Why are we doing this?
Medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses (>8,500 lbs.) account for only 4% of all vehicles on the road, but nearly 25% of transportation sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This vehicle fleet is a significant contributor to air pollution and climate change. In New Jersey, there are approximately 500,000 medium and heavy-duty trucks.
Zero-emission vehicles have no tailpipe emissions. When compared to diesel vehicles, they are two to five times more energy efficient, reduce dependence on petroleum, and reduce GHG emissions substantially. By shifting our reliance on diesel engines to electric power trains, New Jersey can achieve its climate goals quickly and efficiently.
1. Reducing greenhouse gases reduces impacts from climate change
Human activity is largely responsible for recent climate change. Key climate indicators include major changes in temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, and sea level rise. Observations of these indicators across the globe and in the United States provide multiple, independent lines of evidence that climate change is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
GHGs are those gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (MH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases. Burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use release large amounts of CO2 which cause concentrations in the atmosphere to rise. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in New Jersey. Multiple efforts are underway to transition our light-duty fleet of cars and SUVs to electric vehicles. New measures need to be adopted to reduce emissions from medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleets.
For more information, see
- 2020 New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change
- IPCC – Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basics
2. Reducing criteria pollutants improves air quality and public health
Transportation, also referred to as mobile sources, represents the largest source of air pollution in New Jersey. Cars, trucks, buses, off-road vehicles, locomotives, marine engines and planes are all considered mobile sources of air pollution. While emissions from individual cars and vehicles are relatively low, there are millions of diesel and gasoline vehicles travelling in and through New Jersey every day emitting thousands of tons of pollutants. These include particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, air toxics and greenhouse gases. Every year, hundreds of New Jerseyans die prematurely and thousands suffer heart and lung illnesses due to these pollutants.
In addition, fleet emissions are a particular problem for overburdened communities (OBC). Many of these communities are located near freight corridors, ports and distribution centers and are disproportionately exposed to harmful pollutant levels. New Jersey’s groundbreaking Environmental Justice Law requires DEP to evaluate the contributions of certain facilities to existing environmental and public health stressors in overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications. An overburdened community (OBC), as defined by law, is any census block group, in accordance with the most recent United States Census, in which:
- At least 35 percent of the households qualify as low-income households (at or below twice the poverty threshold as determined by the United States Census Bureau);
- At least 40 percent of the residents identify as minority or as members of a state recognized tribal community; or
- At least 40 percent of the households have limited English proficiency (without an adult that speaks English “very well” according to the United States Census Bureau).
The Federal Clean Air Act requires the United State Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common “criteria” air pollutants: particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and lead. These pollutants can harm your health, the environment, and cause property damage. The U.S. EPA calls these pollutants “criteria” air pollutants because it regulates them by developing human health-based and/or environmentally based criteria (science-based guidelines) to set permissible concentrations.
3. Reducing local black carbon/air toxics improves air quality and public health
Black carbon, or soot, is part of fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) and contributes to climate change. Black carbon can also contribute to localized toxic effects, particularly in overburdened communities.
Most U.S. emissions of black carbon come from mobile sources (52%), especially diesel engines and vehicles. For these reasons, black carbon may be subject to special attention as a pollutant of concern.
Black carbon is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other fuels. Complete combustion would turn all carbon in the fuel into carbon dioxide (CO2), but combustion is never complete and a variety of pollutants are emitted as a result. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, organic carbon and black carbon particles are all formed in the process. The mixture of particulate matter resulting from incomplete combustion is often referred to as soot.
Black carbon is a considerable contributor to climate warming because it is very effective at absorbing light and heating its surroundings. Per unit of mass, black carbon has a warming impact on climate that is 460-1,500 times stronger than CO2. Black carbon is a short-lived climate pollutant with a lifetime of days to weeks after release in the atmosphere. During this short period of time, black carbon can have significant direct and indirect impacts on the climate, the cryosphere (snow and ice), agriculture and human health. For more information, see: https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/blackcarbon/basic.html
Black carbon contributes to adverse impacts on human health, ecosystems, and visibility associated with PM2.5. Short-term and long-term exposures to PM2.5 are associated with a broad range of human health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular effects as well as premature death. Studies have shown that measures that prevent black carbon or PM2.5 emissions can reduce near-term warming of the climate, increase crop yields and prevent the negative impacts on human health.