The European Commission proposed ambitious new CO2 emission targets for new heavy duty vehicles from 2030 onwards. These proposals have already brought a chain of reactions within the transport and clean mobility sector, some more positive and others who see these measures as difficult or impractical for the sector.
The Commission proposed to phase in stricter CO2 emission standards for almost all new heavy-duty vehicles with certified CO2 emissions, compared to 2019 levels, and specifically: 45% emission reduction from 2030; 65% emission reduction from 2035; 90% emission reduction from 2040. To stimulate a faster deployment of zero emission buses in cities, the Commission also proposes that all new city buses should be zero emission from 2030.
Here are some of the reactions to these new European steps:
For the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT), the proposal sets attainable CO2 emission reduction targets to break the current impasse and accelerate the zero-emission transition. The proposed targets are far-reaching and would yield a notable reduction in emissions from trucks and buses through 2050.
“Europe is seizing the opportunity to spearhead the transition to zero-emission trucking. Although the proposed CO2 standards will not fully decarbonize the sector by 2050, they do establish an ambitious long-term vision, broaden the scope of regulated vehicles, and rapidly move towards 100% electric buses. These are promising policy signals with the potential to catalyze the decisive transformation that the sector needs”, said Felipe Rodríguez, ICCT’s Heavy Duty Vehicles Program Lead.
“This proposal is an essential step in ensuring manufacturers’ ambitions do not run out of steam and reach their voluntary zero-emission goals in a timely manner. We expect that the proposed targets will drive high levels of electrification in most vehicle segments. As the most comprehensive CO2 standards for trucks worldwide, the proposal carries significant industrial policy implications, enabling Europe to gain a competitive edge in the race to zero emissions trucks and buses”, added Rodríguez.
For its part, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) calls for increased CO2 targets to be matched with vastly improved infrastructure roll-out, as well as a strengthened incentive and carbon pricing framework.
“We are ready to deliver”, stated Martin Lundstedt, ACEA’s Commercial Vehicle Board Chairman and CEO of Volvo Group. “However, reaching -45% already by 2030 is highly ambitious. It would require equally ambitious action by policymakers to ensure that the other players in the transport and logistics value chain deliver at the same time”, said.
“Given that charging stations that are suited to the specific needs of trucks are almost completely missing today, the challenge ahead is enormous”, said ACEA’s Director General, Sigrid de Vries. “We are concerned that only vehicle manufacturers will face high penalties if other stakeholders do not fulfil their role in making this possible – especially given the low level of ambition that members states are showing on the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR)”, added.
In this B2B market, transport operators must also be enabled to run zero-emission vehicles more profitably than conventional diesel trucks. “If this does not happen rapidly, operators won’t buy our vehicles, and as a result we will simply not be able to meet the CO2 targets,” stated Lundstedt. “At the end of the day, vehicle technology — be it battery-electric, fuel-cell electric or hydrogen-powered trucks — is only one part of the solution. To succeed with this transition of our industry, we urgently need coherent, joined-up policies”.
For buses, ACEA was of the opinion that setting a 100% target for urban buses will put enormous pressure on all public transport operators to adjust their investment plans accordingly (and to ensure the necessary charging/refuelling infrastructure at depots). It also risks disruptive ‘pre-buy’ effects where public transport operators might rush to get the last conventionally-powered buses.
ACEA is “alarmed by the lack of coordination between today’s CO2 proposals and the Euro 7 proposal for heavy-duty vehicles published just a few months ago, which seeks to address tailpipe emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines”. “Euro 7 should not divert attention away from the transition to climate neutrality, and should be consistent with the investment needed for CO2 standards”, ACEA cautions.
“While other world regions are incentivising their way towards zero-emission mobility, Europe is trying to regulate its way – and even that is not being done in a harmonised way”, stated Mr Lundstedt.
However, there are other associations that do not see these new steps in a very positive light. Green group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the proposed 90% CO2 reduction target for truckmakers virtually ensures that diesel freight trucks would still be on the road 10 years later, in 2050. It urged MEPs and governments to instead set a 2035 zero-emissions deadline. For this, “polluting trucks could continue to be sold in Europe after 2040, according to the new EU plan” which campaigners say “would make the bloc’s net-zero climate goal imposible”.
Fedor Unterlohner, freight manager at T&E, said: “The failure to set a deadline for polluting trucks is a craven concession to truck manufacturers. By 2035 virtually all new electric lorries will be cheaper to run than diesels while driving as far and carrying as much. But without a clear EU deadline, diesel trucks will pollute our lungs and the planet for years longer than necessary”.
T&E welcomed the extension of climate targets to this sector but said that an earlier deadline of 2027 was needed to ensure vehicle-makers keep up with the demand from cities for clean buses. In line with trucks, new coaches will need to reduce emissions by 90% in 2040.
“Ambitious EU climate rules are driving the electrification of cars and are badly needed for trucks. Without more stringent targets from 2030, there will be a glut of polluting diesel lorries still on our roads for decades to come. Europe also risks denying investment certainty to battery production and metals processing, driving companies into the arms of the Inflation Reduction Act”, said Unterlohner.
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