Pipe: Europe

Source West selects Siemens EV rapid charging technology

Mon, 2014-03-03 04:13
One of the largest Electric Vehicle projects funded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles has been awarded to Siemens UK.

iOS-Update CarPlay: Apple integriert das iPhone ins Auto

Mon, 2014-03-03 03:07
Apple will mit dem Projekt CarPlay die Nutzung des iPhones im Auto vereinfachen. Durch ein Update seines Betriebssystems iOS wird die Benutzeroberfläche des Handys auf dem Bordcomputer angezeigt. Drei Fahrzeughersteller wollen das System bald einführen.

Pressure grows on Commission to publish criteria on endocrine disruptors

Mon, 2014-03-03 02:52

The French parliament’s committee on European affairs has published a report on the European strategy on endocrine-disrupting chemicals which calls on the EU to react urgently to the matter.

The report states that public health is being challenged by the damaging affects posed by endocrine disruptors, leading to extra financial costs in the future for the health sector if appropriate policy action is not being taken.

The EU needs to publish both a new, comprehensive strategy on endocrine disruptors to boost public action as well as rapidly adopt a single definition on endocrine disruptors based on the hazards and not "on the notion of potency as has been put forward by industry," the committee said.

Known examples of endocrine-disrupting chemicals include phthalates (a plastic-softener), brominated flame retardants (often used in household textile or furniture) and metals like lead and mercury.

Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals occur naturally, while synthetic varieties can be found in pesticides, electronics, personal care products and cosmetics. They can also be found as additives or contaminants in food.

The European Commission had planned to publish a definition of endocrine disruptors in December 2013, but the definition has been delayed as Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has said he wants the Commission to make an impact analysis first.

The delay in publishing criteria from the Commission's side, led the Swedish environment minister Lena Ek on Wednesday (26 February) to threaten to sue the Commission for breaching a bargaining agreement.

"If this is not done within two months, it's so serious from an environment and health point of view that we will follow up by suing the Commission," Ek said.

Génon Jensen, executive director at the NGO Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), also called on the Commission to deliver on its promise and publish a strategy on endocrine disruptors as soon as possible.

"Postponing its publication until the new Commission would indicate to European citizens that bureaucratic procedures are more important than their health and the prevention of chronic diseases," Jensen said. 

"To reduce unnecessary health problems and healthcare costs, we need swift progress on endocrine-disrupting chemicals policy so as to start reducing people’s daily exposures to chemicals linked to chronic disease,” she added.


Divided EU grapples with energy and climate goals

Mon, 2014-03-03 02:23

The EU’s energy and environment ministers will today (3 March) begin two days of talks under the shadow of divisions on greenhouse gas cuts, renewable energy targets and efficiency objectives.

While Germany says it will push for a binding energy savings goal and stronger renewable targets, Poland wants a commitment to an emissions cut made optional and final decisions postponed until next year.

The Council discussions on energy plans for 2030 had been intended to pave the way to an agreement at an EU leaders’ summit on 20-21 March.

Draft guidelines for that meeting seen by EurActiv, call for a roadmap leading to “an early agreement on an ambitious EU position on emissions reductions up to 2030.”  

This was framed in the context of a UN climate summit in September 2014, and the global climate change conference of parties (COP) due to take place in Paris in December 2015.

But Poland is blocking a consensus on a planned 40% cut in CO2 emissions, and says that a May 2013 agreement impels a final decision on objectives to be postponed until 2015.

Diplomatic sources have even floated a notion that the EU’s planned 40% cut in CO2 emissions could be made binding at the EU level alone, leaving member states free to pursue divergent energy policies. This is unlikely to gather a groundswell of support.

The UK, for example, supports an offer of a 50% reduction in Europe’s CO2 emissions being made at the Paris COP, albeit with the extra 10% cut being met with carbon offsets.

London also wants a decision on energy goals taken as quickly as possible, ideally before a June summit of EU leaders, and would prefer to see the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive which regulates transport energies ranging from biofuels to tar sands, amended rather than scrapped

But it will be less sympathetic to proposals from Germany, which wants a planned 27% goal for renewable energies in the EU’s energy mix toted up to an “optimal” 30%, and made binding on member states. 

Efficiency targets

More dramatically, Berlin will push for a binding energy efficiency target, in a challenge to the established orthodoxy in Brussels that such measures should wait until after a review of lagging progress towards the non-binding goal set for 2020.

“We feel that the best way to save energy is not to use it at all,” a diplomat told EurActiv. “There is also a strong field of green building industry that we need to support. That’s why we need an ambitious binding efficiency target to send the right signals to market and industry.”

This will be resolutely opposed by countries such as the UK, which argues that existing structural EU funds such as Horizon 2020 are sufficient to incentivise continent-wide energy savings.

Eastern European countries too may balk at the suggestion, seeing it as a cost to industry, rather than an opportunity. The gaze of one aspirant regional leader, Poland, remains squarely fixed on a horse trade over ‘burden-sharing’, or the degree of energy transition they must make relative to other EU states.

This will fit into debate on a looser governance structure for implementing energy and climate policy, with Warsaw arguing that its coal-dependent circumstances make clean energy a costly proposition.

Energy costs

Energy costs will also be discussed by the ministers, with a focus on the disconnect between wholesale and retail prices, as well as the disproportionate effect of taxies and levies.

“Prices, and especially costs, have continued to rise overall for both households and industry despite falling or stable consumption,” a draft Council communication seen by EurActiv says. “This rise in prices is driven mainly by increases in network costs and taxes/levies and wide differences between member states’ policies on these costs and levies.”

A convergence and fall in wholesale electricity prices “has not been transposed into a reduction of the retail prices,” the paper notes.

It proposes debate on subjects including:

  • Completion of the internal market by 2014
  • Further development of energy infrastructure
  • Cost-effective application of taxes and levies
  • Encouraging households and industry to improve their energy efficiency
  • Protecting vulnerable consumers though social policy measures
  • Diversifying energy supplies and routes
  • Ensuring consumer choice of the most advantageous energy supplier

Industrial competitiveness and a recent EU communication on industrial renaissance may well loom large, as Europe's energy intensive industries take an increasingly vocal line in climate debate.

Industrial renaissance

Speaking in Brussels last week, Dr Brigitta Huckestein, a senior manager for the German chemicals giant BASF said that any EU 2030 climate and energy targets should “depend on what the public is willing to pay for climate action.”

“I do not believe that people are aware of this – that it will cost their money if politicians are going for such a high goal,” she told journalists.

In the end, a timeline to agreement may be the most that ministers can agree this week, leaving Europe’s clean energy industries kicking their heels.

A letter from the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) to the EU’s heads of state, seen by EurActiv, notes that the EU’s own impact assessment accompanying the 2030 proposal indicated that a 30% renewables target for 2030 would create 568,000 more jobs and save €260 billion in fossil fuel imports.

“Agreeing on mutually reinforcing targets for GHG emissions reductions, energy efficiency and renewables will enable the development of a European climate-friendly energy mix through dedicated and reliable policies,” says the letter by Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, EREC’s president. “It is now up to you to choose either a growth or a no-growth strategy.”


Spike-Reifen-Prototyp: Die Nagel-Probe

Sun, 2014-03-02 04:01
Grip auf Knopfdruck - so stellt sich der finnische Reifenhersteller Nokian die Winterreifen-Zukunft vor. Möglich machen soll das ein Pneu, in dessen Profil Spikes ausfahrbare eingelassen sind. Klingt nach James-Bond-Gimmick, soll aber tatsächlich funktionieren.

Buch zur Art-Car-Geschichte: Kunstrasen

Sat, 2014-03-01 03:28
Kunst und Motorsport - keine unbedingt naheliegende Kombination. Umso überraschender war der Erfolg einer Idee von Hobby-Rennfahrer Hervé Poulain: Der brachte 1975 einen kunstvoll bemalten BMW nach Le Mans und schuf damit die Art-Car-Serie. Jetzt erscheint das erste Buch zu diesem Projekt.

Autogramm Hyundai Grand Santa Fe: Mach mal lang

Fri, 2014-02-28 10:20
Reisen statt Rasen: 23 Zentimeter mehr Länge bietet der neue Hyundai Santa Fe, außerdem zwei weitere Sitze. Doch bemerkenswert ist nicht nur das Raum-, sondern vor allem das Fahrgefühl. 

Zerbrechliche Felgen: KBA warnt vor weiteren brüchigen Rädern

Fri, 2014-02-28 07:34
Weil er brüchige Autofelgen verkauft hat, ist der Räderhersteller Reifen Go! in die Schlagzeilen geraten. Im Januar warnte das Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt erstmals vor den Risiken - nun kam heraus, dass noch mehr Felgen-Modelle betroffen sind.

Manufacturers resume fight for EU carbon market shake-up

Fri, 2014-02-28 02:54

European manufacturers' lobby IFIEC Europe on Thursday (27 February) launched an attack on the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS), opposing current reform plans and calling for drastic changes to prevent a flight of investment abroad.

Industrial companies such as steel and paper producers, alongside electricity generators and airlines, are forced under the ETS to surrender a carbon permit for every tonne they emit.

Manufacturers have long lobbied against measures to strengthen the system while countries outside the European Union are not adopting comparable policies to tackle climate change.

IFIEC's latest criticism is a sign that a proposal published last month by the European Commission to establish a reserve of carbon permits to curb supply in the ETS will face strong opposition to becoming law amid heightened concerns from politicians about derailing the EU's economic recovery.

"The reserve does not solve the real structural problems of the (permit) allocation for industry. Therefore we are not happy with the approach taken by the Commission," IFIEC's Annette Loske said in an emailed response to questions.

The Commission's so-called "market stability reserve" proposal follows on from its backloading plan, which was finally passed into law this week after two years of political wrangling.

The Commission wants backloading and later the reserve to revive the ailing ETS and spur low carbon investment by driving up carbon prices from below €7 per tonne of emissions to levels that encourage companies to invest in low carbon technologies.

Free permits

To help European industrial firms compete with rivals in regions with less stringent emission limits, they get the majority of their permits for free.

The Commission confirmed last month that the allocations of free permits would be retained until at least 2019, even though environmental campaigners have called for them to be slashed following the drastic fall in prices from 30 euros in 2008.

IFIEC on Thursday called for an overhaul of what it described as the "unrealistic" free allocation method from 2020, saying that it would otherwise "stop investments in carbon intensive industries in Europe".

In an effort to get factories to invest in cleaner equipment, the current system is designed to hand out just enough free permits to meet the needs of the very cleanest plants, with firms that emit more required to buy additional certificates to cover the shortfall.

IFIEC said the system is flawed because even the cleanest plants will have to pay for some permits.

"We need a dynamic system being based on actual production levels," Loske said, adding that the current method's use of historical output data did not support the expansion of efficient industrial production.

2030 lobbying

IFIEC's call for ETS reforms was among a list of recommendations signed by 137 CEOs of IFIEC member companies including ArcelorMittal and BASF urging EU leaders to support domestic manufacturers when they discuss 2030 energy and climate change targets next month.

Lobbying is intense from all sides in Brussels after the Commission in January provided an outline of proposed 2030 climate and energy policy, including a target to cut emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels.

Renewable producer groups say innovation is the best route to ensuring jobs and growth, while IFIEC warns that setting regulations to meet the targets will derail fragile economic growth.

"These ever increasing surcharges create an unprecedented burden for manufacturing industries, which cannot pass through these costs to their customers," Philippe Darmayan, chief executive of steelmaker Aperam, said in a statement.

The Commission says it is working to help industry and has an aspirational target that 20 percent of EU gross domestic product should come from the sector. The share of GDP from industry has been falling rather than rising and stood at 15.6% in 2012.

Leaders from all 28 member states meet to discuss the 2030 goals at a European Council summit on March 20-21, though they are not expected to reach agreement until they meet in June.


Anti-Falschfahrer-App: Bei Anruf Gefahr

Fri, 2014-02-28 00:41
Plötzlich einem Falschfahrer entgegenzurasen - eine schreckliche Vorstellung. Studenten der TU-Clausthal haben nun zusammen mit Ingenieuren der Softwarefirma c4c eine Smartphone-App entwickelt, die in diesen Fällen warnen soll.

Industry needs affordable energy and feedstocks

Thu, 2014-02-27 11:51

Europe's goal to rebuild an industrial base is welcome but it does not get much help from the Commission’s latest energy and climate package for 2030 unveiled on January 22, writes Hubert Mandery.

Hubert Mandery, is Director General at the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC).

As Europe crawls out of economic crisis, we find ourselves in a fundamentally altered world, in which the centre of economic growth is shifting to Asia and back to the reindustrialising US. After years of economic contraction, more than 20 million people are now jobless in the EU.

Though the economic sky is lightening at last, economic growth in 2014, forecast by the European Commission at 1.4%, will do little to ease the scourge of persistently high double-digit unemployment.

To turn the tide, the EU’s heads of state and the European Commission have rightly declared rebuilding Europe’s industrial base a top priority. The aim is to raise industry’s share of European gross domestic product (GDP) to 20% by 2020, from around 16% today.

We support this worthy and ambitious goal, but it does not get much help from the Commission’s latest energy and climate package for 2030 unveiled on January 22. This seeks to further slash emissions by further 40% yet includes no targets for industrial growth and jobs. If they are to deliver the growth Europe’s 500 million citizens request and enable industrial expansion, they must overhaul their strategy in three vital ways.

First, they must re-energise Europe. Industry needs affordable energy and feedstock. The chemical industry, which alone employs 1.2 million Europeans and contributes €558 billion to Europe’s GDP, is energy-intensive.

Another Commission report also published on January 22 showed a widening energy cost gap for EU industry with major competitors like the US, where energy prices are falling. Up to 15% of recent industrial energy cost increases in the European Union were attributable to recent policy-induced taxes and network charges.

We have lived with energy cost disadvantages for years but we now urgently need completion of the single market in energy, with effective competition between suppliers, and access to affordable and reliable energy and feedstock throughout the EU.

Energy supplies that support a cost-efficient and competitive transition towards a low-carbon economy, including unconventional sources like shale gas, must now be developed. Our trade agreements with third countries need to provide for competition and fair access to energy and feedstock.

Second, we also need a responsible climate policy. Renewable energy sources must increasingly compete under market conditions. Member states should choose the most affordable low-carbon energy schemes and drive improved energy efficiency of buildings and transport – the low hanging fruits.

Third, the emissions trading system (ETS) needs fundamental long-term reform. Fiddling with the system before 2020, by introducing short-term, panic-driven fixes – raises the risk we will fail to achieve the emissions target at lowest-possible cost.

The ETS reserve mechanism proposal is shrinking the allowances supply excessively and is only targeted at pushing up EU carbon costs. But the higher the cost, the earlier the bidding war of EU industry with the power sector, a bidding war we can only loose. This policy boosts the risk of EU production moving offshore together with EU employment.

It took 20 years for the chemicals sector to cut emissions by 50 per cent, a performance helped greatly by one-offs such as the switch from coal to gas as well as modernisation in Central and Eastern Europe.

Unilateral and unconditional targets of -40% GHG emissions from 1990 level translates to a -70% for the EU chemical industry: this is a recipe for de-industrialisation. This additional 20% cut from 2020 to 2030 will be much more difficult and costly for industry.

EU policymakers must decide whether or not to balance climate policy with competitiveness.

Beyond 2020, the carbon credit system will need a thorough overhaul to encourage high- performing companies to expand in Europe. An output-based, ex-post system founded upon realistic benchmarks would work best. The ETS should by then include two pathways within the same framework. One with full direct and indirect compensation should allow benchmarks-based users to grow. The other must enable a sustainable cut in CO2 emissions from power generation while ensuring industrial energy users pay no more than their fair share of the shift from fossil to renewable power.

And finally, any energy and climate framework designed for Europe must be complemented by a CO2 emissions reduction agreement with global partners. Europe can’t go it alone, especially as its share of global emissions will drop to 4.5% by 2030. There must be a change in policy thinking, giving priority to energy policy over climate policy.

We have to choose energy and climate policy that is affordable – not what is desirable at any cost.


Stromversorger bremsen BMW i3: "Die Ladesäule, an der Sie stehen, gibt es gar nicht"

Thu, 2014-02-27 06:15
Ein Wochenende mit dem BMW i3 in Hamburg: Was als elektromobiles Erweckungserlebnis geplant war, endet als Odyssee. Schuld ist nicht das beeindruckende Fahrzeug, sondern die Ignoranz der Stromversorger. Protokoll eines kollektiven Versagens.

Studies show untapped potential of biomass waste for transport fuels and energy in Europe

Thu, 2014-02-27 05:31

Fuel made from waste could replace 16% of all the fuel used on European roads by 2030 according to a new report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The reports findings are echoed in a separate report from Manchester University.


Biokraftstoffe aus Abfällen: Europas Müll könnte zwölf Prozent des Spritbedarfs decken

Thu, 2014-02-27 05:20
Auftanken mit Frittenfett ist offenbar eine ernsthafte Alternative zum umstrittenen Biosprit aus Rohstoffen. Laut einer Studie steckt in der Kraftstoffgewinnung aus Abfällen ein gewaltiges ökonomisches Potential. Trotzdem plant die EU eine Abkehr.

TTIP ‘challenged’ by environmental critics, EU says

Thu, 2014-02-27 03:12

EXCLUSIVE / Plans for a sweeping EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP risk being blown off course by civil society fears about the damage it could wreak on environmental and social protections, according to a leaked EU document seen by EurActiv.

The preparation paper for an EU-US Summit on 26 March, which is marked as ‘restricted’, identifies the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Protocol (TTIP) as a “clear vector for jobs and growth for both the EU and US”.

But it warns that “stakes are high” in the race to thrash out a deal, with “challenges on both sides of the Atlantic that need to be managed.”

“For instance, the increasing interest of civil society in TTIP, transparency issues and the supposed risks for environmental and social standards have the potential to affect the political dynamics of the negotiation,” the document says. It may be received as a shot across the European Parliament’s boughs.

A little-noticed environment committee report for the parliament last October found four areas which could be badly affected by the regulatory harmonisation needed for a TTIP deal: GMO’s, chemicals, poultry pathogen reduction treatments, and aviation greenhouse gas emissions. 

Without precise language – notably absent from a planned EU-Canada free trade deal – investor-state disputes mechanisms covering these areas “could hamper the EU and member states in efforts to establish regulations seeking to protect their citizens or the environment,” the report said.

It called for lawmakers to closely monitor TTIP texts, increase public awareness about their potential dangers, and “recognize that the strongest action that the European parliament could take to impact TTIP would be not to give its consent to the negotiated agreement.”

‘A mushrooming of doubts’

To counter this kind of opposition, a Commission TTIP communications strategy leaked to the Danish journal ‘Notat’ last November called for a new and “radically different” PR approach that could “reduce fears and avoid a mushrooming of doubts.”

Top of the paper’s ‘key issues to watch’ was “anxiety around the potential impact on the European social model and approach to regulation” of a TTIP agreement.

Previous leaked documents obtained by EurActiv show that the text for any trade deal between the EU and US would include provisions for investors to sue states if their ‘legitimate expectations’ of profit were damaged by subsequent environmental or social legislation.

In the past, such measures have allowed one company to take out a $250 million lawsuit against Quebec for banning hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) under the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Similarly, Mexico was ordered to pay Tecmed $5.5 million for relicensing a waste treatment plant out of environmental concerns, because it had not consistently acted in a manner “free from ambiguity and totally transparently.”

Public procurement

The proposed TTIP agreement would also remove non-tariff barriers, enshrine ‘Most Favoured Nation’ treatment for both trade blocs, and prise open public procurement markets.

“The Agreement will aim at enhanced mutual access to public procurement markets at all administrative levels (national, regional, local), and in the fields of public utilities […] ensuring treatment no less favourable than that accorded to locally established suppliers,” according to a separate leaked ‘nature and scope’ document seen by EurActiv. 

All procurement bodies, sectors – particularly public constructions – thresholds and service contracts would be covered, says the paper, which is marked ‘trade-sensitive’.

US companies might thus have legal recourse under ‘fair and equitable treatment’ clauses, also proposed in the text, if a European country decided to, for example, extend state-backed healthcare provisions. Worries about this have already been aired in the UK.

Following a stock-taking meeting with the US trade representative Michael Froman, on 18 February, the EU's trade commissioner Karel de Gucht called for more ambition on public procurement and said that TTIP's regulatory aspects would be "the toughest nut to crack".

He also called for "a fear-based debate" to be avoided, saying the European Parliament would not tolerate a deal that compromised social standards.

The summit preparations document, which is dated 5 February, also lists the US legislature and ongoing fallout from the NSA surveillance row as “difficult obstacles” to an EU-US trade deal.

Foreign policy cooperation

“The summit will be an important moment to secure President Obama’s continued personal commitment to the TTIP,” it says. The meeting’s agenda will also include the economy, efforts to cool the NSA spy row, and foreign policy cooperation.

It notes “significantly strengthened foreign policy cooperation” as a countervailing trend to the foreseen snags, citing Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Serbia-Kosovo and the increased development of common security and anti-terrorism missions in the Horn of Africa, Sahel, Libya and Central African Republic.

In the Middle East, where the EU has issued new guidelines on the labelling of produce from Israeli settlements, the text says that “the EU has delivered active backing to US-led efforts… with major incentives for a sustainable peace under preparation.”

Brussels has been a strong supporter of ongoing attempts by the US secretary of state John Kerry to agree a framework plan between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The final item on the conference diary is advancing “increased ambition” to achieve a robust global agreement at the Paris climate change conference in 2015.


MEPs vote in changes to fourth railway package

Thu, 2014-02-27 03:10

The European Parliament adopted yesterday (26 February) in a first reading amended rules for European railways, much to the Commission’s disappointment.

MEPs amended the EU Commission’s legislative proposals known as the “Fourth Railway Package” aimed at boosting competitiveness in the European rail sector and offering better services to the passengers.

This latest railway proposal came 12 years after the first package of legislation, which was aimed at injecting competition into Europe’s market and creating seamless travel and cargo links across the then 25 EU countries with railways (Malta and Cyprus do not).

While the amendments approved by the Parliament in plenary session pertaining to the technical aspects of the proposal are in line with what the EU executive had proposed, changes to the “market pillar” proposal were criticised as “unambitious” by the commissioner in charge of transport, Siim Kallas. The commissioner regretted that the vote was “yet another demonstration of the tenacity of the vested national interests that proved more appealing to MEPs than the balanced and well-reasoned compromises”.

Like similar setbacks in air and road transport, many countries have continued to protect traditional railway companies from competition and technical problems – such as a jigsaw of signalling systems.

Kallas deplored that the Parliament had postponed the competitive tendering procedures for public service contracts to 2023 and made them subject to exceptions.

>> Read: Europe's rails: A bumpy ride to a single market

MEPs have set a certain number of limits such as a maximum duration on the tendering of public service contracts to new operators. They also require that national authorities “justify awarding them directly on efficiency criteria such as punctuality of services, cost-efficiency, frequency of train operations, and customer satisfaction”.

The Parliament has also set out rules to protect workers, so that operators will have to comply with the local social standards in place.

“They would also have to comply with the relevant collective agreements and ensure decent employment and working conditions,” the Parliament's press release went on to say.

For MEPs the vote safeguards the important role of public service contracts and helps new and/or small operators to compete for public contracts.

The Parliament also approved the technical simplification of the European rail, since there are currently over 11,000 different national technical and safety rules in each of the 28 member states, “hampering” competition and “leading to excessive administrative costs,” the European People’s Party said in a statement.

The European lawmakers also gave greater power to the European Railway Agency (ERA) on issues such as the issuing of safety certificates and vehicle authorisations in the EU, which should help bring down administrative costs and make the rail even more environmentally-friendly.

After this vote, the legislative proposal will be submitted to the Council for a position, after which the two sides may negotiate.


Driving down vehicle emissions post-2020

Wed, 2014-02-26 12:34

A vote in the European Parliament this week finalised CO2 targets for new cars in 2020. But the agreement also highlights a policy-chasm in plans to reduce emissions from vehicles after 2020, writes Greg Archer.

Greg Archer is the clean vehicles manager of Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based clean transport NGO.

Back in June 2013, a first reading agreement was reached between the European Parliament, Commission and Council setting a 95g (CO2)/km target for the average new car sold in 2020. The deal reduced emissions by 27% between 2015 and 2020, saving drivers around €750 per year on their fuel bills. It also stimulated innovation in new technologies, enhancing the competitiveness of the European automotive industry and reducing demand for imported oil - boosting the EU economy. Yet within hours of the agreement being made, Chancellor Merkel had pressured the Irish Presidency to force an unprecedented delay on the vote in Council. A series of dirty deals between Germany and other Member States then required a renegotiation.

The bankrolling of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic party by BMW’s principal shareholder cast a shadow over the new negotiations with the Commission and Parliament. But a new agreement was reached in November, delaying the introduction of the target until 2021 as well as adding extra flexibility on supercredits (additional allowances for electric cars). The result on paper was an unnecessary weakening of the 2020 target by around 5g/km. In the real world, this means that drivers will pay around €775 more in fuel over the lifetime of a car - which will cumulatively emit 50 million tonnes more CO2. Nevertheless, the regulation remains highly effective in reducing emissions from new cars. Emissions from new cars have declined by more than a third since the law was adopted in 2009, tripling the rate of improvement compared to the previous failed carmaker “voluntary agreement.”

The agreement on emissions from cars and vans for 2020 and the recent Commission announcement of the proposed Climate and Energy Package, highlights the need to consider how vehicle emissions should be tackled post-2020. Road vehicles account for 14% of EU-CO2 emissions, but as yet both Member States and the Commission have refused to follow the European Parliament in calling for a 2025 target for cars of 68-78g/km, and one of equivalent stringency for vans. Commission President José Manuel Barroso, cowed by the German intervention, is currently blocking the release of a Commission communication on tackling future emissions from both cars and lorries, thereby delaying urgently needed consultation. Meanwhile, the publication of the 2030 Climate and Energy Package caused further uncertainty and confusion by suggesting that the Fuel Quality Directive (which is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transport fuels) will not continue beyond 2020. This creates the risk that reduced emissions from vehicles will be offset by higher emissions from the extraction and production of heavy oils, which are then imported into the EU.

If the Commission is shirking its responsibility on how to reduce transport emissions after 2020, then the Council is schizophrenic. After calling for more generous allowances for manufacturers of electric cars (supercredits) in the cars regulation, Council is now blocking the development of an EU-wide recharging network for users of plug-in vehicles. The debate has descended to argument over the shape of different European plugs! This lack of coherent and consistent thinking is likely to mean that the EU will not have established the necessary infrastructure by the crucial 2020-2030 period in which alternatively-powered vehicles are expected to compete increasingly strongly with oil-burning vehicles.

Progress to strengthen the obsolete testing system for cars may also be reaching an impasse. The Commission’s deadline to introduce a new test by 2017 is being strongly resisted by carmakers keen to be able to continue to exploit loopholes in the current test for another decade. Up to a half of the emissions reductions measured in official tests are not achieved by cars on the road. To avoid the issue dragging on, the Commission should close the loopholes in the current procedure and introduce on-road testing of production cars. To restore consumer trust, European countries must back the Commission and push for the early introduction of the new test.

With a hard-fought agreement finally reached on cars and vans for 2020, one important milestone has been reached. However the drive to reduce emissions from all vehicles and fuels post-2020 is likely to be even more contentious.


Defekte Heckklappe: Volkswagen ruft fast 600.000 Caddy zurück

Wed, 2014-02-26 12:00
Der letzte große Rückruf liegt nicht mal ein Vierteljahr zurück, schon kommt der nächste: Beim VW Kastenwagen Caddy kann die Heckklappe plötzlich zufallen. Eine schmerzliche Angelegenheit - auch für VW.

Automatisches Notrufsystem: EU-Parlament beschließt eCall-Pflicht

Wed, 2014-02-26 08:22
Ab 2015 sollen neue Automodelle in Europa mit dem automatischen Notrufsystem eCall ausgestattet werden. Das EU-Parlament hat am Mittwoch einen entsprechenden Plan abgesegnet. Obwohl es die Sicherheit steigert, gilt das System als umstritten.

Political leaders rebuild consensus on climate change after UK floods and wild weather elsewhere

Wed, 2014-02-26 04:29

Political leaders around the world have been strongly reasserting their belief in the reality of man-made climate change following periods of exceptional and damaging weather such as the serious flooding in the UK. Pressure was intensified in the UK when the Met Office issued a statement saying that "all the evidence suggests there is a link [with flooding] to climate change,"