The state of California has recently passed a new regulation that will ban the sale of diesel-powered trucks starting in 2036, in an effort to promote cleaner air and reduce carbon emissions. The new rule is part of the state’s Advanced Clean Fleets program, which aims to make California’s entire trucking industry zero emissions by 2045. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted in favor of the rule last Friday, but it still awaits approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take effect.

While the ban on diesel trucks is a step towards a cleaner future, not all zero-emission trucks will be battery-powered. Fuel cell trucks that generate electricity through the combination of hydrogen stored in tanks with atmospheric oxygen also qualify under the rule. The only byproduct of fuel cell trucks is water vapor, making them a cleaner alternative to diesel-powered trucks.

Fuel cell trucks use smaller batteries than plug-in electric trucks, and their hydrogen tanks can be filled to capacity quicker than recharging a battery. For instance, the Tesla Semi takes 30 minutes to fast-charge to just 70% of the battery’s capacity, which requires a special 1,000-volt MegaCharger station. Charging speeds slow down after that to protect the pack from damage. In contrast, the tanks for a fuel cell truck can be filled in as little as 15 minutes, which is closer to how long a typical stop for a diesel-powered long-haul truck takes. Furthermore, technology is being developed to get the time under 10 minutes.

Several truck manufacturers, including Volvo, Freightliner, and Nikola, are already developing fuel cell-powered trucks. Now, Toyota has a way for anyone to build hydrogen-powered rigs. The company, which owns the Hino heavy truck brand, has been testing fuel cell semis in California since 2017, including several modified Kenworth tractors used for hauling goods in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area. Toyota has received approval from CARB to start selling a fuel cell kit that it will put into production in Kentucky later this year. “We believe hydrogen will play a significant role in the emissions reduction of heavy-duty transport while not sacrificing the distance, power, or fueling times needed to keep these fleet and individual operators running,” said Chris Rovik, executive program manager, advanced mobility, Toyota Motor North America.

Despite the advantages of fuel cell trucks, one of the biggest hurdles to their adoption is the lack of a fueling infrastructure. However, fleet operators can set up their own system at truck depots, making it more convenient to refuel their trucks.

In conclusion, California’s new regulation banning the sale of diesel-powered trucks is a major step towards a cleaner and greener future. Fuel cell trucks that generate electricity through hydrogen fuel cells are a cleaner alternative to diesel-powered trucks, and their ability to fill up in as little as 15 minutes makes them more convenient for long-haul trucking operations. With Toyota’s approval to sell a fuel cell kit and other manufacturers developing fuel cell-powered trucks, we may soon see more of these trucks on the road, helping to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment.