Study Finds Massive Problems With California’s Forced Push to Electrify Semi-Trucks, Backfiring Big Time

California’s push to rapidly and forcibly electrify the state’s vehicle fleet is hitting major roadblocks, especially when it comes to the forced transition of heavy-duty semi trucks to battery power.

The state’s overzealous Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation, which aimed to start replacing diesel drayage trucks with electric models starting this year and achieve 100% zero-emissions by 2035, is now mired in a federal lawsuit and facing serious questions about its feasibility and wisdom.

A new study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) lays bare the immense challenges and likely insurmountable costs of California’s electric truck mandate. As energy analyst David Blackmon bluntly put it, “It’s certainly possible to run these heavy trucks on batteries, but the cost is incredible.”

Indeed, the numbers are staggering. ATRI found that electrifying California’s semi truck fleet would require a whopping 57.2% of the state’s total electricity generation.

This is on top of the tens of millions of tons of rare earth minerals like cobalt, graphite, lithium and nickel that would be needed, requiring up to 35 years of mining at current global production rates and consuming nearly two-thirds of the world’s reserves.

The human and environmental toll of this mining is often overlooked by EV advocates. As the ATRI analysis notes, the mining and processing of these minerals is highly energy-intensive, producing massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

Even worse, much of it occurs in developing countries lacking strong labor and environmental protections, enabling the exploitation of workers and local communities.

Then there are the practical limitations of electric semi trucks themselves. The massive weight of the batteries significantly reduces hauling capacity, meaning more trucks would be needed to transport the same amount of cargo, further clogging our highways.

Charging infrastructure is another huge hurdle – installing chargers at the nation’s truck stops would cost $35 billion, with a single rural rest stop requiring enough daily electricity to power over 5,000 homes.

All told, powering America’s long-haul truck fleet with electricity would consume 504 trillion watt hours per year, equivalent to the annual electricity usage of more than 46 million households. “This is not something that’s affordable or sustainable to scale this up on a society-wide basis, or even a statewide basis within the state of California,” Blackmon said.

Perhaps most troubling is the impact on shipping costs and consumer prices.

ATRI found that an electric semi truck costs $425,000, double the price of a comparable diesel truck. And with California’s sky-high electricity rates, the per-mile cost to power an electric semi, including equipment and upgrades, could reach $1.21, twice that of diesel.

Trucking companies, already operating on razor-thin margins, would have little choice but to pass these exorbitant costs onto consumers through higher prices on virtually everything.

While reducing vehicle emissions is a worthy goal, California’s headlong rush to electrify its truck fleet is deeply misguided.

The economic, logistical and environmental realities documented by ATRI make clear that a more measured, realistic approach is needed – one that harnesses the power of free market innovation rather than top-down government coercion.

Until the myriad problems with electric semi trucks are solved, California and other states would be wise to put the brakes on this well-intentioned but deeply flawed push for premature electrification.