How to Think About the Transition to Zero Emission Commercial Vehicles with CALSTART’s Cristiano Facanha

Pictured: A zero emission MUNI bus on its route in San Francisco, California. Photo by: Pi.1415926535

Audio Editing by: Wangyuxuan Xu Blurb by: Amanda Neslund Script by: Marie Hogan

The Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero Program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a world with zero-emission commercial vehicles. The Clean Energy Ministerial, a global forum to advance clean technology and policy, and CALSTART, a clean transportation non-profit, started the campaign. By 2025 the program hopes to achieve commercially competitive zero-emission technology and for this technology to be dominant by 2040. Drive to Zero’s mission utilizes a ‘Beachhead Strategy’ that works to target current commercial electrification markets, then from there drive growth in other regions. This beachhead strategy was developed in conjunction with CALSTART and the California Air and Resource Board (CARB) and has been incorporated into CARB’s three-year investment strategy plan. The program also works to connect with cities, national and regional government agencies, manufacturers, fleets, fuel/energy suppliers, and other organizations that support early markets for zero-emission commercial vehicles.

Drive to Zero goals for the next five years are to identify best practices, eliminate barriers, and share information among stakeholders to achieve success in their initial beachhead markets in China, India, Mexico, South America, Canada, the European Union, and the United States. The program plans to hold an annual global meeting to ensure all parties are working together to achieve their common goal set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. By supporting participants, coordinating activities, and sharing strategies and best practices Drive to Zero is working as an intermediary to support the growth of zero-emission commercial vehicles worldwide.  


CALSTART is a nonprofit that works to develop clean, efficient transportation solutions. The organization, founded in 1992 and headquartered in Pasadena, California, works with governments and businesses across the globe to connect their clients with the clean energy sector. Their mission is to create a high-tech clean-transportation industry that will create jobs and fight climate change. CALSTART works with technology firms, transit operations, vehicle manufacturers, research institutions, and more to customize services, information, and programming to work towards sustainable transportation solutions. 

CALSTART focuses on the demonstration and development of new clean technologies, market acceleration, policy work, assessment, validation, and member support to help grow the zero-emission transportation sector. The organization’s goals are to reduce barriers and promote innovation and progress in clean transportation technologies to accelerate the green transportation sector. The nonprofit specializes in four sectors: cars, trucks, buses, and fuels to promote economic and environmental improvement.

Christiano Facanha:

Christiano Facanha is a transportation and environmental engineer who leads CALSTART’s Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero program. With over fifteen years of experience in the transportation sector and expertise in the design, modeling, and evaluation of transportation emissions strategies and reduction, Facanha’s mission is to reduce climate change by cleaning up air pollution in the transportation sector. Fancha holds a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, an MS in Transportation Management from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Before working as Global Director at CALSTART, Cristiano led clean transportation activities related to sustainable freight, Brazil, and emission inventory tools at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).


Cristiano Facanha: We strive for a hundred percent off new medium and heavy duty vehicles to be zero emissions by 2040.

Ethan: I’m Ethan Elkind, and this is Climate Break. Cristiano Facanha is Global Director of the Drive to Zero Campaign by CALSTART, an environmental nonprofit. He’s spearheading a global campaign to get governments and industry aligned on ambitious goals to phase out fossil-fuel burning trucks by 2050.

Cristiano Facanha: There’s 16 countries to actually agreed on that level of ambition,  and then the supportive subnational government industries.  This is the first time that we have that level of alignment. Two years ago, we would never even imagine that such a thing would be possible. But then today we are really setting that high bar. 

Ethan: Cristiano says that in addition to strong targets, governments need to plan for a market transformation, as California did, starting with buses.

Cristiano Facanha: Zero emission technologies, they first take foothold for transit buses, and that’s because they travel along known routes with relatively lowered distances. And they return to base for charging overnight, so there’s no need for public infrastructure. Once you leverage your investments in buses, because the technology is more ready, then the technology can actually be transferred. The battery technology, the powertrain technology that are used for transit buses can be also used for urban delivery advance in the next wave.

Ethan: Cristiano hopes more global leaders will commit to these goals. To learn more about CALSTART and the Drive to Zero program, visit

How to Think About the Transition to Zero Emission Commercial Vehicles with CALSTART’s Cristiano Facanha