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European Commission proposes first-ever truck emission targets

The European Commission has formally proposed the EU’s first ever CO2 emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

“Mobility is crossing a new technological frontier. With this final set of proposals under the Energy Union, we help our industry stay ahead of the curve,” said Vice-President responsible for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič.

“All sectors must contribute to meet our climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. That’s why, for the first time ever, we are proposing EU standards to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions from new heavy-duty vehicles. These standards represent an opportunity for European industry to consolidate its current leadership position on innovative technologies,” Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete said.

In 2025, average CO2 emissions from new trucks will have to be 15% lower than in 2019. For 2030, an indicative reduction target of at least 30% compared to 2019 is proposed, subject to the early review to take place in 2022.

These targets are consistent with the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and will allow transport companies – mostly SMEs – to make significant savings due to lower fuel consumption.

At present, trucks only account for 5% of vehicles on the road, but makeup around a quarter of Europe’s road transport emissions, helping to make the sector the continent’s biggest single source of CO2.

In the first phase, targets are set for the largest lorries, which account for 65% to 70% of all CO2 emissions of the sector. In 2022, targets will also be set for smaller lorries, buses, coaches and trailers.

The commission says the proposed targets are “ambitious, cost-effective and realistic. They have been subject to a thorough impact assessment with close involvement of all stakeholders.”

However, the proposed targets have faced opposition in some quarters, but the commission says the move would deliver significant business benefits, such as savings of EUR 25,000 (USD 29,418) in reduced fuel bills for truck owners over five years.

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said the reduction levels proposed by the Commission were “far too aggressive.”

“It would seem as though the Commission has simply taken the exact CO2 reduction levels it already proposed for cars and vans, and applied them directly to heavy-duty vehicles, without fully recognizing the fundamental differences between these vehicle segments,” said Erik Jonnaert, ACEA Secretary General.

Complementary to the CO2 targets, the legislative proposal includes an incentive system for zero- and low- emission vehicles. This system of super credits will accelerate the introduction into the market of such vehicles, including zero-emission buses, by rewarding those manufacturers investing more in innovative technologies, the commission said.

The proposal also includes provisions to ensure that the targets are effectively applied and enforced. These include mandatory fuel consumption meters to monitor real-world fuel consumption data, conformity checks to ensure that the vehicles produced are as clean as the ones tested and financial penalties in case of non-compliance.

According to the commission, the proposal will lead to significant benefits:

  • It will contribute to the achievement of the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement through the reduction of around 54 million tonnes of CO2 in the period 2020 to 2030, the equivalent of the total annual emissions of Sweden.
  • It will lead to significant fuel savings for those 600,000 small and medium enterprises that are operating across the EU in the freight transport sector. On average, they will save EUR 25,000 (USD 29,418) per vehicle in fuel savings in the first five years of use, against an increase in the initial price of the vehicle of less than 2% of the total cost of the vehicle.
  • It sets the right conditions to invest and innovate in Europe. The regulatory signal will help create the conditions for EU manufacturers to invest in clean vehicles and fuel-efficient technologies and maintain their technological leadership.

To allow for further CO2 reductions, the European Commission is also making it easier to design more aerodynamic trucks and is improving labeling for tyres. In addition, the Commission is putting forward a comprehensive action plan for batteries that will help create a competitive and sustainable battery “ecosystem” in Europe.