Truck makers push back against EU’s first ever CO2 limits

The European Commission's proposal to mandate a 15% cut in CO2 emission from trucks by 2025 is overly ambitious, according to industry association ACEA, which said a 7% objective would be more "realistic" given the technologies currently available.

The EU executive unveiled the bloc’s first-ever emission target for trucks in May as part of a two-step approach leading to 2030, when the Commission proposes to aim for an aspirational 30% CO2 reduction goal.

“All sectors must contribute to meet our climate commitments under the Paris Agreement,” Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said as he unveiled the proposals in May, insisting the 2025 interim target can be met with existing technology. 

But while ACEA supports the step-wise approach, it says the mandatory 2025 objective should be revised downwards.

“Given the state of the market and technology today, a 7% CO2 reduction by 2025 would strike the right balance between being both ambitious and realistic,” says ACEA in a position paper published on Monday (27 August).

For 2030, it suggests a 16% reduction goal – around a half of the 30% proposed by the Commission. Moreover, a planned 2022 interim review should also allow a downward adjustment of the 2030 objective, it argues – not just upward.

ACEA’s main argument is that truck makers are already implementing CO2-cutting measures wherever possible because emissions are closely linked to fuel consumption, which is the single most important selling point for trucks.

Fuel represents about 30% of hauliers’ costs, according to the industry association. Trucks also have a longer lifetime than cars – about six times more – and therefore take longer to replace.

Heavy fines

The industry is particularly worried about the penalties foreseen against manufacturers in case CO2 targets are not met, saying the Commission defined its 2025 and 2030 objectives by comparing CO2 emissions from vans with those of trucks, measured in grams of CO2 per kilometre.

However, ACEA says “this comparison is misleading, as a heavier truck carrying a greater load is more efficient than a lighter one” and should, therefore, be measured in grams of CO2 per tonne-kilometre.

MAN, the German truck manufacturer, has calculated that the proposed fines of €6,800 per exceeded g CO2/tkm could quickly add up to the “three-digit million range” for manufacturers, which could threaten some of them with bankruptcy.

Trucks “are not simply big cars,” ACEA argues, rejecting the Commission’s approach as overly simplistic. “Heavy-duty vehicles are business tools owned by professionals who, for commercial purposes, are always looking for the best performing vehicle, taking into account fuel consumption and efficiency,” it says.

European Parliament kicks off debate on Wednesday

The official position from ACEA comes days before the European Parliament kicks off discussions on the proposal to limit trucks’ CO2 emissions. Bas Eickhout, a Dutch lawmaker, will present his draft report to Parliament’s environment committee on Wednesday (29 August).

Eickhout, a firebrand MEP from the Greens political party, has called for determined EU action in the face of diesel pollution and climate change, and wants to ramp up the Commission’s proposed CO2 reduction target to -25% by 2025, going up to -45% by 2030.

That position is backed by a group of four EU countries – including the Netherlands, Ireland, Lithuania, and Luxembourg – which sent a letter to the Commission earlier this year, calling for a CO2 target for trucks of at least 24% for 2025 and 35-45% for 2030. France has also called for “ambitious objectives” but did not give specific figures.

The Dutch MEP has also called for “a binding minimum share of zero- and low-emission vehicles for each manufacturer both in 2025 and in 2030”. By that date, he says all new buses placed on the EU market should be zero-emission.

“The market for zero-emission regional and urban delivery trucks is changing fast,” Eickhout argues in his report, saying those vehicles are expected to reach cost parity with diesel in Europe “within the next five years”.

There is “a clear environmental and economic interest in marketing such vehicles as soon as they are available,” Eickhout says, arguing a minimum share will ensure investment certainty for the rapid uptake of electric buses in the EU.

Frédéric Simon,

This article first appeared on, an edie content partner

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