EU’s ‘long overdue’ first foray into truck rules revealed

Truck CO2 emissions will be regulated by the EU for the first time. [Grigvovan / Shutterstock]

CO2 emissions from trucks will be regulated under EU law for the first time as part of a package of new rules that also aims to increase efficiency and improve road safety. It is also this Commission’s last major energy or transport proposal.

All new trucks will have to abide by CO2 emission standards under a new proposal revealed by the European Commission on Thursday (17 May). By 2025, average emissions will have to be 15% lower than in 2019 and by 2030 an indicative 30% target will apply.

An impact assessment into buses and coaches is still pending and as such, they will remain exempt until at least 2022 when a review of the rules will be conducted.

The Commission insists that its maths is Paris Agreement-compliant and will allow transport companies to significantly cut fuel costs, citing a return of €25,000 over a five-year-period on a €1,800 investment.

EU unveils proposal to clean up transport, boost electric vehicles

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.

But the proposed targets are a far cry from what environmental groups, multinational companies and some member states were expecting from the Commission’s first foray into truck emissions regulation.

A group of five EU members, including France and the Netherlands, called for a binding 2025 target of “at least 24%” and a 2030 benchmark of between 35% and 45%. Some companies like IKEA and Unilever also push for more ambition.

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc is aiming for zero emissions from transport by 2050 but NGO Transport & Environment warned that only a 24% 2025 reduction target could put those aspirations within reach.

Conversely, the truck lobby had hoped to persuade the Commission to dilute its targets as much as possible, citing the already advanced stage of next-generation truck design as the reason to err on the side of caution.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) welcomed the two-step approach to the targets but said they “are far too aggressive, and have not been selected with the specific nature of the truck market in mind”.

But Commissioners Miguel Arias Cañete and Maroš Šefčovič both insisted that the 2025 target can be met with existing technologies.

Truck industry braces for their first CO2 limits in Europe

The automotive industry is warning that an EU proposal set to be adopted on Wednesday (16 May) does not give enough lead time before limits will be required. But the US and China have had limits in place for several years.

Sector scope

Transport accounts for nearly a quarter of the EU’s emissions and, unlike other sectors, greenhouse gases continue to rise. Trucks contribute roughly 25% of emissions yet make up only 5% of the vehicles on our roads.

Climate Commissioner Cañete insisted that “all sectors must contribute to meet our climate commitments under the Paris Agreement”, as the EU targets a 40% cut in overall emissions by 2030 and starts to think about a mid-century net-zero strategy.

But the stakes are high, as transport provides 11 million jobs and generates 5% of EU GDP. The Commission hopes its proposal will help create 25,000 more jobs by 2025.

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EU leaders have urged the European Commission to come forward with a 2050 climate strategy “by the first quarter of 2019”, ending speculation over the timing of the proposal.

Risky business

Not unlike its legislation on cars and light vehicles, the EU executive’s truck rules steer clear of setting quotas for zero-emission vehicles and, in the case of today’s proposal, rely instead on incentives that would allow manufacturers more flexibility in meeting emission targets by making e-trucks.

But Transport & Environment’s cleaner trucks expert, Stef Cornelis, warned that the proposal’s reliance on “double-counting” and so-called supercredits could backfire and fail to convince truck makers to boost EV uptake, especially since many are already planning to increase production.

Cornelis also said that buses and coaches should not be included in the trucks incentive mechanism as manufacturers could use e-bus production, which is already fairly advanced compared to trucks, as a way to game the system.

Commission Vice-President Šefčovič, who admitted to EURACTIV that the truck standards are “long overdue”, explained that the supercredits would come with a 3% cap on transfers from buses and other truck categories to limit the weakening of the mechanism, including a sub-cap of 1.5% on e-buses.

The Slovak EU official also revealed that industry had pushed for a multiplier of five when it comes to the incentive but that the Commission refused to go above two, in order to combat “market distortion”.

Šefčovič added that cities have already made it clear that old diesel buses are no longer desirable and that electrification is the future, citing the Netherlands as a prime example of market uptake.

Cornelis agreed with that sentiment but warned that “an ambitious ZEV [zero-emission vehicles] mandate for buses is the only right incentive to make sure the supply meets the demand. The same should happen for trucks.”

Dutch call for ‘high’ emissions standards on trucks, cars

The Netherlands have called on Europe to aim high on emissions standards for trucks and cars, ahead of a much-anticipated proposal from the European Commission today (17 May), which will impose CO2 targets on trucks for the first time.

Efficient and safe

In order to increase efficiency as much as possible, the Commission has also suggested a tyre labelling system and changes to the very design of trucks, which will improve aerodynamics and boost safety thanks to reduced blind spots.

Bulc told reporters ahead of the proposal’s presentation that the Commission would push for faster implementation of the existing rules on size and shape of vehicles.

Although driver assists like reversing cameras will become mandatory, the Slovenian Commissioner revealed that automated braking for trucks would not be rolled out as the technology is not yet advanced enough on larger vehicles.

Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska said that “90% of road accidents are due to human error” and that the new proposal would help “pave the way for a driverless future of connected and automated driving”.

A comprehensive list of new features is meant to help tackle road deaths in the EU, which topped 25,000 in 2017 but which have almost halved since 2001 thanks in no small part to the Commission’s commitment to road safety.

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S&D vice-president for sustainability, Kathleen Van Brempt, said“The measures proposed today set the ground for a new model, but we must also make sure that the financial incentives and investments are there. There is a great economic and job potential in this transition, but the industry needs both incentives to invest in innovation and clear long-term rules.

“At last we see the introduction of CO2 emissions targets for trucks – which could have also been extended to buses. Heavy duty vehicles account for less than 5% of all traffic on the roads, but represent 25% of road transport's fuel use and carbon emissions. Ultra fuel-efficient trucks will save money, boost the economy and protect the environment. Ultra efficient buses, or even electric buses, would also pay off."

Claude Turmes (Greens/EFA), ENVI rapporteur for CO2 standards for trucks, said: "Even with a coalition of actors in the truck sector calling for stricter limits for heavy vehicles, the European Commission is still falling far short of its Paris climate commitments. Heavy goods vehicles are one of the biggest polluters on our roads and the Commission needs to get serious about tackling carbon dioxide emissions in the sector.
"The EU urgently needs to change course and significantly speed up the decarbonisation of the transport sector. We want to reduce CO2 emissions from heavy commercial vehicles by 45 percent by 2030 and make complete decarbonisation of the sector mandatory in legislation from 2050."

Kristian Ruby, Eurelectric’s Secretary General, said: “It is high time to tackle the pollution from Diesel based buses and trucks. A 30% emissions cut by 2030 is the minimum to get Europe on track to meet the Paris ambitions. It is clear that electric vehicles are a central part of the solution.”

Paul Hoffman, Senior Director, Global Customer Service & Logistics of Heineken, said: “HEINEKEN is welcoming new truck CO2 standards to accelerate the transition to low carbon road transport in Europe. This will support our climate ambition and help us reduce the carbon footprint of our entire value chain from barley to bar.”

ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert, said: “It would seem as though the Commission has simply taken the exact CO2 reduction levels it already proposed for cars and vans, and applied them directly to heavy-duty vehicles, without fully recognising the fundamental differences between these vehicle segments."

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