Lawmakers vote to limit van speed, reject stronger CO2 target

VK van.jpg

The European Parliament’s environment committee on Tuesday (7 May) called for the installation of electric speed limiters for vans to prevent their accelerating beyond an agreed 120kph cap. But MEPs rejected reducing the 2020 target for van CO2 emissions to 118g per km.

Capping van speed will encourage the supply of smaller engines and reduce average van fuel consumption and emissions by at least 6%, analysts say.

But the MEP leading the EU legislative’s amendments, Holger Krahmer, a German liberal, says the move interferes with the road traffic regulations of member states.

A number of EU countries have motorway speed limits which far exceed 120km/h. Germany has no speed limits on sections of its motorways but sets a recommended limit of 130km/h.

“Laws to reduce the fuel consumption of vehicles are not there to patronise the drivers. It is not the role of the EU to require owners of commercial vehicles that they can only drive up to 120 kilometres per hour and then to say it is a contribution to climate protection,” Krahmer said in a statement.

“Besides, this decision is an interference with road traffic regulations of the member states.”

Committee members called on the introduction of speed limiters to encourage the downsizing of van engines to reduce pollution and improve motorway safety. The proposal has seen some support in consumer polls.


The committee voted to reconfirm the 2020 van CO2 emissions target of 147g/km. But analysts say this is much weaker than the target for cars (95g/km), saying a true equivalent would stand at around 118g/km.

The campaign group Transport and Environment voiced its disappointment. “Regrettably, MEPs rejected tightening the current 147g CO2/km vans target for 2020 that has been widely regarded as much weaker than the equivalent target for cars," it said in a statement. "Recent research has shown the original 147g decision was based upon wrong information about how much CO2 vans were thought to emit and exaggerated costs of reducing this.”

In February, business organisations, including the European Small Business Alliance and the retail association EuroCommerce, wrote to Krahmer asking him to push for a strengthening of the 2020 target, saying 147g/km was “insufficient”.

But Krahmer was unwilling to make changes to the targets, set three years ago. “If we change targets too often, manufacturers do not have planning security.”

In what may be viewed as a compromise, MEPs voted in favour of a ballpark range of van emissions of 105 to 120g/km for 2025. Average van CO2 emissions went from 203g/km in 2010 to 179 in 2011.

MEPs also voted to update test procedures for measuring van carbon emissions, in a similar move to legislation on cars passed last week.

According to company figures, nearly one in five light commercial vehicles in Europe is a Volkswagen.

William Todts, a campaigner for green campaign group Transport and Environment, said: “Vans were the only commercial vehicles that were not speed-limited. Limiting the speed of vans to 120kph will save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a good day for drivers, responsible businesses and the environment.”

He added: “Long-term targets for 2025 are crucial to stimulate innovation that leads to more efficient vehicles and drives advanced clean technologies like electric vehicles into the market. The proposed 2025 target range is a step forward but needs to be more ambitious. The technologies used in cars and vans are very similar and targets should also be equivalent.”

Jean Marc Gales, CEO of the European Association of Automotive suppliers (CLEPA), said: "CLEPA welcomes the today vote of the EP ENVI Committee on the revision of the 2020 targets for reducing CO2 emissions from vans.

"We believe that the 147 g/km target is achievable with existing technologies. The retention of super credits for low emission vehicles and eco-innovation will also boost the development of breakthrough technologies."

Environment spokesperson for the European Parliament Greens Carl Schlyter said: MEPs have today missed an opportunity to push for cleaner, more efficient vans. More ambitious CO2 limits make both economic and environmental sense, with an estimated €5,000 savings per van over its lifetime through fuel efficiency ... Regrettably, MEPs have not voted to capitalise on this win-win opportunity.

"While the committee adopted an indicative range for CO2 emissions limits for vans for 2025, this range lacks ambition and is far too broad to provide any kind of regulatory certainty. Instead of using this review to push for stricter 2020 limits, which are clearly possible, MEPs endorsed the limits proposed by the Commission this will fail to stimulate real innovation towards cleaner vans."

"Despite not yet being in strong demand by the market, low-emitting vans are in strong demand by legislators and opinion leaders," said Ivan Hodac, the secretary-general of the cars association ACEA, whose members include BMW, Daimler, Renault and Volkswagen.

In 2007, the EU proposed legislation setting emission performance standards for new cars, which was adopted in 2009 by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. Under the current cars regulation, fleet averages to be achieved by all new cars are 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) by 2015 – with the target phased in from 2012 - and 95g/km by 2020. 

The regulation is currently undergoing amendment in order to implement the 2020 target. A White Paper on Transport, presented by the Commission in February 2011, flagged measures to raise the €1.8 trillion which the EU says is needed for infrastructure investment in the next 20 years.

Proposals published in 2012 have set a further target of 95g for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans. By the end of 2014, new targets could be announced for 2025 and 2030.

European Parliament

European Commission

DG Clima: Reducing CO2 emissions from vans

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