Santa Monica, California, where parts of the city will limit carbon-emitting vehicles. Credit: Marc Cooper / Creative Commons

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals. 

Clean vehicles will soon get priority curb access in a congested beach city next to Los Angeles, marking a first-in-the-nation effort to disfavor conventional trucks and cars.

The “Zero Emissions Delivery Zone” covers 1 square mile in Santa Monica and is meant to test the idea of “pricing the curb.” The program will grant access to zero-emission trucks, scooters and cars in select loading areas.

Drivers of gas or diesel vehicles will be given a warning if they park in designated areas and be asked to move. The city could decide to levy fines as the program progresses.

It’s part of a larger effort to transition to cleaner transportation ahead of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In addition to promoting zero-emission vehicles, the region, which is famous for its traffic jams, wants to get more people on trains, buses and bikes (Energywire, July 30, 2020).

“It’s all about helping meet our air pollution and [greenhouse gas] reduction targets that we set for the LA region,” Matt Petersen, chair of the Transportation Electrification Partnership, said in an interview.

The region’s goal is to make 60% of all medium-duty delivery trucks electric by 2028.

“We’re really looking at this as how do we price the curb long term,” Petersen said.

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and Santa Monica partnered in the pilot program, along with technology and delivery companies and community organizations. It takes place in the congested core of Santa Monica, including its downtown; Main Street; and Third Street Promenade, a well-known shopping hub.

Signs will designate curb areas that can be used by electric trucks and cars making deliveries. Those vehicles will have stickers identifying them as eligible.

The project also will feature three mobile food delivery robots that look like pink and orange boxes on four wheels. People within the 1-square-mile zone can order food via an app from restaurants within the designated area.

The zone will include two electric vehicle charging locations with level two chargers.

Commercial areas in the program employ roughly 29,000 workers, and the region is home to about 16,000 residents. It offers the “perfect showcase for cities across the nation on how to adopt a zero emissions delivery zone,” the project said in a statement.

Ikea will use electric delivery trucks within the zone. The company has a goal to put 100 electric trucks on the road in the LA region by year’s end.

“We believe in a zero-emission transportation future,” Steve Moelk from the Ikea Group said in a statement. The pilot program “will offer an opportunity to showcase the demand for zero-emissions delivery, and serve as an example to other retailers and cities looking for a model to replicate.”

Nissan Motor Co. also is participating in the test project.

Rachel Nguyen, director of Nissan Future Lab, said it comes as the automaker “accelerates our journey to carbon neutrality.”

Technology will be used to monitor vehicle activity in the zone and collect data that can be used to analyze how the zone affects delivery efficiency, safety, congestion and emissions. It also will provide real-time parking availability information to participating drivers.

The zone is aimed at providing information on how to reduce long-term exposure to pollution, especially as more last-mile delivery vehicles operate during the pandemic, potentially sparking a longer-term trend, according to program leaders.