First-ever truck CO2 standards should be agreed soon, but avoid copying EU approach to cars

Every other year in September, the global truck industry meets in Hanover for the International Motor Show dedicated to commercial vehicles. Given that ACEA represents the EU’s seven major truck manufacturers, we were also present in Hanover to set out the industry’s joint position on the EU proposal for truck CO2 standards. Most notably, we called on the 28 member states to act swiftly when it comes to deciding on the future framework for CO2 from trucks.

Message from ACEA's Secretary General – September 2018

Before going into details on the ACEA position, let’s briefly go back to the context of this proposal. In May 2018, the European Commission proposed the region’s first-ever CO2 standards for trucks, suggesting targets for the years 2025 and 2030. This proposal is now in the hands of the European Parliament and the Council, which brings together the 28 national governments. Key Parliament votes on the dossier will take place next month and it will also be discussed by EU Environment Ministers at a meeting on 9 October.

Over the past years, ACEA members have worked hard to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from trucks. This is an issue they take very seriously, also because it is directly linked to improving the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. It is important to note that these CO2 savings have been achieved at the same time as strong decreases in pollutant emissions – namely NOx and PM. Looking ahead, we of course remain committed to further cutting CO2 from road transport. So, we are keen to contribute to the development of these new EU standards for CO2 emissions from trucks.

As I already mentioned before, this is the first time ever that CO2 standards will be introduced for trucks in the EU. Standards for cars, on the other hand, have been in place since 2012. That is why we feel it is particularly important to draw attention to the specifics of the truck market, which is highly complex. Trucks are fundamentally different from passenger cars. They are not consumer goods. In other words, the truck industry really wants to caution policy makers that CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles should not follow the same approach as those proposed for cars and vans.

Let me now come to some of the key points of ACEA’s position on the future CO2 legislation: how much should CO2 be reduced by, and by when? First of all, I want to stress that truck manufacturers are willing to commit to ambitious CO2 reduction targets, provided that the reduction level is realistic. Given the state of the truck market and technology today, we believe that a 7% CO2 reduction by 2025 is ambitious, coming at a high, but acceptable, cost.

Let’s not forget that this level of reduction will require truck makers to fit new technologies to vehicles that are already under development right now, even if this was not originally planned. From an industrial perspective, this is a major challenge. In addition to the 2025 target, we also support a longer-term, aspirational CO2 reduction target of 16% by 2030.

Indeed, 2025 is just around the corner. There are less than seven years between now and the planned date of implementation of these targets! Given the long product and development cycles of heavy-duty vehicles, the development of trucks to be delivered to customers that year is already underway. Despite the challenges this poses, we still support the objective of introducing CO2 targets in 2025.

However, if this is to be achievable, policy makers need to act now! In light of the end of term of the current European Parliament next year, we urge MEPs and policy makers at the national level to come to a quick political decision. Otherwise we risk major delays in introducing the new targets, to the detriment of the environment – as well as the workability of the legislation.

But, of course, we have to get it right as well. It is therefore vital not only to act swiftly, but also to ensure a very robust legislation. This means that the targets need to be in line with what is technologically possible and economically viable. It also means that the framework should provide enough flexibility and the right enabling conditions to make sure that the 2025 and 2030 CO2 targets are deliverable in practice.

On the road towards these two milestones, we agree with the need for an interim review in 2022, as proposed by the Commission. However, based on this review, it should be possible to adjust the 2030 target upwards or downwards in order to reflect the realities of the heavy-duty vehicle market at that point in time. This review should, for example, take into account the availability of refuelling and charging infrastructure for alternatively-powered trucks, as well the market uptake of such vehicles.

Here again, the challenges are extremely different than for cars, especially when we consider vehicles and infrastructure for long-haul transport. The review should also reflect the latest information on the fuel-efficiency performance of heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the newest fuel-efficient technologies on the market by then. Likewise, we believe that any CO2 target must be reviewed in light of potential new Euro standards in the future, since reducing pollutant emissions requires conflicting measures to reducing CO2.

The definition of low-emissions vehicles could be improved by using the ‘grammes of CO2 per tonne kilometre’ metric, which better reflects the work done by trucks than the ‘grammes of CO2 per kilometre’ metric proposed by the Commission. As for the proposed banking and borrowing system, we believe that manufacturers should be allowed to use credits within five years, while obliging them to clear debts within three years.

Last but not least, the adoption of other innovations that can reduce CO2 emissions from road transport in a cost-effective way, such as the European Modular System and truck platooning, should receive more support from the EU, which should also recognise the potential of all alternative fuels.

To conclude, the truck industry is committed to supporting the European Union’s objective of further reducing CO2 emissions from new heavy-duty vehicles. The proposal introduced by the Commission, however, should only be seen as one building block of a much-needed overall integrated approach to reducing emissions from road transport; CO2 standards for trucks will not be the only solution.

With this in mind we are calling on policy makers not only to act swiftly, but also to ensure a robust and reasonable legislation – with properly designed CO2 targets that take into account the complexity of this market.

Erik Jonnaert
Secretary General of ACEA

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