Analyzing the details of California early ZEV sales success

Rivian commerial van

Last week, California state officials released a report on medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) truck sales in the state in 2023.

State officials championed the data, stating 18,473 medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs sold in California last year put the state “two years ahead of schedule” for ZEV adoption rates included in its Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) program.

“California is once again proving what can be done by turning ambition into action,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said about the sales.

But despite Newsom’s and his government’s excitement, a deeper look into California’s truck sales show that decarbonizing the state’s commercial vehicle fleet is still mostly a medium-duty endeavor.

In the Class 7-8 tractor space, manufacturers reported only 354 ZEV sales into California last year, 1.92% of total commercial ZEV sales and 2.79% of all Class 7-8 sales.

On a per brand perspective, heavy ZEVs sales were spread across six OEMs. Paccar led the market with 76 tractor sales, followed by Daimler Truck North America (73) and BYD (68). Fourth was Tesla with 58 Semis, then Volvo Trucks North America (44) and Hyundai (35). Navistar was fourth in total Class 7-8 tractor sales, behind DTNA, Paccar and Volvo, but didn’t sell a single heavy-duty ZEV into the state in 2023. It did, however, outsell all of major competitors in total ZEV sales (246 units) thanks to more movement in smaller weight classes.

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And that’s where most commercial ZEV sales in California continue to be.

Delivery van maker Rivian accounted for 60.5% of all commercial ZEV sales in the state last year at 11,182 units. Ford was second with 5,221 sales and GM had 822. Despite selling the most Class 7-8 ZEVs, Paccar sold only 140 total ZEV units, DTNA only 83.

The data tracks with what many in the Class 8 space are saying about California’s aggressive push toward ZEVs and decarbonization — heavy trucking is not prepared for the jump that light- and medium-duty customers are making now.

Additionally, with Class 8 OEMs starting to announce CARB-compliant model year 2024 diesel engines will be available for order this fall, truckers in the state not forced to make ZEV purchases will soon be able to order conventional ICE tractors.

Thanks to current and future mandates, California’s ZEV sales totals will only continue to rise. But the inflection point in which heavy-duty sales keep up with their lighter weight counterparts is yet to arrive.

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