California Champions North America’s Largest Deployment of Class 8 Battery-Electric Trucks

Liane M. Randolph

At the ACT Expo last week, public and private sector leaders came together to announce the largest deployment of battery-electric drayage trucks across California. Led by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Joint Electric Truck Scaling Initiative (JETSI) project will deploy 100 trucks manufactured by Daimler and Volvo, and will be operated by NFI Industries and Schneider on freight corridors serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as distribution centers across Southern California. VX News is pleased to present an excerpt of the remarks provided at the press event, as well as remarks by South Coast AQMD and California Air Resources (CARB) Board Member Gideon Kracov. Among the project partners who spoke are Gladstein Neandross & Associates CEO Erik Neandross, CARB Chair Liane Randolph, Schneider EVP Rob Reich, and NFI SVP of Fleet Services Bill Bliem.

Erik Neandross: Today, we unveil the Joint Electric Truck Scaling Initiative (JETSI) project. This project will deploy 100 trucks manufactured by Daimler and Volvo, and will be operated by NFI Industries and Schneider on freight corridors serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

Our firm, GNA, has helped to coordinate this project. This project is what we are all about: putting wheels on the road and running real miles.

Let me thank all of the people who made this happen. The project is being funded with $27 million from the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission, $5.4 million from the South Coast AQMD, as well as $41.4 million in funding from project partners, including Southern California Edison. Let me also thank Electrify America, Black & Veatch, Southern California Association of Governments, Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Committee, LACI, Breathe Southern California, Coalition for Clean Air UC Riverside, EPRI, Power Electronics, and Green Paradigm Consulting.

Beyond this project’s importance to replace diesel trucks in Southern California’s freight corridors, this project is going to set an example for other fleets around the world. Many years ago, this project was the result of brainstorming how we could improve upon previous success. We’ve had a number of great pilot projects in our Port complexes. Three trucks here, five trucks there. And if we are really going to scale battery electric trucks, we have to do it at scale. We have to get beyond the three and five truck demos. We have to put 50 or 100 trucks in a yard and see how it plays out. It is not just about the trucks, which our manufacturers have been working away on. It is about the infrastructure. That will be the hard part. Trying to figure out how to charge 50 or 100 trucks, and balance our grid demands.

Liane Randolph: Today is a huge opportunity to see the future of zero emissions. The beauty of this project can be seen in how competitors are coming together. Two manufacturers in Daimler and Volvo, working together. Two fleet operators, Schneider and NFI, working together. The 80 Freightliner eCascadia and 20 Volvo Class 8 battery electric trucks will fly under the same project banner. These trucks are available for sale in California today. They have a range well above 200 miles on a single charge. And in the current proposed route, they will be driving through as many as five AB 617 impacted communities, providing drayage and regional haul services.

These projects also show us how the future will be more affordable, because of cost savings from fuel and maintenance. Putting more of these trucks on the road is a primary goal of the Newsom administration. It is crucial for cleaning up the air in our Port communities, along freeways, and near warehouses.

That is why the State of California has invested $74 million from the California Climate Investments program, through CARB and the Energy Commission. The South Coast AQMD will be the day-to-day operator of the project, providing oversight and ensuring the project’s success. It is this close partnership that makes our climate investment dollars work. These projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy and protect public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities. The California Climate Investments have invested almost $400 million towards low carbon projects. When adding in the leveraged private sector funding, it is just about $772 million of funding.

Providing more commercial options for transitioning trucks, this project is a step towards ending emissions from drayage services by 2035, and then on to reaching Governor Newsom’s goal of zero emission heavy duty vehicles by 2045.

Rob Reich: We are proud to be a part of this project. At Schneider, we have set some ambitious sustainability targets for ourselves. One of the most important ones is lowering our CO2 emissions per mile by 60 percent by the year 2035. Battery electric and zero emission vehicles are an important part of achieving that mission. That is why these 50 trucks are so vital. The theme of getting to scale is what we are going to demonstrate. We are going to put these 50 trucks into our intermodal operations, and execute that effectively. This will inform us how we can deploy more battery electric vehicles throughout the year.

This is a great opportunity for our drivers. This project has already allowed us to get drivers into these electric trucks and teach them about the new technology. Our drivers love this car, and they are proud to be a part of this initiative.

Bill Bliem: Look at this truck to my right. You better look quick because right after this announcement is over, it is heading to the Port to bring a container back to the Inland Empire.

At NFI, we are putting the world’s largest high-powered charging at our Ontario facility. This will serve our drayage fleet. Three years ago, NFI started on this zero emission journey. We have been operating Volvos and Daimlers for two years, and we couldn’t be more impressed. Our relationship with the OEMs has evolved and it feels like we are going to usher in a zero emission future faster than ever.

Through the JETSI project, NFI and Schneider will collectively install significant charging infrastructure, 50 chargers in total. The warehouse upgrades include on-site energy storage and rooftop solar, resulting in more than $16.8 million of regional economic activity from associated construction costs.

Gideon Kracov: I sit as Governor Newsom’s appointee to the Governing Board for the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board. For those of you that aren’t familiar with South Coast AQMD, we are the local agency that regulates air quality in most of Southern California. We cover Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, more than 18 million people combined. 

Our mission is to clean the air, for what the Clean Air Act calls criteria pollutants like smog, as well as toxic air contaminants, and protect public health through practical and innovative strategies.

My role is to talk about the impact of a project like this on the ground, on our roads, in our communities. We have some of the worst air quality challenges in the country, and some of the busiest goods movement corridors. Thousands of trucks travel our freeways and roads daily. We owe it to the communities around the Ports, and around the warehouses in San Bernardino and Riverside, to work as hard as we can to get more clean trucks on the road and support the necessary infrastructure for this transition.

The air quality benefits from this project are real.The project is poised to reduce five tons of smog forming pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) annually along Southern California’s I-710 corridor, as well as eliminate more than 8,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Connecting the San Pedro Bay Port complex to inland distribution centers and warehouses, the I-710 sees more than twice the average Los Angeles freeway truck traffic and accounts for 20% of all PM emissions in Southern California. This project displaces 700,000 diesel gallons each year. Think of the impact this is going to have on our communities. This project will pave the way for more to come.  

In addition to all others who have been thanked today, let me give a couple special thanks to the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Committee for funding, the charging infrastructure companies who are going to ensure the project’s success, and AQMD Deputy Executive Officer Dr. Matt Miyasato. We couldn’t get this public-private partnership success without the work of so many who did not get to speak today….

[Editor’s Note: The following is from Mr. Kracov’s Opening Keynote Remarks at the ACT Expo] The South Coast believes that these types of innovative partnerships are key to getting to the goal of cleaning our air. That’s the key word here, innovative. The South Coast AQMD primarily has authority over stationary sources, such as smokestack emissions, but it is actually mobile sources—the cars, planes, trucks, construction and cargo handling equipment—that make up more than 80% of the air pollution in Southern California.

And largely, that is where the California Air Resources Board comes in. CARB’s mobile source and climate-oriented regulations have motivated manufacturers to make engines cleaner and more efficient, as well as invest in zero-emission technologies.  Under Governor Newsom’s Zero Emission Vehicle Executive Order, we are united to support the development of the ZEV market, ensure we have the grid capacity and charging infrastructure necessary, and prioritize equity and environmental justice communities in every step of the process.

Just last year, before I was appointed, the CARB Board approved the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, shaping a cleaner future of medium and heavy duty transportation. The Clean Trucks rule will help deploy more than 300,000 zero emission trucks by 2035. This rule will only be a success with the people at the Expo today. 

This coming year, CARB is working on the Advanced Clean Fleets Rule. The Fleets rule will create markets for the technologies being showcased today, covering medium and heavy duty trucks, buses, and last mile delivery vehicles.

This is not going to be easy. I have a history with these fleet rules, representing California Waste Haulers for years.  I helped them transition from diesel to CNG more than a decade ago. It took time, massive financial investment, and a mix of regulation, incentives, and innovation. Some were on the bleeding edge. But we pulled it off, and a lot of you helped. These are now perhaps some of the largest clean fleets in the world. The drivers and operators are so proud of the success, and the fact they are part of the green economy.

In the upcoming Fleets Rule, we will approach the challenge the same way, working with you all to get results. This time, we will be supported by huge incentive investments at the federal and state level.  In addition, because of the South Coast AQMD’s recent Warehouse regulation, these cleaner trucks will be visiting warehouses in Southern California with the zero-emission charging and refueling infrastructure needed for this technological transformation.

South Coast AQMD can’t do any of this without public-private partnerships. And so, through its many programs, we leverage those partnerships to help with the development, demonstration and commercialization of many different near-zero and zero- emission technologies. Since 1988, South Coast AQMD has provided over $340 million in funding with project partners for over $1.5 billion in technology demonstration projects.


Thanks again to everyone who helped put this event together. This event showcases the best of the future of clean technology, and technology that is readily available for commercial use and being deployed here in Southern California.  In closing, this transition to a green economy, to cleaning up our transportation systems, is not going to be easy. At the AQMD and CARB, we know that. But we would not want to be working on anything else. I think a lot of you feel the same way. It really is the work of our lifetimes.

"We owe it to the communities around the Ports, and around the warehouses in San Bernardino and Riverside, to work as hard as we can to get more clean trucks on the road and support the necessary infrastructure for this transition."—Gideon Kracov