned utilities and provides essential charging infrastructure to support statewide electrification. Through this program, New York is committing $15 million in make-ready funds for trucks and buses.

To fully achieve New York’s goals, we will need a comprehensive and strategic plan that uses current initiatives as well as new, promising policy pathways. The task of electrifying New York’s trucks and buses is a big one, but by implementing some of the strategies here, not insurmountable.

This blog was authored by NRDC Summer Schneider Clean Energy Intern Chloe Gould, a student at Stanford University.

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