EU unveils proposal to clean up transport, boost electric vehicles

Electric cars line up in Oslo for the final stage of 2011's 'Zero Rally'. Will Europe's streets look like this in 2030? [Zero Emission/ Flickr]

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (8 November) a legislative package aimed at reducing CO2 emissions in road transport and encouraging the uptake of electric cars, in an attempt to help Europe’s car industry remain competitive in the face of growing pressure from the US and China.

Transport, environment and consumer groups reacted immediately, almost in unison, calling the package  “an ineffective regulation” that is “trundling along” and “not going far enough”. But the Commission said it was a “balanced package that allows everyone to contribute… based on sound analysis and broad stakeholder involvement”.

The rationale, in the words of Commission Vice-President  Maroš Šefčovič, was the need to fight climate change, as transport generates a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution was responsible for 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.

The long-term competitiveness of Europe’s car industry also came into play and should be improved by stimulating the manufacturing and purchase of clean vehicles, the spread of charging infrastructure across Europe and the work on developing advanced car batteries.

Under the proposal, the average emissions for new cars in 2030 will have to be 30% lower than the 2021 target of 95 g of CO2 per km. Transport and Environment NGO had called for a reduction of 40%, while Green MEP Bas Eickhout said the Greens wanted to see a 60% decrease from the 2021 level.

“We believe this is the right balance, ambitious, enforceable and cost-effective,” Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told reporters while presenting the package.

Cañete said Europe has already fallen behind while China and the US are pressing on with clean vehicles.

“Europe is currently not on the right track. Electric cars account for less than 1% of new sales,” he said, adding there were only 6 types of EVs available to consumers in Europe, compared to 600 in Asia.

He also said the EU needs to act to restore consumer trust, shaken by the 2015 Dieselgate scandal. “Trust and reliability are in serious jeopardy. Industry must regain the trust. Investing in clean vehicles is the right way to go”.

Critics had also wanted to see a mandatory quota of zero-emissions vehicles imposed, as the best way to make them more widely available.

Instead, the Commission chose to leave it out and incentivise the production of clean vehicles and encourage their use by public transport authorities and citizens. Some critics have said the executive might have caved in 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 Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he is against any toughening of European car emissions targets by 2025.

Cañete took a number of questions from reporters on the ambition of the package and  stressed that the executive has already come up with infrastructure proposals in its revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

When the Council of Ministers agreed on its so-called general approach earlier this year, Cañete voiced his disappointment with the member states’ “lack of ambition”, particularly on the electric car charging aspect of the directive.

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said the new proposal focused much more on infrastructure.

“Charging electric cars on EU motorways must be as easy as filling up at petrol stations so we are making this a reality. There is a clear action plan to speed up the deployment of charging points,” she said.

The EPBD is currently being debated in trilateral talks between the three main institutions and Cañete called on the Council and Parliament to show “coherence” with the Commission’s e-mobility plans.

Commission laments member states' lack of ambition on energy saving laws

The EU’s 28 energy ministers on Monday (26 June) agreed on a general approach to the revisions of two key energy efficiency directives. But the European Commission lamented a “significant reduction” in ambition compared with its original proposals.

Transport and Environment's clean vehicles director Greg Archer said: The Commission has gifted the car industry an ineffective regulation after they came calling. Removing the penalty for failing to meet zero-emission vehicle targets is an own goal. It amounts to handing the global leadership on electric cars to China, which will be delighted to export their models to Europe, jeopardising jobs in Europe’s auto industry.”

EURELECTRIC Secretary-General Kristian Ruby said: “EURELECTRIC is concerned that the Mobility Package proposals published today do not go far enough to tackle the rising emissions from road transport in Europe. Whereas we welcome the introduction of an incentive scheme for low and zero emission vehicles, the level of ambition is too weak to trigger the necessary paradigm shift to electric mobility across Europe.

The proposal to monitor the gap between test cycle and real driving emissions is the good piece of news today. It will contribute to environmental integrity and allow the Commission to review the targets in case the gap widens. This is an important step to close loopholes.”

BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said: “The proposal shows that the European Commission is only trundling along in its attempts to make the EU’s cars cleaner. Do they opt for a robust, long-term strategy to bring technologies to market that will cut emissions and the cost of driving? Or do they hold back, so as not to upset the vested short-term interests of the European automotive industry? It appears that, once again, it is the latter."

International Council on Clean Transportation's (ICCT) EU Managing Director, Peter Mock, said: "From a technical standpoint, more progress is definitely possible. Our analyses indicate that a more ambitious CO2 target value would foster the uptake of electrified vehicles and as a result would actually reduce overall compliance cost for vehicle manufacturers, compared to a scenario with a higher market share of combustion engine vehicles."

French MEP Françoise Grossetête (EPP) said: "The solution for the future of the car industry is not just electric. What matters is the reduction of emissions, notably CO2 and NOx, to ensure a better quality of life to our fellow citizens.

"The automotive industry must strengthen its efforts in this direction by offering a variety of innovative technological solutions. Legislation on real-life emission tests carried out in the actual driving situation will help to discern the good from the bad technological performances."
ACEA, European car manufacturers association, said in a statement:
"The 30% reduction level proposed by the Commission is also overly challenging, going beyond the ambition level set out in the Climate and Energy Framework and in its own 2016 impact assessment, which specifies what is needed to deliver on COP21. In line with this, the European auto industry considers a 20% reduction by 2030 for cars to be achievable at a high, but acceptable, cost."
John Cooper, Director General of FuelsEurope, commented: “The Commission should be commended for the measured proposal but it is disappointing to see that the Commission did in reality move away from the principle of technology neutrality to push for EVs.”

John Cooper stressed that “there is little doubt about the Commission’s long-term trajectory since the Mobility Package Executive Summary explicitly asserts that the proposed framework aims to support a gradual transition from vehicles powered by conventional engines to electric vehicles.”

FuelsEurope believes that many other technologies including the internal combustion engine can deliver the required efficiency gains and it is worth remembering that an advanced efficient ICE based vehicle combined with a liquid fuel containing advanced lower-carbon components can be competitive in every way with fully electrified battery vehicles, because the combination of the individual improvements in fuels and vehicles have a multiplied effect in real life.

Greens/EFA Environment and Public Health spokesperson, MEP Bas Eickhout said: "We need to see much greater ambition if we are to protect our environment and secure the long-term future of Europe’s car industry. An ambitious deal now would push the European car industry into the 21st century and bring us already to the halfway mark of the transport sector's share of the Paris climate agreement targets. The weak measures proposed today will only leave EU member states facing a steeper challenge down the line and blow a big chance to deliver major social benefits and cost-efficiencies.

"The Commission's CO2 reduction targets are simply not credible. Just to meet our own climate legislation, they need to be at very least doubled. To show so little ambition on climate at the very time that negotiations are underway at COP23 in Bonn seriously undermines the EU's credibility.

"The proposals on zero-emission vehicles are very weak and risk becoming a loophole to undermine CO2 targets. The Commission will need to do much better if it wants to drive innovation and deliver the urgently needed shift to electric vehicles.

"Many in the German car lobby will be happy today. But they have to understand that their inaction – and the political weakness that continues to entertain it – will only cause greater harm in the long run."

Greenpeace EU climate policy director Ansgar Kiene said: “These measures are fundamentally held back by the 20th-century obsession with the passenger car and the combustion engine. Cities and governments across Europe are way ahead of the game, exposing the car lobby’s influence on the Commission. Only with fewer cars on the roads, a firm commitment to renewable energy, and better access to clean, smart and shared modes of transport can the EU meet its climate change targets and improve the air we breathe.”

Patrik Ragnarsson, Senior Manager Automotive & Transport Group, European Aluminium commented: “The European aluminium industry regrets that the Commission’s proposed regulation for post-2020 CO2 emission standards for cars and vans still bases the CO2 targets on the mass of the vehicles. By not changing the methodology to the more technology-neutral footprint-based approach, the Commission missed the opportunity to fully rewards investments made in lightening vehicles. Several studies have shown that a footprint-based approach is much more cost-effective. Under the proposed regulation, heavier cars are still allowed to emit more CO2 emissions than lighter cars.”

Roberto Vavassori, president of CLEPA (the European association of automotive suppliers):

“Europe should be courageous and opt for the ‘European way'. Europe’s globally acknowledged strength lies in efficiently combining the most advanced internal combustion engine technologies with synthetic and regenerative fuels, electric motorisation, energy recuperation and a lean battery pack that minimises the use of present-state battery technology, avoiding downsides in terms of performance, resources and production”, he explained. “The question isn’t electric or combustion; modern vehicles have a power unit boasting a mix of solutions for smart, green and flexible mobility.”

“CLEPA asks the legislator to maintain an open mind for all technology options and provide a policy framework that positively accelerates innovation in Europe”, added Sigrid de Vries, CLEPA Secretary-General.

S&D vice-president for sustainability, MEP Kathleen Van Brempt:

“The 15% reduction target by 2025 and 30% by 2030 is absolutely unacceptable. As far back as 2013, the European Parliament recommended an ‘indicative range’ of 68-78 g/km as soon as 2025, which is already a 30% reduction. In the Commission’s proposal, this 30% reduction will only be met five years later.
“If we are to remain on a realistic path to decarbonising our economy by 2050, a minimum 40% reduction target should be required by 2030, with an intermediate mandatory target for 2025. Certainly in the view of rising transport volumes."
“We should have learned our lessons from the Dieselgate scandal by setting out a clear path with incentives to invest, transform and clean up existing and future car fleets instead of giving in to lower standards."



The Brief, powered by Eni – Trickle-down mobility

Tomorrow, the European Commission reveals its plan to cut transport emissions and boost electric vehicle use. For its ambition to pay off, the EU will have to bank on the business argument for e-mobility.

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