Latest EU proposals on CO2 emissions slammed by truck makers

Europe’s big truck makers are on collision course with both the European Union and the UK government over new EU regulations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and continuing Brexit-related uncertainty in this and many other areas.

Speaking in Frankfurt this month at a press “workshop” in advance of the huge Hannover commercial vehicles show in September, the boss of the organisation behind this show, the influential German automotive industry association VDA (Verband Der Automobilindustrie), described the latest draft EU regulations on CO2 emissions from heavy-duty commercial vehicles as “totally out of proportion”.

These regulations, a draft of which was published by the European Commission in May, demand a 15% cut, on average, of CO2 emissions from trucks between 2019 and 2025, and a further cut between 2025 and 2030 so that truck CO2 emissions by then are cut by 30% compared with 2019.

“These targets are roughly double those considered by the industry to be very ambitious, but still feasible,” said VDA president Bernhard Mattes at the Frankfurt event this month.

“Furthermore, the penalties for missing the targets are exorbitantly high and almost arbitrary. On the other hand, the options for ‘super-credits’ on extremely-low-emission and zero-emission vehicles when it comes to determining a manufacturer’s average emissions are defined too narrowly and the thresholds are too ambitious.

“An opportunity is thus being lost to create powerful incentives for pushing up the market of these environmentally friendly vehicles as quickly as possible.”

Bernhard Mattes, VDA president
Bernhard Mattes, VDA president

Mattes, a former Ford and BMW senior manager who became VDA president at the beginning of March, following the retirement of Matthias Wissmann, is at pains to emphasise that truck manufacturers strongly support the commission’s central aim of cutting CO2 emissions from road transport, not least because this means the better fuel economy that truck operators increasingly demand.

Like ACEA (Association des Constructeurs Européens d’Automobiles), a big Brussels-based European association of vehicle manufacturers, VDA is firmly behind the regulation based on the VECTO (Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool) software required to be used by truck-makers from 1 January next year to calculate and report CO2 emissions from every new truck model sold in the EU.

“It is right that the European Commission is endeavouring, in close co-operation with the commercial vehicle industry, to further improve market transparency,” says Mattes.

“The VECTO simulation tool, which delivers ‘official’ comparable values for fuel consumption and CO2 output, is an appropriate instrument for this.”

The VDA also welcomes suggestions from the commission that truck tolls could be varied according to a truck’s CO2 rating. But Mattes describes this as “the only positive aspect” of the commission’s draft regulation from May.

This regulation has yet to be finalised by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and the VDA is calling on these bodies to “find an approach that will still be ambitious but which above all must also be realistic and appropriate in practice.”

The UK government’s stance on regulation of truck CO2 emissions in general and the VECTO rules in particular, coming into force for trucks above 7.5 tonnes GVW from 1 January 2019, is one of the myriad Brexit-related topics on which there is continuing complete lack of clarity.

Mattes was speaking in Frankfurt this month less than two days after two prominent Brexit extremists, David Davis and Boris Johnson, had resigned from the cabinet following publication of the government’s latest proposals for future UK/EU trading relationships. The VDA has now joined the growing list of businesses and their representative bodies warning of the damage already being done by all this uncertainty and the risk of much worse to follow, especially against the backdrop of threatened trade wars between the EU and US.

“The VDA’s last commercial vehicle press workshop two years ago took place on the very day of the Brexit referendum,” recalled Mattes. “Today we know the result of the vote but we still do not know much more about the modalities of Brexit and Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

“Clarity must be created quickly because the UK commercial vehicle market has close international ties. Over 75% of heavy trucks sold in the UK are imported. For vans sold in the UK the import figure is a huge 95%.”

Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.