Truck makers sound alarm at Europe’s new CO2 regulations

Road transport costs could rise sharply as a result of new European Union regulations on truck CO2 emissions, truck makers are warning.

After months of wrangling, the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council finally agreed last month on precise standards for CO2 emissions from “heavy-duty vehicles”.

The new regulations essentially require truck makers to cut CO2 emissions by 15% by 2025, and by 30% by 2030. These targets apply to most two-axle (4×2) and three-axle (6×2) trucks over 16 tonnes GVW.

The baseline uses 2019 figures because from January this year truck CO2 emissions have been calculated using software called VECTO (Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool). The 2019 data will be published next year by the European Environment Agency.

“Demanding” new regulations will push prices up

The targets are described by ACEA, the European association of vehicle manufacturers whose membership includes Europe’s seven biggest truck makers, as “highly demanding”.

Daimler went further last month, warning that one inevitable consequence of the new targets will be more expensive road transport.

Speaking at the presentation of Daimler Trucks’ annual results, Manfred Schuckert, head of commercial vehicle emissions and safety at Daimler, described the EU targets as “over-ambitious”.

Schuckert pointed out that truck manufacturers had cut average fuel consumption (and thus CO2 emissions) by nearly 22% between 1996 and 2016 for diesel-engined trucks, while at the same time cutting emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates by more than 95%.

“The new targets call for us to treble the cuts we have achieved so far,” he said. “Nowhere in the world have such fuel economy gains been achieved. That’s why we are speaking out.”

Lack of infrastructure makes alternative fuels untenable

One big concern of ACEA and its members is the lack of infrastructure for refuelling and/or recharging the alternative-fuel trucks that the regulations demand.

“We can now only call upon member states to urgently roll out the infrastructure required for charging and refuelling the trucks which will need to be sold en masse if these targets are to be met,” says ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert.

“The introduction of a benchmark system for truck manufacturers totally ignores the demand side. We cannot expect operators to suddenly start buying electric or other alternatively-powered trucks if it is not possible to easily charge the vehicles along all major EU motorways.

“Policymakers must act to ensure the zero-emission trucks that manufacturers will be mandated to produce can actually be bought and operated by our customers.”

Emissions are measured in grams of CO2 per tonne-kilometre, to take into account the greater productivity of bigger but thirstier trucks. Precise CO2 targets for each manufacturer are based on the sales-weighted average CO2 of all trucks sold annually.

Manufacturers can earn credits, or incur debits, for over- or under-achievement. But fines for excess emissions are designed to be greater than the cost of meeting the targets.

Daimler describes the fine levels as “massive”, around €4,000 (£3,500) per CO2 tonne/kilometre.

Advocates of the targets argue that they are not as unrealistic as critics suggest. This is partly because planned amendments to EU rules will come into force before the targets kick in, allowing longer and more aerodynamic truck cabs.

ACEA retorts that it is “extremely worrying that many supportive measures that could contribute to reaching the targets (such as longer vehicle combinations and alternative fuels) have been deferred until at least 2025.”

Scania trolley truck

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.

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