PA Launches New Initiative to Electrify Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air

Ramez ZiadehPennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh speaks with the press. (Credit: Commonwealth Media Services)

PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week launched “Electrifying Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air in Our Communities,” a $12.7 million Driving PA Forward initiative to improve air quality by supporting local freight truck electrification.

Projects serving environmental justice areas, high traffic density areas, and Act 47 financially distressed municipalities are a top priority for funding. DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh said of the new program, “Our newest Driving PA Forward initiative aims to support transformational scale electrification of local trucks to improve air quality in communities with some of the highest air pollution levels in Pennsylvania.”

In addition, DEP announced $1.7 million in Driving PA Forward State Clean Diesel Grants to three projects to replace old diesel trucks with zero- or low-emission trucks.

Driving PA Forward is the set of grant and rebate programs the Commonwealth established in 2018 with Pennsylvania’s share of the national settlement with Volkswagen Group of America for cheating on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions tests. To date, more than $70 million in Driving PA Forward funding has been awarded to reduce air pollution by replacing old diesel vehicles with cleaner transportation options and encouraging the adoption of zero-emission vehicles by investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure statewide.

Electrifying Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air in Our Communities

A total of $12.7 million is available to local governments, businesses, and nonprofits to replace at least five old diesel trucks with new all-electric versions. (For smaller fleets, an exception may be made to support three electric trucks.)

Funding will cover local freight trucks, such as garbage, recycling, utility, and delivery trucks, as well as charging infrastructure and installation. Grantees will have two years to scrap their old diesel vehicles and get the new electric truck fleets on the road.

DEP will provide 90% of project funding to local municipalities, or 100% if a municipality is in Act 47 financially distressed status. DEP will provide 75% of project funding to nongovernment applicants.

Projects that are located in or serve communities in Environmental Justice areas and high-traffic density areas are a top priority.

“This new Driving PA Forward initiative will help respond to concerns we’ve heard directly from residents of environmental justice communities about air quality issues, by helping to get some of the most regularly seen and polluting vehicles on neighborhood streets converted to cleaner electric alternatives,” said DEP Environmental Justice Director Justin Dula.

A second priority of Electrifying Truck Fleets for Cleaner Air in Our Communities is meeting the demand for real-world information on transitioning to electric trucks in Pennsylvania.

Grant recipients will provide data on how they purchased their electric trucks and installed charging and, once the vehicles go into use, operational data on fleet performance.

“We know from our work with community and business leaders that their interest in electric trucks is matched by a need for logistical information. How long does an electric truck take to charge? How long does the charge last? What’s the cost to operate? What are the fuel savings?” said Acting Secretary Ziadeh. “With two years of on-the-ground data from grantees, we’ll develop case studies to expand the knowledge base on electric truck operation, performance, and maintenance in Pennsylvania.”

State Clean Diesel Grants Awarded to Three Electric Truck Projects

In addition, DEP today awarded $1.7 million in Driving PA Forward State Clean Diesel Grants to three projects to replace old diesel trucks with zero- or low-emission trucks.

  • SMS Mill Services: $1,176,367. The steel scrap recycler will replace three older diesel aggregate material handlers with three new all-electric material handlers at its facility in Coatesville, Chester County. The project annually will remove an estimated 1.315 tons of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), 954 pounds of carbon monoxide, 238 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), 249 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), and other pollutants from the air in an environmental justice area.
  • Metalico Pittsburgh: $499,202. The scrap metal processor will replace one older diesel material handler and one older diesel material loader with a new all-electric handler and a new clean-diesel loader at its facility on Neville Island, which is an environmental justice area. The project annually will remove an estimated 5.25 tons of NOx, 52 tons of carbon monoxide, 596 pounds of PM2.5, 400 tons of CO2, and other pollutants from the air.
  • Dietz & Watson: $83,250. The delicatessen foods company will replace one older diesel transportation refrigeration unit (TRU) with a new all-electric TRU at its facility on Tacony Street in Philadelphia. TRUs are used to refrigerate perishable goods in on-road trailers and shipping containers. The project annually will remove an estimated 422 pounds of NOx, 146 pounds of carbon monoxide, 34 pounds of PM2.5, 24 tons of CO2, and other pollutants from the air.

Fossil fuel-powered vehicles emit 50.2% of NOx in the air in Pennsylvania, according to EPA data, as well as carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter, and hydrocarbons.

The health effects of this air pollution include premature death in people with heart or lung disease; heart attacks; aggravated asthma; and increased respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or difficulty breathing. As of 2019, approximately one in eight children and one in six adults in Pennsylvania reported an asthma diagnosis at some point in their lifetime. This is higher than the national per capita asthma rate.

Lifetime asthma prevalence is highest among individuals who live in low-income communities, such as environmental justice communities.

Generating 22% of CO2 emissions statewide, fossil fuel-powered vehicles are also the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania, contributing significantly to climate change.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions. By comparison, on average, one 15-year-old diesel garbage truck traveling approximately 14,000 miles annually will have emitted more than 1.1 tons of NOx over its lifetime. There are thousands of old diesel garbage trucks in use in Pennsylvania.

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