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North Carolina governor says electric trucks are key to cutting climate pollution

Gov. Roy Cooper (center) joined other officials touring electric trucks and buses outside a conference at NC State University Tuesday.
Governor's office
Gov. Roy Cooper (center) joined other officials touring electric trucks and buses outside a conference at NC State University Tuesday.

The electric vehicle industry is growing across the U.S. and in North Carolina, mainly as sales of electric passenger vehicles speed up. But what about bigger vehicles? Gov. Roy Cooper said this week state officials are drafting new rules that could get more electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses on state roads.

In October, Cooper issued Executive Order 271 calling for state environmental regulators to come up with what are called Advanced Clean Trucks regulations by May 15, 2023. The rules would require truck and bus makers to increase sales of electric vehicles in the coming decades. The order also called for studying the need for more charging stations for heavy vehicles.

At an electric truck conference at NC State University on Tuesday, the governor said he hopes North Carolina can become a leader in the industry.

“North Carolina has already made great progress in electric vehicle manufacturing, and we’re well-positioned to be at the head of the global market transition to zero-emission vans, buses and trucks,” Cooper said in a news release after the speech. “We’ll continue working with businesses and manufacturers across the state to strengthen our economy, create jobs and confront the climate crisis.”

Transportation is the largest source of the heat-trapping pollutants that cause global warming — in North Carolina and nationwide. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and buses, are the second largest producers of greenhouse gases in the U.S. behind passenger vehicles. A study for the group Run on Less last year estimated that if all U.S. and Canadian trucks were electric, it would keep about 100 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year.

"There is no question that the vehicle and truck market around the world is transitioning to zero-emission technology as fast as it can," Cooper said, according to WRAL. "I have talked to CEOs across the world, and they are moving that way. Companies are in competition with each other to be first to market with these technologies."

North Carolina would be the seventh state nationwide and the first in the Southeast to adopt ACT rules. WRAL reported that Cooper said he isn't looking for a ban on diesel-powered trucks, just an increase in medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles.

Two years ago, Cooper signeda multi-state agreement that set a goal to have electric trucks and buses reach 30% of vehicle sales by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

The state Environmental Management Commission would have to approve the final rules.

This story originally appeared in WFAE's weekly Climate newsletter, which is published Thursdays. Sign up at https://www.wfae.org/climate-newsletter-signup

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.