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EU needs a holistic policy approach to zero-emission mobility

European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) director general Sigrid de Vries calls for action by European Union

Sigrid de Vries
01 December 2022
Sigrid de Vries

 

Recently, in the space of just two weeks, we saw two major legislative milestones that are of great significance to the EU auto industry – but that unfortunately risk pulling our sector in different directions.

These are the trilogue deal on the CO2 regulation for cars and vans – which requires massive investments in electrification – and the Euro 7 proposal on pollutant emissions – which would require strong spending on the combustion engine at the very same time.

Such mismatched policies send confusing signals, and ultimately risk slowing down our race to decarbonisation. We urgently need a streamlined, holistic approach to the massive transition to zero-emissions that our industry is undertaking. 

CO2 regulation for cars and vans: unprecedented decision

An agreement reached at the end of October between representatives of the European Commission, Parliament and Council will see CO2 emissions from cars and vans reduced by 100% by 2035, in effect banning the sale of traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. This unprecedented decision means that the European Union will now be the first and only world region to go all-electric.

Our industry is up to the challenge of providing these zero-emission vehicles. Indeed, in the third quarter of 2022, the market share of battery electric cars continued to grow, now accounting for almost 12% of total EU passenger car registrations.
 
The European market is on course to take the lead on the other world regions by 2030, when the share of battery electric cars is expected to exceed 70%.

For this to happen – and to reach the 2035 zero-emission objective – it is imperative that we now also see the framework conditions which are essential to meet this target reflected in EU policies. All stakeholders must now work together to guarantee access to the raw materials needed for e-mobility, make electric cars affordable mass-market products, mitigate negative employment consequences, and enable European citizens to charge their electric vehicle quickly and easily.

We must now work to guarantee access to the raw materials needed for e-mobility, make electric cars affordable mass-market products, mitigate negative employment consequences, and enable European citizens to charge their electric vehicle easily.

To keep track of developments in all these areas, ACEA is calling for a robust and meaningful interim review of the CO2 regulation. This will be essential to evaluate if sufficient progress has been made.

Coming soon: revised CO2 targets for heavy-duty vehicles

When it comes to heavy-duty vehicles, the commission is expected to come forward with a revised proposal on CO2 targets around the “turn of the year”. The framework that supports the transition of this sector to climate neutrality must be tailor-made for this B2B market: we cannot copy-and-paste from the passenger car industry! This was the topic of a livestreamed ACEA event last week, entitled Getting Zero-Emission Trucks on the Road.

All truck manufacturers agree that battery-electric trucks will be a key technology, with hydrogen-powered trucks playing a role too. Although the new technologies are coming in large numbers, internal combustion engines powered by fossil-free fuels will inevitably continue to play a role in the transition of this sector to climate neutrality.

Decarbonising road freight transport requires more than just tightening CO2 targets for manufacturers. Instead, the focus should be on the framework conditions that enable shippers and hauliers to invest and profitably operate these new generation trucks. These include the swift roll-out of a network of charging and refuelling stations that meet trucks’ specific needs, accompanied by an effective carbon pricing system that eventually extends to road transport.

Focusing exclusively on truck manufacturers, while neglecting the role of transport operators and the wider transport and logistics value chain, would be detrimental to the transition to climate-neutral road freight transport.

Focusing exclusively on truck manufacturers, while neglecting the role of transport operators and the wider transport and logistics value chain, would be detrimental to a swift transition to climate-neutral road transport. 

Euro 7: a counterproductive proposal

In our view, the commission’s proposal for new pollutant emission standards for cars and vans (Euro 7) and trucks and buses (Euro VII) is counterproductive, as it risks slowing down the transition to zero-emission transport.

Extraordinarily stringent testing and boundary conditions do little to improve air quality in daily driving. Yet they heavily increase the cost of vehicles, diverting precious resources – both engineering and financial – away from the zero-emission goal.

The environmental benefit of Euro 7 is extremely limited, but it heavily increases the cost of vehicles – diverting precious resources away from electrification.
Some of the proposed limit values border on what is technically feasible. What is more, the proposed implementation dates – July 2025 for cars and vans and July 2027 for heavy-duty vehicles – are unrealistic, given the huge number of vehicle models and variants that need to be developed, engineered, tested and type approved before then. Heavy vans are treated particularly harshly by the date and the content. The Euro VII proposal for trucks completely neglects the rapidly accelerating shift to zero-emission vehicles, and also ignores the effect of future CO2 targets for heavy-duty vehicles.

Recent studies have shown that the renewal of the fleet with the latest Euro 6/VI vehicles – alongside the electrification of new vehicles – would deliver an 80% reduction in road transport NOx emissions by 2035 (compared to 2020).

Over the same timeframe, the most stringent Euro 7 scenarios would reduce road transport NOx emissions by less than a further 5% for cars and vans compared to Euro 6d levels, and by about 2% for trucks.

The greatest impact – on both pollutant and CO2 emissions – will be driven by fleet renewal.

With the current Euro 6/VI rules, the EU already has the most comprehensive and stringent standards for pollutant emissions (such as NOx and PM) in the world. Exhaust emissions are already at a barely measurable level thanks to state-of-the art vehicle technology.

The greatest impact – on both pollutant and CO2 emissions – will be driven by fleet renewal targeting the still large numbers of early-Euro standard vehicles on EU roads, replacing them with affordable latest technology vehicles, at the same time as electrification increases.

All the auto industry’s efforts are geared towards zero-emission mobility. Industry has sound proposals and solutions to make this transformation happen. Policies and regulations should align with and support the overarching goal of reaching zero-emission transport: in Europe and made in Europe.

Sigrid de Vries is director general of ACEA

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