EU trucks’ fuel efficiency no better than a decade ago, study claims

The EU has introduced a limit of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) by 2021 for cars and vans. [Duncan McNeil/Flickr]

Trucks in the European Union are no more fuel efficient than they were more than a decade ago, according to a report released on Thursday (3 December), as calls increase for emissions from heavy duty vehicles to be regulated in the same way as cars.

The study by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that the fuel efficiency of heavy duty vehicles, which are responsible for one third of CO2 emissions in the EU but only a small fraction of vehicles on the road, had remained unchanged since the early 2000s.

The report comes as EU antitrust regulators are investigating some of Europe’s biggest truckmakers for price fixing and coordinating the introduction of new emissions technologies, according to a copy of the statement of objections seen by Reuters.

>>Read: Five EU countries call for limits on truck CO2 emissions

The truck manufacturers accused of operating a cartel ? Daimler, Volvo, Iveco, Volkswagen-controlled Scania, MAN and DAF ? could face fines of up to 10% of their annual revenue if found guilty.

The study by the ICCT, the same group that uncovered German carmaker Volkswagen’s manipulation of diesel nitrogen oxide emission tests, found that the share of CO2 emissions from trucks was growing in the EU.

In contrast, the United States in June proposed tighter standards on truck emissions which the researches estimated could lead to a 33% reduction of fuel consumption rates from 2010 levels.

In addition sales trends showed that more heavier and larger vehicles were being sold in the EU, similar to those on the US market.

>>Read: When it comes to cutting Europe’s CO2, trucks drive under the radar

The study goes on to recommend setting fuel efficiency standards or CO2 limits for heavy duty vehicles to bring down emissions. The EU has introduced a limit of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) by 2021 for cars and vans but has so far not done the same for trucks, although several countries have called for it.

“Truckmakers claim we can trust them to deliver more efficient trucks,” said William Todts, freight manager at campaign group Transport & Environment.

“The reality is that for the last decade they’ve made virtually no progress in fuel efficiency while for much of that time they are alleged to have operated a cartel. It’s high time we shift gears and introduce US-style fuel economy standards,” he said.

The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), reacted by underlining the achievements of truck makers in reducing CO2 emissions over the past decades.

"Fuel consumption per ton-kilometre of today’s trucks has been reduced by at least 60% since 1965. Per tonne transported, this has resulted in fuel consumption of as little as nearly one litre of diesel per 100 tonne-km, delivering a significant reduction of CO2 emissions. At the same time, pollutant emissions from Euro VI heavy-duty vehicles have been slashed to near-zero levels."

"In addition, a study by the research institute Transport and Mobility Leuven (TML) has shown that the industry is on track to meet its commitment to reduce fuel consumption from new vehicles by 20% by 2020, compared to 2005. However more advanced technology of new vehicles is only one way to continue reducing CO2 emissions: the industry is advocating a far more ambitious vision that looks at the ‘big picture’ by promoting an integrated approach. There are many more factors than just the vehicle alone that determine CO2 emissions – such as permitted vehicle length and weight, trailer designs, alternative fuels, driver behaviour, transport operations, infrastructure and more. The TML study quantifies the reduction potential of this integrated approach, and estimates the potential gains to be more than double the CO2 reduction rate from a ‘vehicle only’ approach, amounting up to 3.5% per year.”

Trucks, buses and coaches produce about a quarter of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU and some 5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions – a greater share than international aviation or shipping, according to the European Commission.

Despite some improvements in fuel efficiency, CO2 emissions from Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) rose by some 36% between 1990 and 2010, mainly due to increasing road freight traffic.

In May 2014, the Commission set out a strategy to curb CO2 emissions from HDVs over the coming years. It is the EU’s first initiative to tackle such emissions from trucks, buses and coaches.

The executive said it intends to propose legislation in 2015 which would require CO2 emissions from new HDVs to be certified, reported and monitored.

  • 2015: Commission to propose legislation on monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions from trucks.

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