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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.

Alternative Fuels -- State Regulations for California

This page contains selected data from the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) at the U. S. Department of Energy. Additional details and the latest updates may be found at the AFDC summary page for California.

Vehicle Acquisition

City vehicles (San Francisco)

All vehicles purchased or leased by San Francisco City departments must meet or exceed specified emissions standards. For more information, see the May 2006 Executive Directive on Biodiesel for Municipal Fleets

Data Collection Requirement

The California Department of General Services (DGS) is responsible for maintaining specifications and standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks that are purchased or leased for state office, agency, and department use. These specifications include minimum vehicle emissions standards and encourage the purchase or lease of fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). On an annual basis, DGS must compile information including, but not limited to, the number of AFVs and hybrid electric vehicles acquired, the locations of the alternative fuel pumps available for those vehicles, and the total amount of alternative fuels used.(Reference Executive Order S-14-09, 2009 (PDF), and California Public Resources Code 25722.5, 25722.6, and 25722.8)

Government vehicles (air quality districts)

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) requires government fleets and private contractors under contract with public entities to purchase lower emission and alternative fuel vehicles. The rule applies to transit bus, school bus, refuse hauler, and other vehicle fleets of at least 15 vehicles that operate in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties. (Reference SCAQMD Rules 1186.1 and 1191-1196)

Fuel Use

City vehicles (San Francisco)

The City of San Francisco (City) requires that diesel vehicles in the City's municipal fleet operate using biodiesel blends of at least 20% (B20). City departments must also pursue actions to use higher biodiesel blends, up to and including neat biodiesel (B100). Additionally, bi-fuel vehicles owned by the City must not use petroleum-based fuels while operating within the City and County of San Francisco. All vehicles purchased or leased by City departments must meet or exceed specified emissions standards. For more information, see the May 2006 Executive Directive on Biodiesel for Municipal Fleets (Microsoft Word) and the City and County of San Francisco Environmental Code (Sections 406 and 407).

Fuel Use Standard (target)

California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels that are sold, supplied, or offered for sale in the state by a minimum of 10% by 2020. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) regulations require transportation fuel producers and importers to meet specified average carbon intensity requirements for fuel in each calendar year beginning January 1, 2011. In the regulations, carbon intensity reductions are based on reformulated gasoline mixed with 10% corn-derived ethanol and low-sulfur diesel fuel. Liquefied petroleum gas (propane) is exempt from LCFS requirements, as are non-biomass-based alternative fuels that are supplied in California for use in transportation at an aggregated volume of less than 3.6 million gasoline gallon equivalents per year. Other exemptions apply for transportation fuel used in specific applications. The LCFS Program allows producers and importers to generate, acquire, transfer, bank, borrow, and trade credits. Fuel producers and importers regulated under the LCFS must meet quarterly and annual reporting requirements.In December 2011, the U.S. District Court issued an injunction preventing ARB from implementing the LCFS because it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by interfering with and discriminating against interstate commerce. In January 2012, ARB filed a notice of appeal of the U.S. District Court ruling, but is withholding enforcement of the LCFS requirements until a final decision is made.(Reference California Code of Regulations Title 17, Section 95480-95490; Executive Order S-01-07, 2007; and California Health and Safety Code 38500-38599)

State agency vehicles

Vehicles the state owns or leases that are capable of operating on alternative fuel must operate on that fuel unless the alternative fuel is not available. Additionally, the California State and Consumer Services Agency, in consultation with DGS and other appropriate state agencies, must develop, implement, and submit to the California Legislature and governor a plan to increase the state fleet's use of alternative fuels, synthetic lubricants, and fuel-efficient vehicles. This must be done by reducing or displacing the fleet's consumption of petroleum products by 10% by January 1, 2012, and 20% by January 1, 2020, as compared to the 2003 consumption level. DGS must also take steps to transfer vehicles between agencies and departments to ensure that the most fuel-efficient vehicles are used and to eliminate the least fuel-efficient vehicles from the state's motor vehicle fleet. DGS must submit annual progress reports to the California Department of Finance, related legislative committees, and the general public via the DGS website.(Reference Executive Order S-14-09, 2009 (PDF), and California Public Resources Code 25722.5, 25722.6, and 25722.8)


Certification Requirement (retrofits)

Converting a vehicle to operate on an alternative fuel in lieu of the original gasoline or diesel fuel is prohibited unless the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has evaluated and certified the retrofit system. ARB will issue certification to the manufacturer of the system in the form of an Executive Order once the manufacturer demonstrates compliance with the emissions, warranty, and durability requirements. A manufacturer is defined as a person or company who manufactures or assembles an alternative fuel retrofit system for sale in California; this definition does not include individuals wishing to convert vehicles for personal use. Individuals interested in converting their vehicles to operate on an alternative fuel must ensure that the alternative fuel retrofit systems used for their vehicles have been ARB certified. For more information, see the ARB Alternative Fuel Retrofit System website.A hybrid electric vehicle that is Model Year 2000 or newer and is a passenger car, light-duty truck, or medium-duty vehicle may be converted to incorporate off-vehicle charging capability if the manufacturer demonstrates compliance with emissions, warranty, and durability requirements. ARB issues certification to the manufacturer and the vehicle must meet California emissions standards for the model year of the original vehicle.(Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 2030-2032, and California Vehicle Code 27156)

Emissions Limit (alternative requirements)

The California LEV II exhaust emissions standards apply to Model Year 2004 and subsequent model year passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles meeting specified exhaust standards. The LEV II standards represent the maximum exhaust emissions for LEVs, Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, and Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, including flexible fuel, bi-fuel, and dual-fuel vehicles when operating on an alternative fuel. New MY 2009 and subsequent model year passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles must meet specified fleet average greenhouse gas exhaust emissions requirements. Each manufacturer must comply with these fleet average GHG requirements, which are based on California Air Resources Board calculations. Bi-fuel, flexible fuel, dual-fuel, and grid-connected hybrid electric vehicles may be eligible for an alternative compliance method. Manufacturers may earn credits for fleet average GHG values lower than the fleet average GHG requirement applicable to MY 2012.

Equipment Requirements (emissions reduction)

Through its Mobile Sources Program, the California Air Resources Board has developed programs and policies to reduce emissions from on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicles through the installation of verified diesel emission control strategies (VDECS) and vehicle replacements.An on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle rule requires the retrofit and replacement of nearly all privately owned vehicles operated in California with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 14,000 pounds. School buses owned by private and public entities and federal government owned vehicles are also included in the scope of the rule. The requirements phase in the installation of VDECS on certain heavier in-use vehicles beginning January 1, 2012, and require the replacement of older vehicles starting January 1, 2015. By January 1, 2023, nearly all vehicles must have engines certified to the 2010 engine standard or equivalent. A drayage/port truck rule regulates heavy-duty diesel-fueled vehicles that transport cargo to and from California's ports and intermodal rail facilities. The rule requires that certain drayage trucks be equipped with VDECS and that all applicable vehicles have engines certified to the 2007 emissions standards by January 1, 2014. A public transit agency fleet rule regulates public transit fleets and sets emissions reduction standards for new transit vehicles. A solid waste collection vehicle rule regulates solid waste collection vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,000 pounds or more that operate on diesel fuel, have 1960 through 2006 engine models, and collect waste for a fee. The fleet rule for public agencies and utilities requires fleets to install VDECS on vehicles or purchase vehicles that run on alternative fuels or use advanced technologies to achieve emissions requirements by specified implementation dates.A summary of Requirements for Diesel Truck and Equipment Owners can be found in the Multi-Rule Summary Fact Sheet (PDF). (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, 2021-2027)

Equipment Requirements (tires, fairings)

Box-type trailers that are at least 53 feet long and the heavy-duty tractors that pull these trailers must be equipped with fuel-efficient tires and aerodynamic trailer devices that improve fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Tractors and trailers subject to the regulation must either use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay certified tractors and trailers or retrofit existing equipment with SmartWay verified technologies. Vehicle owners must comply with these regulations when operating on California highways regardless of where the vehicles are registered. Exemptions apply for some local- and short-haul tractors and trailers. The compliance schedule depends on the type and age of the tractor or trailer. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 17, Section 95300-95311)

Equipment Requirements (idle reduction)

A driver of a diesel-fueled vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds may not idle the vehicle's primary engine for more than five minutes at any location, and is not allowed to operate a diesel-fueled auxiliary power system (APS) on the vehicle for more than five minutes when located within 100 feet of a restricted area. Exceptions apply in certain situations and for certain vehicles. Any internal combustion APS used in California must comply with applicable state off-road and/or federal non-road emissions standards and test procedures for its fuel type and power category to ensure that emissions do not exceed the emissions of a truck engine operating at idle.Model Year 2008 and newer heavy-duty diesel engines must be equipped with non-programmable engine shutdown systems that automatically shut down the engine after five minutes of idling or optionally meet a stringent nitrogen oxide idling emissions standard. Operators of trucks equipped with sleeper berths are required to manually shut down the engine when idling more than five minutes at any location within California and are subject to fines for violation. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will not register, renew, or transfer registration for any vehicle operator who has received a violation until the violation is cleared.(Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 2485)

Funding (electric vehicles)

Through the Hybrid Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP), the California Air Resources Board provides vouchers to eligible fleets to reduce the incremental cost of qualified medium- and heavy-duty hybrid electric vehicles at the time of purchase. Vouchers are available on a first-come, first-served basis and range from $10,000 to $40,000. Only fleets that operate vehicles in California are eligible. Refer to the HVIP website for a list of qualified vehicles and other requirements.

Funding (emissions reduction)

The Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program provides funding for projects that reduce emissions from freight movement in the state, including heavy-duty truck replacement, repower, or retrofit; and truck stop electrification infrastructure development. Contact local air districts for more information about funding availability and distribution from the Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program. (Reference California Health and Safety Code 39625-39627.5)

Funding (emissions reduction, San Joaquin Valley)

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) administers two voucher incentive programs to reduce vehicle emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks. The Voucher Incentive Program (VIP) provides funding for fleets with three or less trucks to replace or retrofit heavy-duty diesel trucks. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Voucher Program provides funding for fleets with four or more trucks to replace heavy-duty diesel trucks. Vouchers funded under these programs must achieve emissions reductions beyond those required by law or regulation. Applications for these voucher programs can only be obtained and submitted at an SJVAPCD certified dealership or retrofit installer. Applications will be accepted on a continual basis until funding for the program is exhausted. Applicants must be awarded a voucher from the SJVAPCD prior to ordering and/or purchasing the replacement truck or equipment.

Funding (low emission vehicles)

Rebates are available through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) for the purchase or lease of qualified vehicles. The rebates offer up to $2,500 for light-duty zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles that the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has approved or certified. The rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis to individuals, business owners, and government entities in California that purchase or lease new eligible vehicles on or after March 15, 2010. Manufacturers must apply to ARB to have their vehicles included in CVRP. Refer to the CVRP website for a list of eligible vehicles and other requirements. ARB determines annual funding amounts for CVRP, which is expected to be effective through 2015.

Funding (NOx reduction, Sacramento)

The Sacramento Emergency Clean Air and Transportation Program provides grants to offset the costs of projects that reduce on-road emissions of nitrogen oxide within the Sacramento federal ozone nonattainment area. Eligible projects include heavy-duty diesel vehicle upgrades and exchanges. Other advanced technology implementation projects may also qualify. (Reference California Health and Safety Code 44299.50-44299.55)

Traffic Exemption (HOV lane)

Compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) meeting specified California and federal emissions standards and affixed with a California Department of Motor Vehicles Clean Air Vehicle sticker may use HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle. White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers, expiring January 1, 2015, are available to an unlimited number of qualifying CNG, hydrogen, and electric vehicles. Beginning January 1, 2012, a new Clean Air Vehicle Sticker will be available for a limited number of qualified PHEVs. This sticker will expire January 1, 2015. For more information about qualified vehicles, see the California Air Resources Board Carpool Lane Use Stickers website. (Reference California Vehicle Code 5205.5 and 21655.9)