Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. In order to achieve the government’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2045 and avoid the worst effects of climate change, the decarbonization of this sector is essential. However, such a transition is unlikely to happen quickly without major political intervention.

A team of transportation and policy experts from the University of California today released a report to the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) setting out policy options to significantly reduce transport-related fossil fuel demand and emissions. When these policy options are combined, they could lead to a carbon-free transport system by 2045 while improving equity, health and the economy. A second study, led by UC Santa Barbara, was published concurrently. Strategies for the reduction of the state oil production parallel to the reduction of the demand are defined.

The state funded the two studies through the 2019 Budget Act. The studies are designed to identify ways to reduce transport-related fossil fuel demand and emissions, while at the same time managing a strategic, responsible decline in the transport-related supply of fossil fuels.

The University of California’s demand study was conducted by researchers from the UC Institute of Transportation Studies, a network with offices at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, and UCLA. The UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and Business coordinated policy management for the report, and the UC Davis Center for Regional Change led the research on equity and environmental justice for the study.

Creating a carbon-free transportation future will be challenging but not impossible, the report said. This requires urgent action and a long-term perspective. Importantly, a large upfront investment in clean transportation through incentives and new charging and hydrogen infrastructure will soon pay off in net economic savings for the California economy. The net savings over a decade will grow to tens of billions of dollars a year by 2045.

The report recommends flexible policy approaches that can be adjusted over time as technologies evolve and knowledge is gained.

“This report is the first to fully assess a path to climate-neutral transportation for California by 2045,” said Dan Sperling, director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. “We find that such paths are possible, but rely on major changes to existing guidelines and the introduction of some new guidelines. The study also prioritizes the equity, health and workforce impact of the transition to carbon-free transport. “

Researchers from UC Davis directed the scenarios, equity, light trucks, and fuels portions of the report. The scenarios chapter estimates that a move to low-carbon transportation will save billions of dollars by 2045.

The equity aspects of the study identified policy options to ensure that the benefits of low-carbon options reach the communities most in need first. In the light commercial vehicle and fuel sections, specific technological and policy pathways have been identified that will contribute to a carbon-free transport system while supporting improved mobility.

Important political strategies

Zero Emission Vehicles: Many of the report’s policy options focus on a rapid transition to Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), which aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve local air pollution as the state’s power grid is also decarbonised.

Light and heavy commercial vehicles are responsible for 70 percent and 20 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. The report suggests a combination of expanded mandates, incentives and investments in public fees and hydrogen infrastructure to accelerate ZEV rollout. Key policy priorities for medium and heavy duty vehicles include increasing the availability of charging stations for long-haul freight, reforming electricity prices to make charging at depots more affordable, and prioritizing lanes and restricting access for zero-emission trucks.

Vehicle miles traveled: Even with widespread use of ZEV, a reduction in the total vehicle miles traveled is necessary in order to reduce traffic congestion and emissions from vehicle manufacturing and to improve the benefits for quality of life and land use related to traffic. The report suggests guidelines that encourage active, shared, and micromobile transportation. Teleworking; and land use changes that reduce people’s reliance on automobiles and improve connectivity in the community.

Fuels: Around 86 percent of transport fuel is petroleum. The move to low carbon clean energy requires significant investments in electricity and hydrogen. Low-carbon liquid fuels compatible with internal combustion engines are needed to reduce emissions as the transition to ZEVs proceeds, as well as in some specialized applications such as aerospace. California can support the necessary investment in clean fuels with mandatory blending levels and new incentives and credits to encourage investment in very low carbon liquid fuels for aerospace, marine and end-of-life vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Become zero: In each scenario examined, some residual emissions remain. According to the report, at least 4 to 5 million tons of negative emissions capacity (equivalent to 2.5 percent of current transport emissions) are required by 2045 to counteract these residual emissions. These could come from carbon capture and sequestration projects that pull carbon from the air to store it underground, as well as capture by natural or work areas.


In addition to direct economic benefits from around 2030, policies to decarbonise transport could also lead to health, equity and environmental justice, as well as benefits for workers and workers.

Health: Transportation is a major contributor to local air pollution as well as climate change. Particulate matter damages the lungs and heart, while nitric oxide compounds contribute to ozone pollution and other health effects. The report found that cleaner heavy-duty vehicles would significantly reduce pollution in many of the state’s most vulnerable communities. The health benefits of reducing local pollution will increase with the use of clean transportation technologies and could result in savings of more than $ 25 billion in 2045.

Justice and Environmental Justice: Transportation in California harbors a legacy of inequality and harm to disadvantaged communities. In these communities, there is often a lack of high-quality public transport or suitable transport options. Highways were built without considering shifts and many color communities were divided by highways, continuing historical segregation policies such as redlining. The report identifies options that prioritize equity in transportation investments and policies.

These include:

  • Supporting EV incentives for lower income buyers and underserved communities, including used vehicles.
  • Prioritize the use of electric heavy-duty vehicles in disadvantaged communities and magnetic systems such as B. commercial warehouses in these communities.
  • Support for transit and emission-free services and charging stations in disadvantaged communities. This can help reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve accessibility while avoiding displacement.
  • Avoid locating plants for the production of non-renewable fuels in disadvantaged communities, involve communities that are disproportionately affected by emissions from the transport sector in decisions about the location of new infrastructures and investments in connection with achieving CO2 neutrality and monitor them and continue to carefully control local pollutants.

“We must face the legacy of the lack of public and private investment where Blacks, Indians and Colored People (BIPOC) live and work,” said Bernadette Austin, acting director of the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. “This report highlights ways to strategically invest in sustainable infrastructure while intentionally avoiding disruptive and harmful infrastructure in our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.”

Workforce: The transition to a climate neutral transport system will disrupt jobs in some sectors and create new jobs in other sectors, e.g. B. in the manufacture of clean vehicles and in the infrastructure for electric and hydrogen fuels. The report suggests that California is prioritizing the needs of affected workers. Wherever the expansion of the ZEV industry creates high quality jobs, government policy should focus on creating generally accessible career paths.

Economy: The transition to ZEV is expected to lead to savings for consumers and businesses well before 2045. Within this decade, the cost of owning and operating ZEV is expected to fall below that of a traditional vehicle (both gasoline and diesel powered). This is because the cost of batteries, fuel cells and hydrogen will continue to fall. The cost of electricity will be much less than the cost of petroleum fuel. and the maintenance costs of ZEVs will be lower. These savings can be invested elsewhere by households and companies.