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Minnesota environmental regulators tout electrification benefits at visit to truck maker

Officials say phasing out aging fleet vehicles could cut emissions and create jobs in the process.

Minnesota Pollution Control Commissioner Laura Bishop, right, speaks at the Zeus Electric Chassis headquarters in White Bear Lake, Minn., on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Matthew Guerry / Forum News Service)
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WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — State environmental officials on Wednesday, June 16, highlighted the work of a Twin Cities-area electric truck maker for demonstrating the technology's potential to create jobs and cut carbon emissions.

The officials' visit to the Zeus Electric Chassis warehouse came amid another round of funding geared toward phasing out older fleet vehicles. Using money from Minnesota's share of a legal settlement with Volkswagen, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is putting up around $5 million in grants for local governments, nonprofits and businesses.

Roughly $3.5 million has been earmarked for the replacement of heavy-duty vehicles with electric-powered ones like Zeus makes. According to the Twin Cities Business Journal , the White Bear Lake-based company landed a $1.2 million deal to sell five of its trucks to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

"In Minnesota alone, there's 1,300 jobs right now that are in electrification manufacturing or assembly, and that's the type of job growth that we want to continue to see," MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said Wednesday. "As our economy recovers after COVID, this is a key place where we can continue to invest."

By focusing on the replacement of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, state pollution officials are targeting a major contributor to climate change. That class of vehicle accounted for approximately 24% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


With energy producers having already reduced their emissions in Minnesota, regulators have turned their attention toward the transportation sector, which, nationally, was responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

Inside the Zeus warehouse Wednesday, company officials described the futuristic-looking truck chassis as highly customizable, meaning one could mount a bucket lift on it as easily as one could a flatbed. According to Founder and Chief Technology Officer Robert Grinstead, the trucks are capable of traveling 150 miles when fully charged.

"And these things last 10 to 15 years," he said.

Though electric vehicles generally cost more up front than traditional vehicles, they are also said to help their owners save on fuel and maintenance expenses in the long run. Subsidies for them, whether in the form of direct support or tax incentives, have in many places been used to spur on their adoption.

For the latest round of funding, the MPCA is offering grant applicants up to $100,000 per vehicle. Around $1.7 million is also available for the replacement of diesel vehicles with newer and more fuel-efficient, though non-electric, alternatives.

Separately, Minnesota is seeking to phase out older light- and medium-duty vehicles with less environmentally harmful counterparts by adopting stricter emission standards akin to California's.

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