CO2 from Heavy Duty Vehicles

Modern European commercial vehicles are a third more fuel-efficient than 30 years ago, producing less CO2-per-tonne than most passenger cars. These CO2 savings have been achieved at the same time as the dramatic decreases in NOx gas and particulate matter required by the Euro standards - despite each initiative requiring sometimes conflicting measures.

1. CO2 emissions from trucks cannot be addressed via a 'one-size-fits-all' policy.

Any strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles has to take account of the key features of trucks:

  • The shape of the vehicles, which depends on their daily ‘mission’. No one truck is like another. The same tractor or engine may end up pulling very different trailers and combinations, affecting the CO2 emissions of the complete vehicle.
  • The usage pattern of the vehicles and their cargo, in other words, ‘the work they do’. CO2 reduction policy for commercial vehicles should use the appropriate measurement metric; that is to say ‘work done’, or - according to what the vehicles carry - fuel consumption per tonne-kilometre, cubic-kilometre or passenger-kilometre.
  • Policy should aim to develop methods that cover the wide variations in vehicles and missions. To this end, ACEA encourages the use of a computer simulation tool based on real-world data that reflects the emissions produced under real driving circumstances.

2. Policy measures should propel the natural force of customer demand.

  • Trucks and buses are economic goods. Fuel efficiency is a key element in the purchase decision, as fuel represents 30% of the running costs - almost as much as the cost of employing drivers. There has therefore been a clear business case to minimise fuel consumption for decades.

3. Progress must be embedded in a wider effort involving all players

  • Vehicle technology is important, but there is low-hanging fruit that also needs picking: an improved traffic flow, intelligent and better infrastructure, logistics, adjustments in vehicle size and dimensions, availability of alternative fuels and better cooperation between transport modes.
  • There are also many things that truck operators can do themselves like keeping the right tyre pressure and deflector position and optimal training of drivers.  Combined, these measures can easily result in permanent fuel-consumption gains and CO2 reductions of 3 to 5%.

Through its own ‘Vision 20-20’ strategy, the industry has already shown its commitment towards ever more sustainable transport in the future. Unveiled in 2008, this strategy aims to decrease fuel consumption by 20% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. This is equivalent to an improvement of over 1.3% per year. The industry is already well on track with this objective, and continues to seek new pathways to go beyond it. 

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