While not eliminating its use, there will be less natural gas in California’s energy mix and potentially more hydrogen use if state regulators have their way.

Representatives from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC) and sustainable energy engineering firm Ricardo during a webinar Monday deconstructed California truck regulations that could be a boost for hydrogen fuel cell use.

CARB engineer Leslie Goodbody said the agency is predicting 30,000 zero-emission trucks on state roads by 2027, 100,000 by 2030 and 300,000 by 2035. Growth would be driven through the state’s advanced clean truck (ACT) rules to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The rules are expected to contribute to “significant…emissions reductions in the state,” Goodbody said during the webinar on Monday.

Speakers addressed questions about the state’s extensive natural gas delivery network and whether it should be pushed more aggressively to lower emissions.

“We need zero emissions everywhere feasible and zero combustion using cleaner fuels everywhere else,” said CARB analyst Paul Arneja. “Now we’re trying to kick-start the zero-emission market that really doesn’t exist. Beyond that, though, we see there is a need for combustion and low-NOx technologies as well. It is a matter of getting combustion as clean as possible with lower emission standards and cleaner test cycles.”

CARB has a low-carbon fuel standard, and it is striving to have zero emissions when possible, Arneja said. In fact, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on Wednesday that would require all new in-state car and passenger truck sales be zero emission by 2035. Regulators are convinced the incentives to truck manufacturers and emissions standards for fleet operators would result in health care benefits and transportation jobs, Goodbody said.

CHBC executive director Bill Zobel said hydrogen fuel cells are an important way to create a “smooth, low cost transition” to zero emission vehicles. Hydrogen is a “universal energy carrier” applicable across the energy spectrum in a variety of applications.

Besides transportation, Zobel touted hydrogen for electricity generation, capturing and storing unused volumes of renewables and producing power from renewable hydrogen. Another application is decarbonizing the gas grid.

“This is an excellent opportunity to decarbonize the gas grid for everyone,” Zobel said.

Ricardo’s Rob Del Core, assistant vice president, said the engineering company is helping clients meet CARB’s future requirements for electric vehicles (EV) and fuel cell-powered vehicles. A lot of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for vehicles have EV and fuel cell vehicles. “The question is whether they will all be able to meet the CARB requirements on time.”

Recent studies from Ballard Power Systems, Deloitte and others have shown that battery powered trucks alone may not meet the new requirements.

An OEM with an existing EV truck can meet the 2024 requirements while working on a complementary fuel cell vehicle that could be ready by 2026, Del Core said. In addition, manufacturers without either an EV or fuel cell truck, he said, need to begin to act now to develop technologies.