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EU CO2 standards for trucks: Industry express serious concerns

The EU-Parliament and the Council reached a provisional deal on new CO2 emission targets for heavy-duty vehicles. Until 2030 emissions from new trucks have to be 30 % lower compared to 2019 emission level. The EU said it is an opportunity for the manufactures to embrace innovation. For the industry, these targets by the EU are too demanding and the baseline for the targets is still unknown.

The EU will be taking steps to reduce CO2 emissions of heavy-duty vehicles. The Councils press release1 explain that the new measures will ensure that by 2025, new trucks will emit on average 15% less CO2 and by 2030, they will be required to emit on average 30% less CO2 compared to 2019 emission levels.

For the European truck industry, the new regulations create financial penalties for manufacturers which don’t comply the targets. With this new legislation the EU will help the member states to reach their emission targets. The Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said:

“The new targets and incentives will help tackle emissions, as well as bring fuel savings to transport operators and cleaner air for all Europeans. For the EU industry, this is an opportunity to embrace innovation towards zero-emission mobility and further strengthen its global leadership in clean vehicles.”

Highly ambitious CO2 reduction targets

The problem with these targets is that their implementation does not depend solely on the commercial vehicle industry. If the EU wishes for more innovation towards zero-emission mobility, the member states must step up their efforts to build the infrastructure needed for charging and refuelling the alternatively-powered trucks.

The concern by the industry about the regulations stems from the massive lack of such infrastructure in Europe today. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) has published data2 shows that currently there is no public charging or refuelling infrastructure suitable for electric or hydrogen trucks.

This also makes some difficulties for the 2 % sales quota3 for zero-emission trucks that the EU institutions have agreed to introduce by 2025 which should encourage manufactures to build more climate-friendly trucks. By the introduction of this quota policy makers here also totally ignores the demand side. On this, Erik Jonnaert, ACEA Secretary General stated:

“We cannot expect transport operators to suddenly start buying electric or other alternatively-powered trucks if there is no business case for them and it is not possible to easily charge the vehicles along all major EU motorways.”
The right balance is needed

Under the pressure to deliver on the promises which are made under the Paris Agreement, the EU ignores that a low-emission transport sector must be in harmony with balanced industrial policies and employment safeguards. The balance is missing deplores also the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the punitive tariffs, are out of all proportion. This brings risks for the plants and workforce and could even threat the existence of commercial vehicle manufactures.

Such realities do not matter for NGO’s like Transport & Environment (T&E), they say6 that European trackmaker’s have done very little to create a market for electric and hydrogen trucks. And for the T&E, this is just a start and they want the standards to be made a lot more ambitious when they are reviewed in 2022.

From the official number7 by the European Environment Agency, the Council says that CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles including lorries, buses and coaches, represent around 6% of total CO2 emissions in the EU and 27% of total road transport CO2 emissions. These motivated the Council to adopted regulations for CO2 emissions.

But still a fact is that that commercial vehicles have been contributing to reduced CO2 emissions in Europe for a long time before such rules existed. For customers efficiency has always been a key argument for purchasing these vehicles which there are solely used for economic business purposes.

Agreements which harm an important European industry?

Trucks move 14 billion tonnes of goods per year and they deliver some 72% of all land-based freight in Europe. The performance of road freight transport, measured in billion tonne-kilometres, was up by as much as 20% between 2000 and 2016. The truck manufacturing industry is part of a 13.3 million people industry sector, in whom 6.1% of the EU employed population are working directly and indirectly.

The EU must look out, that with such agreements, often with an environmental background, it don’t create threats for the European automobile industry. This kind of regulations can be responsive in the future that European manufactures are becoming lacks of competitivity on the global market.
Promoting meaningful investment in infrastructure and less unrealistic environmental demands would be better for more innovation. The result would be clean, climate-friendly vehicles
The provisional agreement needs to be confirmed through a vote by the European Parliament, the formal adoption by the Council can take place by the end of May.

Read more in this debate: Dietmar Bartsch, Dietmar Bartsch, Adam Donen.

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