Commission’s new clean transport rules may lack ambition

Commissioners Maroš Šefčovič, Violeta Bulc and Miguel Arias Cañete (from left to right) will unveil the Clean Mobility Package on Wednesday. [European Commission]

The European Commission will unveil a package of legislation regulating environmental aspects of transport on Wednesday (8 November), amid concerns from NGOs and some MEPs that it may lack ambition in setting targets for the car industry.

The main focus of the Clean Mobility package is the further reduction of CO2 emissions in transport, mainly for cars and trucks, as the sector is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.

This in turn should also encourage the roll-out of electric vehicles – an area where the bloc already seems to be lagging behind China and the United States.

Transport & Environment, a sustainable transport group, said there are three main contentious elements to the proposal: the overall level of ambition; whether to include a mandate for sales of zero-emissions vehicles; and the introduction of a real-world test for measuring CO2 emissions.

“If Vice-President [Maroš] Šefčovič and Commissioner [Miguel Arias] Cañete are serious about lowering CO2 emissions from transport, they should propose a 45% cut in new car emissions (2020-30) and a mandatory target for zero-emissions vehicles,” T&E’s  Greg Archer said.

“Anything less and their claims of Europe being a climate leader at this week’s COP are as fake as the carmakers test results,” Archer said.

No quotas for zero-emission vehicles

But EURACTIV.com understands that the proposal will not contain mandatory quotas of zero-emissions vehicles and will instead leave it up to member states to drive sales.

Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP for the Greens/EFA, told reporters it was extremely important “to get it right” in terms of setting significant reduction targets for CO2 emissions.

“But will the Commission get it right? What we hear is they won’t get it right,” he said and went on to explain that the Greens wanted to see a reduction of 60% from the 2020 level of 95 g/km, but the Commission was considering a 35-40% decrease instead.

“The German car industry seems to be the big winner after Wednesday, though not in the long run. If we have learned one lesson from Dieselgate, it’s that if we are too weak in driving innovation, others outside Europe will do it and we will only import”.

He referred to last-minute lobbying by German auto lobby group VDA, whose head spoke to top people in the Commission last week.

New EU car CO2 limits in danger amid German automaker lobbying

While the Dieselgate scandal still roars on, the European Union may be about to water down new CO2 limits for cars at the behest of German automakers.

Germany’s worries about the new EU rules were confirmed on Tuesday (7 November) when Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he is against any toughening of European car emissions targets by 2025.

“It is … very important to me that we do not stifle the innovation power of the automotive industry by overly tight EU legislation,” Gabriel said in letter seen by Reuters.

Gabriel said there should be a review in 2025 of the progress towards 2030 auto emission reduction targets, rather than have binding goals already in 2025.

He added that any forms of quotas for electric vehicles (EVs) as well as a toughening of the EU’s car emissions goals by more than 20% by 2025 would be dangerous.

German minister warns EU against toughening car emissions targets

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he is against any toughening of European car emissions targets by 2025, warning that stricter rules would cost jobs and growth.

Consumer choice: electric vs combustion

BEUC, a Brussels-based European consumer organisation, said the Commission should aim for new CO2 targets of 75g CO2 per/km for new car sales for 2025 and 50g CO2 per km by 2030.

“The EU is on the cusp of deciding what lane the automotive sector takes for the next decade,” BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said.

“Electric vehicles are expected to be cheaper than conventional cars in the 2020s, which is why ambition is needed  to speed up their roll-out. This must take the form of robust EU CO2 emissions standards that will cut emissions and the cost of driving for consumers.”

EV cost is now touted as a more significant factor in the decision to switch from traditional combustion engines than range between charges, as battery technology and charging infrastructure become more advanced and widespread.

British price comparison website Money Supermarket recently put together this infographic that shows how petrol, diesel and electric cars compare over the course of six years.

Mayors request drastic legislation to cut car emissions

The mayors of nine EU capitals have asked the European institutions to adopt tougher mandatory legislation to minimise air pollution by cars, including a new Euro 7 ‘technologically neutral’ standard for vehicles, and that all vehicle sales be ‘zero emissions’ in the coming two decades.

BEUC also called for the development of a real-world test on CO2 emissions, a view shared by Transport & Environment, which warned that CO2 emissions since 2012 have been reduced by just 2% on the road, compared to nearly 11% in fake laboratory tests.

“The average gap between real-world fuel consumption of cars and their official test results is at all-time high in Europe,” T&E said, citing the 2017 edition of From Laboratory to Road report by the ICCT (International Council for Clean Transportation), an independent research institute.

EURACTIV understands that the Commission will indeed plump for real-world tests, the so-called Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), but the full details of the proposal will be revealed at a press conference earmarked for 11am on Wednesday.